With one week of Organized Team Activities (OTA) under the St. Louis Rams belt, the newest batch of rookies have had some time to adjust to the NFL. Still, they have yet to sport full pads on the field, and have had little opportunity to truly show their wares against some of the more established, veteran talent on the St. Louis Rams roster. However, that won’t stop analysts and pundits from debating which players will start and how they will perform once the regular season rolls around. In the spirit of way-too-early predictions, we wanted to take a look at which rookies might take home some of our arbitrarily name “hardware” at the end of 2014.
Biggest Surprise: Marcus Roberson, CB
Jeff Fisher and Les Snead made it a point of bring in a wealth of young defensive backs this offseason, including two draftees. Lamarcus Joyner is obviously the front-runner for the nickelback spot, being almost immediate labeled as the “starter” after being taken in the second round. EJ Gaines and offseason signee, Greg Reid, will also be battling for snaps in the secondary, which could make for an intense competition once minicamp begins. However, Marcus Roberson may be the most talented cornerback of the bunch, despite going seven rounds without hearing his name called in the 2014 NFL Draft. The former-Gator has all the attributes of a starting-caliber corner in the NFL. However, thanks to some red flags and a sub-par Combine performance, Roberson dropped from a projected Day 2 selection to an undrafted free agent. A relatively substantial injury history might have been key in dropping the stud defensive back down the board, but assume he can stay on the field, both mentally and physically, he could emerge as one of the steals in the 2014 class.
Biggest Disappointment: Mo Alexander, S
When Maurice Alexander’s name was called by the Rams to start Day 3, many were left scratching their heads. The bone-rattling, linebacker-to-safety convert from Utah State was projected as a 7th round pick by most reputable scouts, highlighting his lack of read-and-react skills and inexperience in coverage as key flaws in his game. With T.J. McDonald already cemented into the starting strong safety spot, Alexander will either have to rapidly develop as a centerfielder, or be limited to minor contributions on special teams and as a rotational safety. Moreover, with a myriad of talent at the cornerback position, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Lamarcus Joyner get pushed back into the “open” free safety spot. While the potential is certainly there for Alexander, his path into the starting lineup may be the most difficult of the rookie selected early in the draft.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Greg Robinson, OG
While Robinson will likely not be in the picture for the league-wide, Pepsi Rookie of the Year award, he will certainly be the front-runner for the hardware among the St. Louis Rams rookie. At this point, he is the only draftee with a guaranteed spot in the starting lineup, filling a gaping void next to Jake Long on the left interior of the offensive line. Last season, it seemed like Long was essentially responsible for handling the entire left side of the defensive line, with Shelley Smith and Chris Williams both failing to be consistently reliable. Robinson will immediate upgrade that spot, with superior size and athleticism that, theoretically, could help him become one of the top guards in the league. The former-Auburn mauler could also see some time at offensive tackle, if the past is any indication, which would only add to his case as the most valuable offensive rookie in the class.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Lamarcus Joyner
As Michael Brockers said last season when asked about getting sacks in St. Louis, “It’s hard to eat with Rob [Quinn] and Chris [Long] on the field.” That may be the deciding factor between Aaron Donald and Lamarcus Joyner in the race for the defensive hardware. However, it may also boil down to opportunity, and with Kendall Langford presumably beginning the season as the starter, Joyner should have the upper hand, in terms of playing time. Moreover, with the acquisition of Gregg Williams as the defensive coordinator, Joyner should be heavily employed as a “joker,” of sorts, being moved all over the formation and placed in a position to make plays as both a pass rusher and pass defender. With his nack for the “big play,” it would not be surprising for Joyner to lead all Rams defensive backs in interceptions and sacks this upcoming season. That should be more than enough to seal the defensive rookie of the year award in St. Louis.
Tags: St. Louis Rams