By know, we are all well aware that the NFL Draft is as uncertain a day as there is in professional sports. Aside from, maybe, the top handful of selections, attempting to project the remainder of the Draft is a pretty futile effort, with a myriad of trades, teams “reaching” to snag a player at a position of need, and a couple of picks that are simply “out of left field” (i.e. the Al Davis specialty). Despite our best attempts to mock these drafts, set big boards, or break down areas of need, there will always be surprise picks on Draft Day.
With that in mind, who could the Rams take that might come off as a surprise? Much like the 2012 NFL Draft, St. Louis should be in a great position in the opening round to make a handful of “luxury” picks, thanks to the Washington Redskins’ failures last season. Under the presumption of a trade down, there should be even more options in the Top 50, which could lead to several selections that might have normally left you scratching your head. While it may seem nonsensical to breakdown potential “surprise” selections, we’re going to give it our best shot…
Carlos Hyde, RB (Ohio State)
Zac Stacy was a godsend for the St. Louis Rams last season, taking the reins at running back at the one-quarter mark of the season, and essentially carrying the offense on his back when Sam Bradford was sidelined with injury. However, believe it or not, Stacy is not a machine. In fact, the Vanderbilt star has struggled mightily with injuries throughout his career, including a multitude “tweaks” that plagued the potential star at various points throughout last season. He missed a fair chunk of the preseason with “soreness,” which dropped him to No.4 on the depth chart to start the year. He missed the second half against the Chicago Bears due on concussion-like symptoms, leading to the “breakout” performance by Benny Cunningham. He was “unusable” on the final snap of the Seattle Seahawks near-win, which forced Kellen Clemens to attempt two errant throws.
The point is, the St. Louis Rams, and Zac Stacy, could use some help in the backfield. Jeff Fisher has always preferred to have two “workhorse” running backs on his roster, and Benny Cunningham, while a potentially nice complement, is not the caliber of player that they’ll likely hang their hat on when Sunday rolls around. With that in mind, a player like Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde would be the perfect “complement” to Zac Stacy… and by complement, we mean a defense’s worst nightmare; two north-south, surprisingly elusive runners that get stronger as games goes on. Hyde is a projected Day 2 draftee, likely fighting with Tre Mason and a handful of other top performers to be the first running back taken off the board in May. The Rams don’t need another “change-of-pace” back, they need a “keep-the-pace” back; Carlos Hyde could certainly be that 1a option for Zac Stacy and the St. Louis Rams.
Dee Ford, DE/OLB (Auburn)
If there is one position on the St. Louis Rams roster that does not need an upgrade or more depth, it is defensive end. However, that hasn’t kept some from projecting Jadeveon Clowney to the Rams with the No.2 pick, and it certainly hasn’t kept Jeff Fisher from teasing the media with his “you can never have enough pass rushers” quotes. The undersized Auburn defensive end has been projected to convert to outside linebacker in the NFL. But, at least for the Rams, Ford could instead be used as a “joker” in the defense; being moved around the front-seven on situational downs, or in rotation in various sub packages. With a nearly unmatched combination of speed/quickness, a powerful build, and long arms, Ford possesses all the tangible traits to develop into a solid three-down linebacker in the Rams 4-3 defensive scheme. In the meantime, his pass rushing skill set alone might be enough to entice the St. Louis War Room (especially Gregg Williams), should he slip into Day 2.
Jace Amaro, TE (Texas Tech)
Why would the St. Louis Rams draft a tight end early in the 2nd round when they already have Jared Cook, Cory Harkey, and Lance Kendricks on the roster? Why not?
The benefit of having luxury picks is that you can use them to draft the best talent available on the board to improve the roster. With the Rams depth chart combining full back and tight ends into one position, St. Louis will likely maintain four tights ends on the 53-man squad. Tack on the fact that Kendricks and Harkey struggled to stay healthy last season, as well as the fact that Jared Cook is being generously termed a ‘tight end’, and you have plenty of justification for taking one of the top hybrid weapons in the draft class.
To be fair to Jared Cook, Amaro won’t ever be mistaken for an offensive tackle with his blocking skills either. However, he is extremely well-built, and could certainly use his 6’5 tall, 265 lbs. frame to help chip pass rushers for Jake Long, Joe Barksdale, or whoever is filling those offensive tackle roles for the Rams in 2014. Whatever Amaro lacks as a blocker, he more than makes up for in the passing game, as arguably the top “yards after the catch” tight end in the class; with an NFL-ready route tree and a myriad of power moves, Amaro is more than a handful to get to the ground. His upper-4.5 speed would also be extremely useful in the screen game, with enough quickness and power to lay some dangerous blocks on linebackers and defensive backs on the outside. Amaro would give the Rams the best tight end rotation in the NFL, and would add another weapon for Sam Bradford to use in the St. Louis Rams’ (hopefully) up-and-coming offense.