2014 NFL Mock Draft: St. Louis Rams “Way-Too-Early” Edition (Part 1)

Aug 31, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; LSU Tigers fullback J.C. Copeland (44) celebrates his second quarter touchdown with tackle La

 

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…

 

Round 2

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.

 

Round 3

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…?

 

 

 

Topics: St. Louis Rams

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  • Todd Goslin

    La’el Collins got abused by Jeoffery Pagan of Alabama. I don’t think he’s a second round pick. Strong but slow feet. Louis Nix III’s counterproductive weight gain, poor pad level, and the fact that he’s strictly a 0/1 doesn’t fit the current defensive philosophy. Gotta be able to play both 1 and 3 tech….I like Dix though…wait, I meant Clinton-Dix.

    • Nathan Kearns

      Well, to be fair, the man has only really played 10 games on the blindside, and he only allowed one sack in that game to Pagan. Most draft “scouts” have him ranked in the Top 10 OTs or, at least, Top 5 LTs in the upcoming draft (assuming he doesn’t re-up) with LSU. As a pure OT, I’d image him somewhere in the late-2nd/early-3rd this season. But, with his versatility, early- or mid-2nd round certainly wouldn’t be a reach… especially for a presumed “back-up,” at least for his rookie season.

      No real defense for Nix III weight, aside from that he may have “needed” it to survive and thrive as a traditional 4-3 nose tackle in Notre Dame’s D. His frame and skill set remind of Vince WIlfork, who looked equally as “blobby” as Nix coming out of college, although with about 15 fewer lbs.

      However, I disagree on his potential fit in the interior of the defensive line. I’d much rather have a 3-4 0/1-technique nose tackle attempt to transition to a 4-3 1/3-technique defense tackle (ala Louis Nix) than a 3-4 5-technique defensive end attempt to do the same (ala Kendall Langford). Within the Rams scheme, there is almost ALWAYS on defensive tackle aligned in a 1-tech anyways, with frequent pre-snap line shifts.

      Plus, we all know that the college nutritional and conditional staffs are inadequate, at best, and the programs don’t have the time, personnel, or leverage (ala “weight” clauses in contracts) to whip players into shape. If the Rams do draft Nix, I’d expect him to report to camp somewhere around 325-335 lbs., similar to how Michael Brockers showed up this season.

      Moreover, in my mind, there are no other defensive tackles that should be considered a “lock” to go in the first round this season…

      • Todd Goslin

        Thank Nathan, for your thoughtful reply,

        I wasn’t even aware that Pagan had beaten Collins for a sack I was just referring to his lack of success run blocking. La’el failed in numerous attempts at maintaining his blocks on Paggen. Which, in of itself isn’t a huge deal as that can be corrected. What isn’t correctable is his lack of quickness, especially his feet. I think he can play right tackle, possibly some guard but I wouldn’t burn a second round pick on him. I think the so-called experts are wrong (most of the time they are this far from the draft) In fact, right now I think i prefer Brandon Thomas out of Clemson (and he can only play guard at the next level as he’s too short to play tackle) to La’el Collins.

        I wasn’t trying to make the point that Nix would be a bad fit ton the Rams line, I was trying to make the point that this current regime hasn’t adopted the typical 4-3, 1 tech 3 tech, SAM WILL, SS FS, philosophy. They seem to prefer versatility and athleticism over tradition. So, if they do target a DT in the first round, I’d be willing to bet as much as $0.25 that that fellow would resemble a Ra’Shede Hageman type over a Louis Nix the Trey type….but if they do draft Nix I certainly wouldn’t be upset. Remember, two years ago they could have taken Dontari Poe, a phenomenally gifted nose tackle, or Fletcher Cox, a better pure three tech than Brockers. And though both of the players went before Brockers in the draft, jeff Fisher is on record as saying they targeted Brockers all along and even considered taking him at #6 overall.

        By the way, I thought Notre Dame plays a 3-4 defense. Am I wrong?

        • Nathan Kearns

          Cyril Richardson would be another potential four-position offensive lineman, although, much like Collins, he would likely be refined to right tackle (if at all). Wouldn’t be surprised to see either targeted in the second-round, although most of that will rely on who/where they sign players like Rodger Saffold and Harvey Dahl this offseason.

          I wouldn’t take your bet, as they could very well target Hageman, who might sneak into the Top 25 if he can finish the season strong and put on a good showing at the Combine. Sadly, the limitations on mock drafts is the presumption of not trading back (which I believe the Rams will do). Nix is the only Top 15 interior defensive lineman in the 2014 draft class, so he is nearly the mocked pick by default (although I would love to actually see him in Blue and Gold).

          Tough to disagree with any of your points.

          P.S. I’d still take Brockers over both!

          • Todd Goslin

            Again, thank you for your reply,

            A couple of days ago, you might have gotten an argument from me on Richardson but not now! He’s raw, his technique is suspect at times as pad level gets too high but boy is he a specimen. I think he’s just the kind of player Snisher will target. Personally, I think he’s got higher upside than either Warmack or Cooper did last year…..now, if only the Rams had a good offensive line coach…(insert LOL here).

            I’m not sure Nix will go in the top 15 next year. He’s gonna have to blow up at the combine as he’s not eligible for the Senior Bowl. I think for him to go top 15 he’s gonna have to run a 5.0 or better 40 and he’s gonna have to impress in the bench press. If he fails to do both he may find himself in the John Jenkins category. Similar build, very athletic, third pick of the third round.

            Hageman…it’s hard to say far out but if he’s actually 6’6″ and anywhere near 311 lbs. and if he actually possess what he appears to posses in lower body explosiveness that I would expect he’ll go top 15 with an outside chance of going top 10. I think the top 12 will be excellent next year too.

            P.s. Michael Brockers was the guy I wanted at 6 overall, even over Justin Blackmon! He’s the one pick I got right last year!

  • Gary Stewart

    linebacker barr from ucla at #7 if he is gone trade out for a 15th area and 2nd round pick for depth. then take haha at 12th or 15 its a risk to wait til 15, but if he falls there 12 is avail to find a stout run stuffer or another oline run game type mauler. or take haha at 12 and use the 15th and extra second rounder on d line depth and o line mauler type guys. barr would free us up to let go jo lonn for cap space. if we miss barr the trade down would add some serious depth.

    • nahh

      no need for Barr, the far more athletic Ray Ray Armstrong will be our other starting LB. I agree we should trade down regardless to get an additional 2nd rounder

    • Nathan Kearns

      Well, this whole draft was assuming no trade-backs…

      Don’t think there is any way that Barr goes outside of the Top in this draft; although, he is falls to No.7 he would certainly make the Rams think twice about moving back. I could not image them taking an offensive tackle in the first round, under any circumstance, and have to imagine they will double-up on defensive in the first round. Then again, I wouldn’t have imagined them trading up to 8th to take Tavon Austin in the draft last year… at least not into the Top 10. Guess, we’ll see…

  • Joe Domingo

    As of today, Rams would get the 9th pick and of the teams picking before them, Tampa, Jacksonville and Minnesota probably go QB (Bridgewater, Mariota and Manziel) with the Falcons, Texans, Bills, Steelers and Raiders in need of improved run D so they may be in play for Nix. Clinton-Dix sounds like a good call as that is a bigger need to fill with less available FS versus last year. All I know is I hope the Redskins keep losing and the Rams keep winning over the last six games of this year.

    • Nathan Kearns

      Technically, because of their poor intra-divisional and intra-conference record, the Washington Redskins would pick 7th overall; before the Steelers and Raiders, but behind Buffalo, Atlanta, Houston, Minnesota, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay.

      There is no doubt that teams like Atlanta, Houston, and Buffalo will be in-line for a players like Louis NIx III. However, it would be hard to imagine defensive tackle as their “top priority” in the upcoming draft.

      Everyone one of those teams needs some help on their offensive line, and, with the exception of Houston and Atlanta, could all be in the Sammy Watkins sweepstakes. The Top 10 in the 2014 NFL Draft should be full of quarterbacks, offensive tackles, and desperate teams attempting to trade up to snag one of those aforementioned positions. I think Louis Nix III (especially if weight is still a concern) could still be waiting for the Rams outside line the Top 10, maybe even Top 15…

      However, we can all agree that the Redskins losing is a good thing hahaha

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  • http://www.cnsqonline.com cesarnoel

    Round 1a: HAHA Clinton-Dix / Round 1b: CB Louchiez Purifoy or LB Kyle Van Noy / Round 2: Cyril Richardson/ Gabe Jackson/Spencer Long Round 3: AJ McCarron

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