The St. Louis Rams are poised to make a big splash in the early rounds of the draft as they aim to improve their wide receiver group and offensive line. Round three is a good place to get a quality talent for positions of lesser need and for St. Louis that includes defensive backs or linebackers.
Nick: Defensively the Rams are one of the better teams in the NFL. Last year they were middle of the road statistically speaking, but only gave up 22 points per game. With a solidified defensive line a position they could aim to address is linebacker. James Laurinaitis has three years left on his contract, but at 28 years old its never too early to start looking for a replacement. The Rams also acquired Akeem Ayers from the Patriots in the offseason and they have him locked up through 2017. If Snead and Fisher were to address the LB position with the third pick it would be primarily for backup insurance because Daren Bates and Jo-Lonn Dunbar aren’t all that great.
Chris: In terms of a pure linebacker, if TCU’s Paul Dawson is available in the third round, the Rams may want to consider taking a flier on him. He’s very flexible and agile when attacking at the LOS, and can shed blocks quickly. A big plus with Dawson is his ability to be efficient in pass coverage. In 2014, just 35 percent of the passes thrown in his direction were completed. The big concern with Dawson is his personal character, with scouts saying he was not well liked in the TCU program. However, his on-the-field performances speak for themselves. Other options that are defensive ends that could convert to LB’s are Utah’s Nate Orchard and Missouri’s Markus Golden.
Nick: A position that’s always been a need for St. Louis is safety. As of now Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald are the starting free safety and strong safety respectively with Mark Barron acquired mid season last year from Tampa Bay and Lamarcus Joyner, last year’s third round choice, as back ups. These guys have huge upside and haven’t even reached their ceilings yet, but the defensive backs are still giving up a ton of yards over the middle. Having some extra competition in the club house might push some of these players to reach more of that untapped potential.
Chris: His teammate Gerod Holliman took the spotlight in 2014 by leading the nation in interceptions, but Louisville’s James Sample impressed with a good combination of size and athleticism to make a decent mid round prospect at safety. He chalked up 88 tackles, 8 PBU’s, and four picks in his final year at Louisville. He only got one full season under his belt as a starter, so his lack of experience is a question that needs to be answered. If you’re looking for a safety with more experience, look for Virginia’s Anthony Harris, who was a three-year starter with the Cavaliers. He doesn’t have the bulk size of other safeties, but his skills and experience make for a viable mid-round pick.
Nick: Sticking on the defensive side of the ball the Rams should take a look at who might be available at the cornerback position. Last year both Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins suffered knee injuries that hampered their seasons and St. Louis is thin behind those two. Adding some extra help would be beneficial if they can get the right fit. I’m all for sticking with those two as the starters, but both are up for free agency next season so whether they decide to make a move now or next year the fact of the matter is we’ll need to see something happen.
Chris: He may have hurt his stock with a DUI arrest a few weeks before the NFL Combine, but Florida State’s P.J. Williams has the size, athleticism, and speed to be a day one defensive back in the NFL. He may not even get into the third round, but if he does, his skills on making plays with the ball in the air could be a great asset to a young Rams secondary. If Williams is gone, Steven Nelson from Oregon State is another well-rounded corner who can compete for a spot in the Rams line-up. Nelson jams up guys on the line effectively and is great on making the jump on balls in air.
Nick: Once again the offensive line is the most important position(s) in football with the exception of the quarterback so grabbing the best available lineman in round three could end up being a steal. It’s obviously not the sexiest pick, but whomever starts under center for St. Louis this upcoming season will vastly appreciate it if they aren’t frequently getting sacked. The only problem is by this time most of the “plug and play” linemen are off the board. What you get in a third round talent is going to be someone who is raw and might take a couple years to develop. Right now for St. Louis they need “plug and play” guys so if they do end up taking Scherff or a similar talent in round one they could opt to go in a different direction unless they’re certain they’re getting the guy they want.
Chris: We discussed the possibility of A.J. Cann wearing a Rams uniform in our previous article. If St. Louis doesn’t take Cann in the second, and he’s still available in the third, the guard from South Carolina would be the best viable option at 72nd overall. Cann could be a day one starter, with great recognition in pass protection, and a great drive in the run block. He also is chalked with experience as a four-year starter with the Gamecocks. If Cann is gone, FSU’s Tre Jackson would be the next offensive guard up, and would be an easy fit for the Rams offensive line. Jackson has the talent to be a dependable starter in the NFL with the ability to avoid falling into his heels when bullrushed, and quickly getting his hands on an opposing lineman.
We’re a mere days away from the 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago, keep an eye out for the final installment in the coming days.
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