Jan 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan State Spartans cornerback Trae Waynes (15) and cornerback Darqueze Dennard (31) celebrate after Michigan State Spartans beat Stanford Cardinal 24-20 at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
While most of the hype surrounding the 2014 NFL Draft has been circulating around the St. Louis Rams No.2 overall pick, it seems as though most have nearly forgotten about the Rams other choice in May. For once, the Top 5 selection is courtesy of another team’s performance during the season, with St. Louis’ team effort earning them the No.13 slot in the draft order.
While it may not be the “sexy” pick of the two, that does not mean it won’t be used on a player that is just as impactful. Last year was a perfect example of that, with the Rams second 1st-rounder, Alec Ogletree, clearly outperforming Tavon Austin on the football field (granted, at a significantly different position). Moreover, with the original trade down from the No.16 spot, St. Louis netted an additional 3rd round and 6th round pick from Atlanta, which were eventually used to draft Stedman Bailey and aided in the acquisition of Zac Stacy.
So, who are a handful of the “top prospects” that the St. Louis Rams may look at with their mid-1st round pick?
Haha Clinton-Dix (Alabama), Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
Depended on the day of the week and the person you ask, one of these two players will be manning the top of the Big Board for the safety position in May. Both are medium build, free safeties that will be successful as center fielders at the next level. Given the roots and 1st round drafting history of Les Snead and Co. , the smart money would be on the SEC prospect, one that most have tabbed as the top safety in the draft class. His fluidity in coverage and natural hands would make for a fine addition to a Rams secondary that failed to force many interception last season, despite a dominating pass rush. If there were a gaping “hole” that needed to be filled on the St. Louis Rams roster for the 2014 season, this would be it.
Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State)
Darqueze Dennard was the top defensive player on, arguably, the toughest defense in college football last season, supported by his earning the Jim Thorpe award for 2014, recognizing the nation’s top defensive back. His numbers (i.e. the lack of yards given up in coverage) this season were astounding, so much so that some have him pegged as the second or third best defender in the entire draft class.
"“Possessing a lanky, athletic frame with good fluidity and speed, Dennard consistently shut down one side of the field for the Spartans in 2013, playing a critical role for MSU’s No. 1 ranked defense. Honored with the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back, Dennard allowed only three completions in 31 pass attempts of 15-plus yards thrown against him this season” -Rob Rang"
When Jeff Fisher first arrived in St. Louis, he mentioned that you can never have enough talented cornerbacks on your roster in the NFL. Even with Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson cemented into the starting cornerback spots, it would not be unheard of for the St. Louis Rams to add another dominating coverman to their defensive roster.
Mike Evans (Texas A&M), Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State), Marquise Lee (USC)
Assuming the St. Louis Rams miss out on the opportunity to draft Sammy Watkins somewhere in the Top 10, there should be plenty of “backup” plans in the mid- to late-1st round of the draft. The big-bodied Mike Evans is considered by most as the next best receiver in the class, highlighting his physicality and downfield catching ability as tops among the receiver prospects. In fact, Ramblin’ Fan spoke yesterday on why Mike Evans could be a better “fit” in St. Louis than Sammy Watkins, touching on the Rams still unsatisfied need for a true, No.1 wide receiver within the current corps. Benjamin and Lee could both potentially fit that role as well, although most would consider them a class below both Watkins and Evans.
Outside of those three positions, there are several others that could be possibilities with the No.13 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Outside linebacker C.J. Mosley (Alabama) is an instant plug-and-play defender, who could propel the St. Louis front-seven into one of the best units in the NFL. Defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan (Florida State) and Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota) are also possibilities, especially if the Rams deem Kendall Langford, and his contract, to be too burdensome headed into the future. However, should Les Snead and Jeff Fisher not be “sold” on any of these prospects, they could always opt to trade down, stockpile picks, and look into the future. It certainly would not be the first time that has happened…