The St. Louis Rams offensive line performed admirably in 2012, given the injuries and numbers of combinations seen on the line throughout the season. Paul Boudreau should be given a ton of credit for maximizing the performance of the players he was given, still it wasn’t enough to allow the Rams to actually send their tight ends and running backs out into pass patterns on a regular basis. The Rams offensive line ranked towards the middle of the league according to some “advanced metrics” used to grade offensive lines, but those metrics don’t typically account for the amount of help provided to the offensive lines through play calling and heavier formations. For the Rams to realize Sam Bradford’s full potential they need to provide him with playmakers, and an upgraded offensive line. So let’s take a look at the Rams 2012 starting offensive line, and identify the areas of need to make this unit more productive in 2013.
The Keepers. The St. Louis Rams currently have Harvey Dahl, Scott Wells and Roger Saffold who could be labeled as above average players for their position. Dahl and Wells present two tough veterans in the middle of the line that, when healthy, can play at a pro bowl level as well as provide veteran leadership for the younger players. Roger Saffold is a very solid tackle when he is on the field, and has even shown flashes of Pro Bowl level talent, but just like seemingly every player on the Rams o-line health has been an issue for Saffold.
The Developmental Players. The Rams should look to bring back Robert Turner as depth for both the center and guard positions. He filled in admirably for Wells at center and could even project as a long term replacement, as a guard he wasn’t nearly as impressive but was serviceable. Rok Watkins is a mountain of man who played both tackle and guard in college as South Carolina. Unfortunately for him, and the Rams, he went on the IR early in the season and never got a chance to show the coaching staff what he could do after showing up to training camp overweight and out of shape. If he can recover from the injury and report to camp in shape he would have a legitimate shot to push for a starting job at either left guard or right tackle. At the very least his versatility and upside make him a guy you have to hold onto and hope the coaching staff can develop into a starter.
The Wish List. The Rams limited salary cap space will basically put them out of the running for one of the top tier offensive lineman available in free agency. The good news is that this draft is relatively deep for the offensive line and the Rams hold the 16th and 22nd picks, both of which could possibly present good value picks for an offensive lineman. In an ideal situation the Rams would only need to use one of those picks on an offensive lineman, and in my opinion guard is the most pressing need and would also present the best value in this draft. Of all the players I have seen mocked to the Rams, Chance Warmack is the player I would most like to see them actually end up with. Warmack projects as an elite guard capable of opening up huge holes in the running game, an area where the Rams were below average last year, as well as being an above average pass protector on the inside. If the skill position players start moving up the draft boards following the combine, which is typically the case, we could see Warmack available late in the first round. If that is the case it would also be likely that an upgrade at tackle could be available in the 2nd round for the Rams allowing them to select an impact player for the offense or defense with the 22nd overall pick.
The Dream Team. So here is the starting 5 offensive lineman that I would love to see the Rams suit up on opening day in 2013. They would not only present an upgrade over the 2012 offensive line but could also potentially develop into an elite unit for the future. From left to right on the line: Roger Saffold, Chance Warmack, Scott Wells, Harvey Dahl, D.J. Fluker. I know that I didn’t mention Fluker earlier, and it is probably wishful thinking that he would be available in the second round, however he projects as a right tackle in the NFL and that will reduce his value compared to his left tackle counterparts. The primary backups would then be Watkins and Turner who can each play more than one position. The addition of Fluker and Warmack would greatly improve the Rams run blocking ability, and should also help to open up the playbook for Sam Bradford by allowing his tight ends and running backs to do something other than block.
Thank you for taking the time to read and as always Go Rams!!!