St. Louis Rams: Calvin Pryor

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- We've finally arrived at draft day and the next few hours will provide our final chances at speculating on what could happen instead of evaluating what has happened.

With that in mind, let's make the most of that time and go through five scenarios that could play out for the St. Louis Rams with the No. 13 pick when they come on the clock tonight. Since there are many more possibilities at 13, we'll do our best to narrow them down.

It's been awfully difficult to sift through the smoke in this pre-draft process, but these are the five things I believe the Rams will consider for the 13th pick in order of how I think the team will prioritize them.

1. Trade down

Manziel
Once again, this is general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher we're talking about here. They have traded every first-round pick they have had since arriving in 2012. There is no reason to think they wouldn't do so again.

It's harder to project who teams could target in a move up here, but if one of the top players falls, there are plenty of teams that could look to move up. A top quarterback such as Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel or Central Florida's Blake Bortles might draw some attention, as could a top offensive lineman like Notre Dame's Zack Martin or Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

If they make a trade, the Rams could still likely have their pick of a top cornerback, safety, linebacker or another position of need.

2. Draft a top player who surprisingly falls

Donald
Much has been made of the potential for the Rams to draft Manziel. While it's likely he'll be gone by this point, if he does fall, they'd probably at least have the conversation though a trade could be more likely. There are other top players who seem destined to go in the 12, but could slide to St. Louis and become intriguing options.

In our NFL Nation mock draft, Donald slipped to 13 and I chose him for the Rams. I think they would do the same if he somehow made it to them but again, that is not expected because three-technique tackles capable of rushing the passer are so hard to find.

3. Draft the best player available

Mosley
This isn't much different than the above category with this exception: in this instance, I'm not accounting for a player who would be regarded as a surprise should he fall to this spot. Heading up the list of players worth watching at this spot is Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. He hasn't been linked to the Rams much in the pre-draft process (though our Todd McShay has mocked him to St. Louis a couple of times) but I've been told the Rams think highly of him and believe he could be the perfect final piece to round out their linebacking corps.

Martin is another player who fits this mold and could be an easy pick for the Rams here, especially if they don't take a tackle with their earlier pick.

4. Draft a top cornerback

Dennard
It is not often that needs meet value perfectly, but this is one spot in the draft where that could happen. The Rams seem content with Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson as starters but they have also spent plenty of time vetting the top cornerbacks in this year's draft. Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller are among the names that paid pre-draft visits to Rams Park, and it's possible all could be available at this point.

If that's the case, the Rams could have a decision to make if they choose to go this direction. Although Dennard is believed to be the best scheme fit, I believe the Rams might view Gilbert as the better player. Adding a top corner here would certainly help a secondary in need but it seems other top players at positions of lesser need would have to be gone first. A first-round corner feels more likely in a trade down scenario but the Rams could go that direction here if there isn't a better value here.

5. Draft a safety

Clinton-Dix
Most signs indicate that the Rams aren't sold enough on either of the top two safeties -- Louisville's Calvin Pryor or Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix -- to draft one at No. 13 considering the other options that figure to be available. Again, this seems like an alternative possibility should the Rams find a trade-down partner with this pick. For what it's worth, I believe the Rams actually prefer Pryor to Clinton-Dix, but most indications are that they are more likely to wait until the second or third round to pick this position.
As individual positions go, the St. Louis Rams might not have a bigger need on their defense than rangy, athletic safety. Technically, the Rams don't have specific strong and free safety designations but if they did, the easier way to describe that need would be to say they need a true free safety.

Rodney McLeod filled the role in 2013 and, all things considered, improved as the season went along. But the fact remains that the Rams need an upgrade, especially if they intend to play more press-man coverage on the outside at cornerback under new coordinator Gregg Williams.

That's why it's been a common occurrence to see the Rams connected to top safeties such as Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor in mock drafts all over cyberspace. If the Rams choose to look for a safety upgrade that early in the draft, there seems to be a split between camps on whether Clinton-Dix or Pryor is the better player.

On Tuesday afternoon, ESPN draft analyst Kevin Weidl offered his take on the comparisons between the two players.

Without giving away all of Weidl's analysis -- it's worth a read regardless -- there's one part that jumped out to me in trying to decipher the difference between the players. An excerpt of Weidl's thoughts:
"Where Clinton-Dix separates from Pryor as a prospect, though, is in coverage. Simply put, Clinton-Dix gives you more flexibility in the back end. He has clean movement skills, above-average range and the ability to drop down into the slot and match up in man coverage."

Of the many evaluations of Clinton-Dix and Pryor, the idea that Clinton-Dix is better in coverage has been prevalent. If that's the case, he would be a more natural fit for what the Rams need should they choose to go that direction come May.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Tuesday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... In the Ram-blings, we started the day with a look at this year's official draft order. ... We then looked at the team's performance bonuses for the 2013 season. ... From there, it was a quick glance at the team's addition of linebacker Etienne Sabino. ... After that, we provided a glimpse at how ESPN Insider Mike Sando and others graded free agency so far. ... We closed the day with a breakdown of what the Rams hope to get out of newly signed defensive lineman Alex Carrington.

Elsewhere:

NFL.com cites a Pro Football Talk report that says the Rams are optimistic about landing free-agent receiver Kenny Britt.

Bucky Brooks' fourth mock draft imagines a league in which no quarterback goes in the first round.

At stltoday.com, columnist Bernie Miklasz offers some thoughts on the Rams and free agency.

Jim Thomas writes that the Rams' interest in Mark Sanchez is overblown.

Thomas also participated in his weekly chat.

McShay Mock 3.0 reax: Rams

March, 6, 2014
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As we continue rolling along toward the 2014 NFL draft, mock drafts are certain to change and so will the opinions that go along with them. But I believe it's good to change the mocks because that can give you an idea of the many different scenarios that could play out.

To this point, ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have been pretty consistent in sending a top offensive lineman to the St. Louis Rams. McShay's third crack at a mock draft Insider dropped earlier Thursday, and I like it in the sense he gives Rams fans another way to look at how the draft plays out. And, honestly, I don't think it's all that far fetched that the Rams' first round could play out the way McShay has it.

With the No. 2 pick, McShay sends South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the consensus best player in the draft to the Rams. Here's a snippet of his logic on the matter:
"If Clowney doesn't go No. 1 to the Texans, the Rams will be ecstatic for two reasons: One, it would drive up the trade value for the No. 2 pick (at No. 6, the Falcons are one potential trade partner); and two, if the Rams don't get a trade offer that makes sense, they'll have the opportunity to take the best player in this draft and transform a good, young defense into an exceptional one."
My thoughts: This is a discussion we started having in this space back in January and it's one that probably isn't going to go away for awhile. I completely agree with McShay that the Rams would still prefer to get a sweetheart trade offer for this pick and if Clowney is on the board, it would only bolster the value of the choice. I also agree the Rams will have a hard time passing on him if he's available. Yes, the Rams are loaded on the defensive line but a potential game-changer at a position that is extremely important would be difficult to say no to, especially given Jeff Fisher's affinity for pass-rushers. Would they prefer to trade down and grab a top offensive lineman? Probably. But they can't really go wrong with Clowney, either.

With the No. 13 pick, McShay sends Louisville safety Calvin Pryor to the Rams to fill a gaping hole at the back end of the secondary. Here's a snippet of McShay's thoughts:
"Rams fans probably don't love me for taking two defensive players with their first-rounders in this mock, but they need a safety and Pryor is a good value here as the top-ranked safety on our board. He is a hammer in run support and shows good range in zone coverage."
My thoughts: While I don't disagree with the idea of the Rams taking a safety -- they need one -- I'm not sure I agree Pryor is a good value. The top two safeties are both on the board here, which would give the Rams a shot to grab the best one in the draft, but I'm not so sure either Pryor or Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are top-15 caliber players. I'm also not convinced that Fisher and the Rams prioritize safety enough to draft one this early. McShay is absolutely right in that some Rams fans hate the idea of going defense/defense with their two first-round picks, though I've seen some advocating the idea of "finishing" the defense. I'm more inclined to think the Rams could move down from this spot or, if they're going to use it on a defensive back, go for the more premium position of corner instead of safety. Either way, the Rams do need to score more points and be better offensively. I don't think it's too far-fetched for the Rams to draft two defensive players in the first round, but it would certainly make it far more difficult on an offense that desperately needs an influx of talent on the offensive line and a top wide receiver.

Rams combine countdown: No. 3

February, 18, 2014
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The workout portion of the NFL scouting combine begins on Feb. 22 with the entire football world closely watching every prospect's every move. With that in mind, we're counting down the top five things the Rams and their fans should be watching as the NFL converges on Indianapolis.

The St. Louis Rams defense has been a focal point of the team's rebuilding efforts and when it comes to building a top 10 or even top five unit, the Rams are growing closer every year. Entering this offseason, St. Louis must add some key pieces to the secondary in order to take the next step.

Be it cornerback or safety, the Rams could use some help to solidify the back end of the defense and complement a talented front seven. In recent years, the top cornerbacks and safeties have been pretty clear by the time the scouting combine rolls around. This year, however, there doesn't appear to be any defensive backs worthy of a top 10 pick, let alone a spot in the lofty range of the Rams' No. 2 selection.

More likely, if the Rams would look to address the secondary in the first round it would come with their second first-round selection. Which brings us to the No. 3 pressing question for the Rams this week: Will any of the defensive backs solidify themselves as worthy top 15 picks in Indianapolis?

Early projections from ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay indicate that cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard and safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor could ascend to top 10 to 15 status before all is said and done. That said, nobody has emerged as a surefire choice such as Patrick Peterson or Eric Berry.

Still, with a team like the Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl in no small part because of the strength of its dominant secondary, teams are looking for the next big thing to bolster the defensive backfield.

At cornerback, the Rams like the potential of young corners Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson and even Brandon McGee. Cortland Finnegan could theoretically be retained on a restructured contract. But the team needs to find another corner somewhere and the draft could provide some solid options.

New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes having corners who are bigger and physical enough to hold up in press coverage while his exotic blitz packages get after opposing quarterbacks. Johnson fits the mold and Jenkins is better suited for that style though he's on the smaller side.

Beyond the usual 40-yard dash times, some of the most important information that comes out of the combine in terms of cornerbacks could be as simple as reading a tape measure. Gilbert is listed at 6-feet, 200 pounds and Dennard is marked down as 5-11, 197 pounds. It would help both to hit those measurements or better and would boost their stock even more if they were able to show off impressive wing spans.

The Rams used a third-round choice on T.J. McDonald last year and he appears to be set in the sort of box safety role Williams likes to use in blitz packages and closer to the line of scrimmage in general. Rodney McLeod handled the other spot last year and though he showed signs of improvement as the year went on, the Rams could clearly use an upgrade. If nothing else, fellow safeties Darian Stewart and Matt Giordano are scheduled for free agency which means the Rams will need to add one or two somewhere along the way.

Ideally, the Rams could add an athletic, rangy type to complement the more physical McDonald. Measurements won't be as important here as it is at cornerback but this is where speed and agility drills will be of utmost importance.

Clinton-Dix is generally considered the type of safety who could fit the bill because of his range so his speed and change of direction should be under scrutiny this week. The same applies to Pryor, who is known for his hard hitting ways more than his range.

The defensive backs are scheduled to work out a week from today on the combine's final day. Expect it to be one the Rams watch closely.

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