Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Rams draft preview: Defensive end
By Nick Wagoner
The NFL draft is set to begin May 8 and the St. Louis Rams hold 12 picks in this year's selection process. For the next week and a half, we'll take a look at a different position every day with what the Rams have in place at a position, what they need, when they might address it and some possible fits.
We continue the countdown with a look at this year's crop of defensive ends.
In place: Chris Long, Robert Quinn, William Hayes, Eugene Sims, Sammy Brown, Mason Brodine
What's needed: With Long and Quinn handling the starting duties and getting most of the snaps and Hayes and Sims proving to be one of the best backup duos in the league, the Rams don't technically need any help at this position. At least not in 2014. The team has also invested a couple of years in youngsters Brown and Brodine, mostly on the practice squad and believe that one of them could eventually contribute if needed.
The Rams did lose promising prospect Gerald Rivers on waivers late in the season, so if they wanted an upgrade as a possible fifth end, maybe they could go searching but again Brown or Brodine could fill that role if the Rams wanted to go that way.
Possible fits: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is widely regarded as the best player in the draft, and even though the Rams are well stocked at his position, that doesn't mean the Rams couldn't find room for him. Sure, it might be difficult to find him a full workload as a rookie but Aldon Smith played less than 30 snaps a game for San Francisco his rookie season and went on to post 14.5 sacks and win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Put simply, the Rams don't need a defensive end but Clowney might be too good to ignore if he somehow falls past Houston at No. 1. Even more likely, Clowney would give the Rams more leverage to make a deal and trade the No. 2 pick. St. Louis has done its homework on Clowney so it clearly has interest. As for other pre-draft interest in the position, the Rams did a local visit with Missouri's Kony Ealy.
Verdict: Barring a surprise where Clowney doesn't go No. 1 overall, it's highly unlikely the Rams will spend an early pick or maybe any pick at all on a defensive end. The crop of true 4-3 ends isn't all that good to begin with and the Rams clearly don't have a pressing need. Taking Clowney would be understandable given his talents and he'd set the Rams up well for the long term but the hunch here is that he'll go No. 1 and the Rams won't be making any major additions at defensive end in this year's draft.