There will be lots of articles today “grading” the overall performance by the St. Louis Rams in this year’s NFL Draft. We at Ramblin’ Fan wanted to take a different approach, going pick-by-pick through each of the Rams’ selection, grading them in a number of different areas. Specifically, we will focus on the “value” of the pick (i.e. where they were picked in relation to how highly ranked they were as an overall prospect in the draft), “fit” (i.e. how the player fits on the roster, and within the scheme), “need” (i.e. how well they fill an immediate need on the roster), and the overall grade. Be warned, the teachers at Ramblin’ Fan University are not the easiest graders…
Tavon Austin (8th Overall), WR, West Virginia University
Most had Austin ranked in the Top 20 overall prospects, with nearly all having him ranked as the Top Wide Receiver on their board. It is well documented that the Rams’ move to the 8th overall pick was a necessity, with both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills both sniffing at him. However, that does not mean that he has great “value” at that point in the draft. Drafting a Top 20 talent in the Top 10 isn’t necessarily a reach, but there were more highly rated prospects available with the 8th overall pick. Tack on the fact that the Rams gave up their 2013 2nd round and 7th round picks to move up and you arrive at this very average grade.
This grade hinges on Brian Quick, and whether or not the St. Louis Rams truly believe that he will be the starter on the outside his season. If so, the Rams’ next big “hole” in the weapons department is in the slot, left vacant by Danny Amendola. Tavon Austin might the best purely “slot” receiver to come of the Draft in the last decade, or longer. Moreover, the Schottenheimer offense is predicated on getting the ball out of Sam Bradford’s hands quickly, which Austin will surely help by running quick slants, drag routes, and quick outs from the slot.
No doubt about the grade here! The St. Louis Rams have desperately needed not only receivers, but overall play makers on the offensive side of the ball since Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt hung up their cleats. Tavon Austin is the first legitimate step in that direction!
Overall Grade: A-
Austin is a perfect fit and fills an immediate, pressing need on the St. Louis Rams roster. In fact, there hasn’t been a player taken in the draft over the last five or six years that has garnered the praise and excitement from both analysts and the Rams’ fans alike. However, Austin can’t shake the “minus” grade as a result of the “value” of the pick. He might have been worthy of the 8th overall selection, but with the talent available in the 2nd round it is hard to brush the lost picks in the trade aside. I know… tough grader!
Alec Ogletree (30th Overall), OLB, University of Georgia
Ogletree, like Austin, was a consensus Top 20 prospect in this year’s class. However, the ever-present “red flags” sent his stock spiraling out of control, nearly dropping Ogletree out of the 1st round completely. The University of Georgia prospect was the top rated inside linebacker in the draft, and likely would have ranked as the top 4-3 outside linebacker if analyst differentiated between the two base schemes. Taking any “top” player at any area of need within the last two pick of the 1st round would be reason enough to get a high grade. However, the selection came with the added bonus of a 3rd round and 6th round pick from the Atlanta Falcons.
The St. Louis Rams did not take Ogletree to play middle linebacker in their 4-3 base defense. He will have to transition into a weakside outside linebacker in the Rams’ defensive scheme; a task he can surely accomplish given the seamless transition from safety to linebacker at the collegiate level. Still, there will be a learning curve playing on the outside, especially in an NFC West filled with dominating rushers and mobile quarterback that can beat you with the arm, as well as with their legs.
In truth, the St. Louis Rams “needed” a strongside outside linebacker, after Jo-Lonn Dunbar put up career numbers during his 2012 inaugural season on the weakside. However, specifics aside, the Rams were in drastic need of an upgrade over Mario Haggan and Rocky McIntosh in any capacity. Ogletree embodies the ideal WILL backer: coverage experience from time as a safety, speed and quickness to run-down and contain, and tackling expertise from manning the interior of the Georgia linebacking corps. Dunbar should make an easy transition to the other side of Laurinaitis, but in a perfect world, the Rams would have nabbed someone with Ogletree’s measurables that also had experience on the strongside.
Overall Grade: A
When it boils down to it, the St. Louis Rams desperately needed to upgrade their linebacking corps this offseason in order to complete in the NFC West. With the selection of Alec Ogletree, the Rams’ grabbed arguably the best 4-3 outside linebacker prospect in the draft, and did so at the end of the 1st round after moving back and gaining an additional 3rd round and 6th round pick. If Ogletree can made a transition to the weakside outside linebacker spot without too much of a learning curve, this could easily be the steal of the entire first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.