How To Replace Rodger Saffold: Top 2014 NFL Draft Guard Prospects


Dec 31, 2013; El Paso, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Xavier Su

With reports surfacing that both Rodger Saffold and Harvey Dahl will be headed for “greener” pastures this offseason, the mystery about the St. Louis Rams 2014 interior offensive line continues to grow. As it currently sits, there are a grand total of zero guards signed to the Rams roster that took a snap at that position last season. Chris Williams and Shelley Smith both have the “potential” to be retained through modest contracts, but neither is a certainty at this point in the free agency period.

So, with a relatively weak veteran guard market, how can the Rams “fix” the newly gaping hole on the interior of their line. One simple answer: the NFL Draft.

To this point, the new Rams regime has opted to pay for veterans to help out on the interior, as opposed to building through the draft; including Harvey Dahl, Scott Wells, and Chris Williams. After the massive Robert Griffin III trade, St. Louis tossed a life raft to Rokevious Watkins, hoping that the behemoth could transform his massive frame into massive production on the field. However, the Rams have never truly invested in an interior lineman through the draft since Jeff Fisher and Les Snead took over the reins in St. Louis. That should change this year…

With the No.13 and No.44 overall picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, the Rams are in an odd position to draft an elite interior lineman prospect. The consensus Top 2 guards are both projected to be selected somewhere between No.20 and No.40, oddly sandwiched between St. Louis’ current second and third picks in the order. However, with plenty of flexibility, and plenty of potential trading partners, moving up or down in the order should not be that tall of an order. So, who should the Rams target?

Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG/OT (UCLA)

The veteran offensive lineman is unarguably the most “pro-ready” interior player in the 2014 NFL Draft class. The 6’4 tall, 307 lbs. monster is wonderfully put together, with excellent upper body strength, solid athleticism and flexibility, and impressive initial quickness and footwork. Su’a-Filo is an instant plug-and-plus interior lineman, who has demonstrated the ability swing out to offensive tackle in a pinch, which he did for much of last season at UCLA. The 2013 Morris Trophy winner is as “sure-fire” as you’ll get in the 2014 class, and with the coaching of offensive line guru, Paul Boudreau, and more-than-adequate talent around him on the line, Su’a-Filo could be a fixture in the Rams interior for the next decade.

David Yankey, OG/OT (Stanford)

Unlike the other Stanford offensive lineman looking for a home this offseason, David Yankey’s services will be highly sought after in the upcoming NFL Draft. Yankey is a powerful road grader on the interior, but, as CBS Sports’ Dan Bruger points out, he is a…

"“Natural athlete on the move with very good body control and lower body explosion. Outstanding shuffle footwork and lateral movement skills. Active puller with good coordination to square up his target in motion.”"

The Stanford junior still struggles with some mechanics, but should be more than ready to plug into an NFL offensive line and dominate from Day 1. His football intelligence, vast experience (40 starts in college), and versatility to play multiple positions on the offensive line could be more than enough to send the Rams climbing up the second round in an attempt to acquire his talent.

Dakota Dozier, OT/OG (Furman)

Talk about an awesome name for an offensive lineman! Dakota Dozier has the potential to be one of the many “hidden gems” in the Draft class, with tremendous, “unknown” potential as a blocker in the NFL. The newly-converted guard has the athleticism and muscular build to play inside-out in the NFL, demonstrating the ability to perform all of the “essentials” as both an offensive tackle and guard. Unideal length, inexperience on the interior of the line, and the classic “lack of college competition” will likely drop the “Bull-Dozier” into the 3rd or 4th Round. However, his versatility and upside might be exactly what the Rams are looking for in a replacement for Rodger Saffold, especially when he has drawn comparisons to…

"COMPARES TO: Jonathan Cooper, Guard, Arizona Cardinals – Dozier’s “plus” athleticism and movement skills are extremely impressive for a big man, and may remind some of last year’s seventh overall pick Jonathan Cooper. Dozier’s limited experience against high-level competition and very recent conversion to guard (Shrine Game) certainly differentiate him from Cooper in terms of draft value, but his upside could be massive and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him gone by the end of round three. – Derek Stephens, CBS Sports"

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the St. Louis Rams opting to take multiple offensive linemen in this year’s draft class. There is an obvious need on the line for both starters and depth players, and with fewer holes than usual at other positions on the roster, they have more than enough ammo to justify those selections. All three of these players have the versatility and skill set to “fit” on the Rams offensive line. Let’s hope that at least one is sporting the golden horns next season.