We started off the week with a look at our “way-too-early” predictions for St. Louis Rams 2014 offensive roster, highlighted by a handful of notable changes on the offensive line. Included on the roster were a number of 2014 NFL Draft selections, albeit without any particular name attached to the pick. In the interest on continuing this early look into the future of the franchise, we’re take our first shot at a 1st- through 3rd-round mock draft, using the current standings in the NFL as a guide for the draft order. As of right now, the St. Louis Rams would be slotted 7th and 12th in the opening round, courtesy of the Washington Redskins losing to the Minnesota Vikings last week. Without attempting to predict for trade-backs and compensatory picks, here is our 2014 NFL Mock Draft:
Round 1, Pick 7 (via Washington)
Louis Nix, DT (Notre Dame) 6’3 tall, 340 lbs.
When the St. Louis Rams signed Kendall Langford away from the Miami Dolphins, they expected him to take over the interior of the defensive line. However, the switch from this old position as a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 defensive tackle has proven to be problematic for the 2008 3rd-rounder, posting less-than-respectable numbers in his opening one and a half seasons in the golden horns. Being “average” in the middle of this defensive line would typically not be a concern, with players like Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, and Chris Long needing no help getting into the opposing backfield. The problem arises when your annual salary is greater than Brockers’ and Quinn’s combined…
Langford will undoubtedly be “restructured” or released at the end of the season, paving the way for the final piece to the Fearsome Foursome 2.0 in St. Louis; Louis Nix. The 3-4 Notre Dame nose tackle is a monster of a man, with deceptive speed and outstanding footwork for a player with his girth. It is doubtful that he will post any mind blowing sack totals in the NFL, but Nix skill-set “fits” exactly what the St. Louis Rams are looking for on the interior of the defensive line: 1) an immovable object against the run and 2) someone who will demand a double-team in the pass rush. Unless opposing offenses start lineup up in three- or four-tight end sets, you cannot double-team Louis Nix… and Robert Quinn… and Chris Long… and Michael Brockers. The one negative against Nix, is that he has shown some propensity to get “winded.” However, with this St. Louis Rams defensive line rotation, it’s unlikely to be much of a concern.
This should be a scary, scary proposition for offensive coordinators and quarterbacks in the NFC West next season.
Round 1, Pick 12
Haha Clinton-Dix, S (Alabama) 6’1 tall, 209 lbs.
There is only one safety in this upcoming draft with an arguable Top 15 grade, and that is the man with the odd name from the University of Alabama. Last year, the St. Louis Rams took a flyer on the hard-hitting safety from USC, handing T.J. McDonald the keys to the secondary in his first season in the league. McDonald showed some flashes of brilliance early in the season, but fell prey to the injury bug, fracturing his leg against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4. There is no doubt that McDonald will return in 2014 as the starting strong safety in Jeff Fisher’s interchangable secondary. However, Rodney McLeod and Darian Stewart have done nothing in his absence to stake claim on the other starting role.
Clinton-Dix is more of a prototypical free safety, while also possessing the vision and quickness to be effective against the run, should a running back make it into the third-level of the defense. His greatest strength is likely in coverage, with the size and speed to match up with larger receivers down the field, and the innate ability to “read” and cover at the line of scrimmage against slot receivers or off-line tight ends. Depending on Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s play the rest of the season, a beefy nose tackle and competent coverage safety may be the final missing pieces to the St. Louis Rams’ defensive puzzle. Plus, a player with the name Haha Clinton-Dix is a pure gold for a St. Louis Rams sports writer…
La’el Collins, G/OT (LSU) 6’5 tall, 321 lbs.
While most in Rams Nation will be clamoring for Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews or Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, there are a number of reasons that the St. Louis Rams shouldn’t (and won’t) take an offensive tackle in the Top 15: 1) Jeff Fisher doesn’t draft offensive linemen in the 1st Round, 2) Joe Barksdale has played competently at right tackle this season, and appears to be getting better with more time and experience, and 3) the 2013 NFL Draft class denounced the myth that Top 15 offensive linemen are “safe” picks.
Going under the assumption that Rodger Saffold will finish the season as the starting right guard and that Harvey Dahl will get released at the end of the season as a “cap causality,” the St. Louis Rams will likely be looking for a young, stud offensive tackle with experience at multiple positions on the offensive line. La’el Collins started 13 games at left guard in 2012 for LSU, and has been phenomenal this season protecting the blindside of Zach Mettenberger. Collins has the size and footwork to start at either bookend in the NFL, and is quick enough to be effective on the interior of the line as a “puller” and in the screen game. Collins is also a mauler in the run game, and could readily serve as an “extra” tackle on the goalline or in short-yardage situations. Most importantly, he fits the Jeff Fisher “mold,” with the ability to play inside-out, adding another four-position player to the Rams’ already multi-talented offensive line.
A.J. McCarron, QB (Alabama) 6’4 tall, 214 lbs.
Sam Bradford will be the starting quarterback in 2014, for better or for worse. However, that does not mean that the St. Louis Rams will not look for a competent quarterback that can be groomed into a top-tier backup and/or eventual replacement. McCarron has been gifted and cursed by playing for the University of Alabama, where his performance over the last couple of seasons has been masked by the dominating run game, impenetrable defense, and the godly presence of Nick Saban. Either way, when all is said and done, McCarron will likely have three National Championships under his belt, and is on his way to having a career completion percentage well-over 65% and having thrown only 11 total interceptions in three seasons as a starter (i.e. the same amount that Johnny Manziel has throw this season).
McCarron is starting to build a reputation for putting on his best performances when the spotlight is the brightest, recording seven touchdowns and zero interceptions against Texas A&M and LSU, the two biggest games on Alabama’s schedule this season. He has the prototypical size and build of an NFL quarterback, with an arm that is more accurate than powerful. McCarron will likely see the terms “game-manager” and “efficient” plastered next to his name on the majority of big boards. However, if we have learned anything over the past couple of drafts, it’s that “flashiness” is a poor indicator of ability at the next level.
Plus, who doesn’t want to see Katherine Webb in a St. Louis Rams uniform…?