For all those who went to bed early after a long day of St. Patrick’s Day activities, you missed out on some great, late-night action… in free agency that is! By now, you have probably found out that the St. Louis Rams struck a deal with Jake Long, keeping him in St. Louis for four years, at roughly $9 million per season. Assuming there are no surprise releases from now until April, the St. Louis Rams should have a new outlook on the Draft; what is commonly referred to as “BPA,” or best player available. Naturally, there are still some limitation built into that style of draft, especially with some glaring holes still on the roster. So, how has St. Louis’ draft board changed overnight?
(previously St. Louis’ #1 need)
Jeff Fisher mentioned last week that the team was still open to re-signing Quintin Mikell to the roster. But, even with that move, the St. Louis Rams are still one spot short of a full secondary. He hinted that Darian Stewart might get another chance in the starting role, but it is hard to imagine the St. Louis Rams not going after help at arguably their worst position on the entire roster last season (lookin’ at you, Craig Dahl). It would not be far-fetched to see the Rams’ drop one of their first rounders on a player like Kenny Vaccaro or Matt Elam.
2. Outside Linebacker
(previously St. Louis’ #3 need, after offensive tackle)
Some will argue that there are much more pressing needs in 2013 than an outside linebacker, especially one that might only be on the field for 60% of the defensive snaps. However, competency in the linebacking core will be one of the keys to keeping the Rams’ record on par with the rest of the NFC West. With the read-option likely to be highlighted again next year, especially with Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, St. Louis will need someone that can stay discipline in their reads and, more importantly, help out in coverage. There is no way the St. Louis Rams will pull off another 4-1-1 record in the NFC West without a significant upgrade of Mario Haggan and Rocky McIntosh
3. Wide Receiver(s)
(previously paired with tight end as St. Louis’ #5 need)
Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola have now both officially left the Edwards Jones Dome, leaving Austin Pettis and two second-year players, Brian Quick and Chris Givens, as the core receiver corps on the team. While all three players showed promise and progression last season, Bradford will need more to work with on the outside. The acquisition of Jared Cook should help open up the field for Bradford and, consequently, make the lives of those wide outs much easier. Still, Bradford could use some more weapons, preferably ones that can make an immediate impact on the field. Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson are the two names you will hear the most as we creep closer and closer to April. However, this draft is fairly deep with wide receivers, making it likely the Rams’ could wait until after the first round to snatch up some offensive help.
4. Left Guard
(previously St. Louis’ #4 need)
It was tempting to push guard out of the Top 4, with Rok Watkins and Rob Turner both coming back healthy with a brand new friend likely to be starting next to them on the offensive line at left tackle. Still, we have yet to see how Watkins will develop as a young player, and Rob Turner (assuming he is re-signed) is much better suited as a back-up, waiting to fill any holes on the line. Knowing Fisher’s history, it is likely that Watkins will get his shot this season at the starting job; as he should, if he comes prepared to work…
5. Running Back
(previously not on the list of needs)
Steven Jackson is gone… and now, the full brunt of the running game will be placed solely in the hands of Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson. Do not look for the St. Louis Rams to use another high draft pick on a running back (sorry, that means no Eddy Lacy). Rather, look for them to snag a big-bodied rotational back in the mid- or latter rounds of the draft. Also, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the St. Louis take a shot at one of the “red-flag” players, like Marcus Lattimore, if they have filled the “holes” by the end of the day on Friday, when the 3rd round of the draft will be complete. Jeff Fisher has always used the running back-by-committee approach, and with Jackson in Atlanta, there is nothing to prevent him from completely honing into that system during the 2013 season.