Obviously, the majority of the hype in St. Louis around April of next year will focused on the Rams likely Top 5 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, courtesy of the Washington Redskins. However, the St. Louis Rams are also currently slotted at No. 14 overall, a spot that plenty of less-talented teams would like to be in this offseason. In fact, one could argue that the Rams have been much more successful picking in this “mid-range,” taking both Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers with the No. 14 pick in 2011 and 2012, respectively. So, who are the likely “top candidates” for St. Louis this year?
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Unlike last season, this year is filled with top tier quarterbacks and receivers that will likely fill out a bulk of the Top 10. However, there is also a severe shortage of bonified first-round prospects at a number of positions. One of those is on the interior of the defensive line, where Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III may be the only defensive tackle with a “lock” Top 32 grade, trailed closely by Minnesota’s RaShede Hageman.
Nix is a 0/1-technique nose tackle that should be able to make an easy transition into a 4-3 base defense. However, concerns about his weight and pass rushing abilities might send him tumbling down the board. At this point in the draft, if the Rams truly believe they need a “replacement” for Kendall Langford and his massive contract, Nix might be the only option.
Haha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
If you think the interior defensive line grouping is shallow, than don’t bother looking at the 2014 safety class. Despite his recent suspension, Clinton-Dix is far-and-away the best safety prospect in his class, with the “bonus” of coming out of an Alabama secondary that has produced some top tier players in the Nick Saban-era. Assuming the Rams aren’t comfortable playing another season with Rodney McLeod or Darian Stewart starting next to T.J. McDonald in the secondary, this will likely be the pick for St. Louis… assuming Clinton-Dix is still available.
C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama
If the St. Louis Rams haven’t already taken the bait on a player like UCLA’s Anthony Barr, it would certainly not be out of the question to see them use their second first-rounder on dominating, all-around linebacker to “complete” the Rams’ front-seven puzzle. Mosley has the experience and natural ability to step in and be a top outside linebacker in the NFL from Day 1. His large frame, fast-enough speed, and high football I.Q. would make him a perfect compliment to Alec Ogletree and James Laurinaitis in the second level of the Rams defense.
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
If we are giving Anthony Barr the title of “best pass rusher” and C.J. Mosley the title of “most NFL ready” among the outside linebackers, we’d have to give the “biggest play maker” title to Khalil Mack. According to CBS Sports, Mack officially holds the NCAA record for career forced fumbles and recently tied the record for most career tackles for a loss. Many will take him a notch down under the “played against lesser talent” clause. However, with a solid Combine performance, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mack sneaks onto the fringe of the Top 10. If forced fumbles are the name of the game, adding Mack to the ball-stripping duo of Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree could be lethal.