Editor’s note: This draft was written and submitted prior to the release of the 2015 NFL compensatory picks. The Rams were given an additional 6th round pick not represented in this version.
With a flurry of activity over the last few weeks, NFL mock draft guru’s the internet over have been revising their editions. I’m no guru–not by a long shot–but I figured I would take a stab at predicting the Rams’ moves after seeing Bradford off to Philly.
The Rams used much of the cap space made available with Sammy B.’s trade to sure up the defense. Fisher loves defense.
As Rams fans who watched The Greatest Show on Turf, a lot of us tend to lose sight of the fact that, from 1999-2001, the Rams not only had the #1 offense both years they went to the Super Bowl, but they complemented their offensive firepower with a defense that ranked in the top 10 both years (#4 in 1999, #7 in 2001). In 2000, (when the GSOT failed to make the Super Bowl), the Rams were dead last. Defense truly does win championships, and the Rams have the players to have the best front 7 in all of football, which saves the defensive backfield a lot of work. It’s a lot easier to cover a guy for 3 seconds than it is for 10 seconds.
So, while I, like many St. Louis fans, would have preferred to see those dollars go towards the offensive line, I can understand the reasoning behind the signings. Fairley has all the talent in the world, and all he’s seemed to lack is a coach who can sufficiently motivate him, and harness that talent. Jeff Fisher coached a similar problem child defensive tackle by the name of Albert Haynesworth, and that worked out pretty well, while it lasted. Expect to see similar results with Fairley. Akeem Ayers’ signing is all about his versatility, and, more importantly, all about Gregg Williams’ creativity when it comes to using versatile players.
With only a backup tackle/guard signed to plug three holes on the offensive line, and very little money left over to plug those holes, the Rams will almost certainly be drafting at least one offensive lineman in the 2015 NFL Draft. Here’s what I’d like to see:
I’ve got the Rams taking an offensive lineman in the first round. Sure, offensive linemen aren’t sexy picks, but football games are won and lost in the trenches. The Rams have arguably the best defensive line in football already, and we all watched as Dallas rode their offensive line to the playoffs in 2014. Having said that, I do NOT have St. Louis selecting that offensive lineman at #10 overall. Call me old fashioned, but #10 is a high slot for a guard, no matter how talented, and none of the tackles in this draft are worthy of going that high either, in my opinion.
So, with that in mind, I see the Rams trading with the Cleveland Browns for #19 and #43 overall. This allows the Rams to pick up an extra second round pick in a draft where they are already a few picks short (due to the Mark Barron trade). This trade works for Cleveland because it gives them the ammo to move up higher in the draft for Marcus Mariota, who they are rumored to be extremely interested in. The tenth and twelfth picks are a lot more enticing than the 12th and 19th picks, and Cleveland can also throw in a future 2nd or 3rd rounder to get their quarterback of the future, now that Johnny Football has fallen flat on his face and slid all the way into rehab.
With the #19 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams select: Ereck Flowers, offensive tackle, Miami. Flowers proved himself a man among boys at the combine, but the tape proves that he’s raw. He has the strength and motor to be an impact right tackle at the NFL level, but he will need to be coached up to improve his footwork and pass protection. The St. Louis coaching staff was able to turn Joe Barksdale into a good–not great–right tackle, and Flowers is infinitely more talented than Barksdale. With this selection, the Rams have their offensive line bookends for the next few years in Robinson and Flowers. Not a bad way to start a draft.
The Jeff Fisher led Rams have never been a team to shy away from a player due to controversy or potential off-field issues. If they feel a player is talented, and can be made to toe the line, they won’t hesitate to pull the trigger. With the defense taken care of in free agency, and Flowers drafted in the first round to bookend their offensive line, the Rams don’t have too many needs to address. The offensive line needs work, and another cornerback would be nice, but with the extra second rounder secured, they have some room to work with.
With the 41st pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams select, Josue Matias, guard, Florida State.
Matias is a lot of things. He’s big and he’s ugly (so he’s got all the makings of a big ugly already), and he’s an excellent run blocker. He improved his pass protection by leaps and bounds in 2014, but it still needs a lot of work to be a strength at the NFL level. With Jeff Fisher at the helm, the Rams are always going to want to run first, and their first two selections make it a lot easier for them to do so, as both Flowers and Matias are excellent in the run game. The NFL may be a pass-first league in this day and age, but the Seahawks proved in 2013 that passing is sexy, but a strong running game and a stout defense win championships. They proved the same thing in 2014, except when they tried to pass in a situation where they clearly should have run. Take out the over-thought final play from the Seattle offense, and the Seahawks are crowned back-to-back world champs (as much as it pains me to say so).
With the 43rd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams select, Dorial Green-Beckham, wide receiver, Oklahoma University.
I’ve been pretty outspoken about DGB in the months leading up to the draft, for one reason only: he’s a HUGE risk. A COLOSSAL risk. A risk that, truth be told, can only be taken by two coaches in the entire NFL. Bill Belicheck is one of those coaches. Jeff Fisher is the other. It also helps when you’re playing with someone else’s draft pick. Green-Beckham is the riskiest pick in this entire draft, bar none, and everyone in the NFL knows it. He has the highest ceiling of any receiver available, but also the lowest floor (because, you know…it’s hard to reach your ceiling in the NFL when you’re at home sitting on the couch because of a suspension). But, Jeff Fisher was reportedly so frustrated when Jacksonville selected Justin Blackmon that he slammed his glasses on the table, and at least with DGB, you haven’t heard of any new trouble he’s gotten into since leaving Mizzou. Blackmon hasn’t been able to stay out of trouble for a solid 3 weeks since he left college (and probably before then). This is a win for everyone involved: Nick Foles gets a shiny new toy to throw the deep ball to, and we all know that Nick Foles likes to chuck it deep. Jeff Fisher gets the #1 receiver he’s been searching for. The fans win because a local boy is going to don the horns. The thought of Britt, Quick, DGB, Cook and Kendricks lining up in the red zone is titillating. I don’t think there’s another team in the league that can throw out FIVE receiving targets with an average height of almost 6’4″.
The Rams don’t have many needs left going into round three, but depth is always a necessity in the NFL. Injuries can derail a season (see Bradford, Sam for specific examples).
Les Snead and Jeff Fisher went defensive back heavy in 2014, but just because you drafted a certain position one draft doesn’t mean you shouldn’t target that same position a year later. The later rounds are all about getting the best value, trying to find guys who will contribute and possibly become starters.
The good teams in the NFL are excellent at doing this. Take a look at the Patriots, Seahawks, and Packers. Their core players come from all levels of the draft, not just day one picks. The bad teams (Raiders, Titans, Buccaneers, Jets) not only miss with their day one picks, but they fail to make up for those misses with players drafted in the later rounds. Then you have the middle-of-the-road teams, like the Rams, who, under the current regime, hit in the first round more often than not (Robinson, Ogletree, Brockers, Donald) but also hit on a few of their later round picks (Jenkins, McDonald, Gaines, Joyner). Unfortunately, the Rams tend to miss in the middle rounds more often than they hit, so when value essentially drops in your lap, you can’t miss the chance to take advantage of the circumstance.
With the 72nd pick in the 2015 NFL Mock Draft, the St. Louis Rams select, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, defensive back, University of Oregon.
Ekpre-Olomu was a virtual lock to be the first cornerback off the board in 2015, more than likely in the first round, right up to bowl practice, when he tore his ACL. With the injury, Ekpre-Olomu plummeted down draft boards, much like Marcus Lattimore in 2014. Fortunately, a torn ACL isn’t a career ender. Will Ekpre-Olomu contribute in 2015? More than likely, no. He’s going to be rehabbing his knee for the majority of the season, and won’t be ready to play until 2016. But when a first round quality corner falls into your lap in the third round, you don’t question it. You channel your inner Flash and burn rubber getting to the podium to turn your card in.
St. Louis still has a hole in the center of their offensive line, and, after going best-player-available in round three, they need to find someone to snap the ball to Nick Foles. By this time, most of the top centers are gone, but not all of them.
With the 116th pick in the 2015 NFL Mock Draft, the St. Louis Rams select, Andy Gallik, center, Boston College.
Gallik may not be the best center in the draft, but he has all the tools to become the best center taken. He’s sufficient in both the run and pass game, and has the ability to be a day one starter. Gallik is sturdy at the point of attack, and is extremely intelligent, knowing when to change the protections for his quarterback. Center is a unique position in football. You need someone who isn’t just a force of nature, but also can think quickly and react to what he’s seeing. Gallik has all the tools you could want, and was among six finalists for the Rimington Trophy in 2014.
Due to the Mark Barron trade, the Rams were without 4th and 6th round picks in the 2015 NFL Mock Draft. After trading for Nick Foles (which included a swap of the Eagle’s 4th rounder and the Rams 5th rounder), the Rams find themselves without a fifth and sixth round selection. Were it not for the Greg Salas trade, the Rams would have no picks after Round 4, having traded their original seventh to the Falcons in order to select Alec Ogletree in 2013. As it stands, they currently hold the pick for Mr. Irrelevant, the final player selected in the draft. That will likely change after compensatory picks are doled out.
With the 224th pick (for now, that WILL change) in the 2015 NFL Mock Draft, the St. Louis Rams select, Curtis Grant, linebacker, The Ohio State University.
The chances of finding a starter this late in the draft is somewhere between slim and none. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find a guy to slide into the lineup should one of your starters be injured. James Laurinaitis needs a backup, and Curtis Grant is the man for the job. He more than likely will never be a starter in the NFL, but he can take a few snaps a game to give Laurinaitis a breather. Those types of guys can be the difference between winning a game by seven and losing a game by one.
So there you have it. A good mixture of value and need, without any major reaches. Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.