BY LANCE N. POIRRIER
The bar was set very high for the 2013 Rams, but due to a lack of continuity and an unfortunate visit from the injury bug, the Rams are in their usual disappointing form. The Rams seem to have a great base to build off of come 2014, but they’ll need some help along the way. With the addition of head coach Jeff Fisher the Rams seem to have their defense and how it operates down to a science. But the St. Louis offense is lacking serious production which is upsetting considering the money they put into top free agent OT Jake Long and TE Jared Cook.
The Rams’ 2014 draft should focus on the offensive side of the ball. With their own pick and the final first-rounder from the RG3 trade with the Redskins, the Rams have the opportunity to add some serious help on offense.
The Rams offensive line as a whole has been rather disappointing considering the expectations brought on with the additions of veteran guard Harvey Dahl, former first-overall pick Long, and the top choice of the 2nd round in 2009 Rodger Saffold. The Rams need to focus on adding a quality center, as well as another guard or tackle.
With the possibility of the Rams having two high picks in the first round, offensive tackles like Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews or Michigan’s Taylor Lewan are not completely out of the question. Another option for the Rams later in the draft would be my top-rated center in the 2014 draft class, Hroniss Grasu from Oregon. The Rams need OL help if they want to get the most out of QB Sam Bradford.
Rams’ rookie sensation Tavon Austin was my favorite prospect of the 2013 draft class, and last week’s performance against the Colts should tell you why. But for the Rams to truly get the most out of an electric slot receiver like Austin, they need to add a prototypical #1 wideout; someone around 6’2″ – 6’4″ and 220 pounds to really draw some focus away from Austin and Cook. With the Rams having two high picks in the first round they could easily spend one on such a wide receiver such as, USC’s Marqise Lee or Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, either of whom would be ideal in St. Louis and could really open up their rather sluggish offense.
The Rams thought they had struck gold last year with 7th-round pick Daryl Richardson, but it appears he’s fallen into a sophomore slump this season with minimal production, and even losing his starting job to rookie Zac Stacy. Stacy is a serious option for the Rams moving forward but he comes with an injury history that’s followed him into the NFL. Some guys the Rams should consider on day two of the draft are Arizona State’s Marion Grice, UCF’s Storm Johnson, or Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde.
The Rams may also consider drafting a quarterback in 2014 with current starter and hopeful franchise centerpiece Bradford entering the final year of his rookie deal. It seems OC Brian Schottenheimer prefers to have a QB who can make quick reads and stay inside of the pocket, even in the face of pressure. 2014 draft prospects like LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron may be the perfect fit in St. Louis should the Rams want to spend a high pick on a QB. If the Rams were looking for a developmental-type passer they may consider North Carolina’s Bryn Renner.
The lone blemish on St. Louis’ outstanding defense is the play of inexperienced safeties. Again, the Rams could spend one of their top first rounders on a renowned college safety like Alabama’s Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix or wait until later in the draft and target guys like Ohio State’s C. J. Barnett or Louisville’s Hakeem Smith.
The Rams may also consider adding some youth at corner to challenge current stater Cortland Finnegan, and push Janoris Jenkins, who’s struggling in his sophomore season. With CB help not being a direct need the Rams could wait until the 3rd round or later, leaving them with such players as Oklahoma’s Aaron Colvin or Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste, both of whom could excel in Fisher’s pressure defense.