With the NFL Draft just a few days away, the scrutiny is high as ever as everyone tries to speculate over which prospects will end up where. Things will be exceptionally exciting for the St. Louis Rams, who have 12 picks this year, including two first rounders. With all the picks the Rams have accumulated over the past couple years, they’re now in a position where they don’t have to focus as much on drafting for need. And with all the youth that is now present on the roster, this may be the first year in a while that we see later Rams draft picks really have to battle for jobs out of training camp. Obviously things change a lot with draft day trades and players who unexpectedly fall or are reached for, but here is an educated guess as to how things might end up shaking out this weekend.
Round 1, Pick 2 (from Washington): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Watkins is a dynamic receiver who would provide some reliability for a talented but inconsistent Rams receiving corps that currently features players like Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Kenny Britt and Stedman Bailey. He flashes skills similar to Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and would be the first truly elite target that quarterback Sam Bradford has ever had. Assuming Jadeveon Clowney goes first overall to Houston, Watkins would be the most logical fit with this pick.
Round 1, Pick 13: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert has been inconsistent at times during his college career, but he has loads of potential because of his incredible size and athleticism. He very much fits the mold of what the Rams’ coaching staff likes to do with bigger outside corners, and he would complete a cornerback trio that already features Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. His addition would immediately upgrade the Rams’ defense, as either Gilbert or Jenkins could fill the nickel role and eliminate the need for the Rams to try to create a nickel back where they don’t have one.
Round 2, Pick 44: Billy Turner, OL, North Dakota State
Turner is built like a typical Jeff Fisher lineman at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds. He’d be a huge asset to the Rams line this year, as he has the ability to play both tackle and guard at a high level and could be a helpful swing guy. He is actually quite reminiscent of recently departed Rams guard Chris Williams in terms of his build, though he is more agile and more physically dominating.
Round 3, Pick 75: Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
The Rams are in serious need of a safety after relying on core special teamer Rodney McLeod to start at free safety during 2013 and then letting his primary backups, veterans Matt Giordano and Darian Stewart, walk following the season. Brooks is a talented safety who fits the Rams’ defense and can hit hard as well as make plays. He would likely compete with McLeod immediately for a starting spot.
Round 4, Pick 110: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
The Rams signed veteran backup Shaun Hill, but they’re going to want to draft someone to develop as a long-term backup who will give the team a fighting chance should Sam Bradford go down again. Though undersized, Murray has quality skills and does a very good job of effectively operating an offense.
Round 5, Pick 153: Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
General manager Les Snead has talked this offseason about how much he admires the Seattle Seahawks’ seemingly endless group of pass rushers. Though the Rams had one of the best defensive lines in the NFL last year, they’ll likely look to add to the group and create an even more explosive pass rush. Despite his lack of size, Michael Sam provides a powerful rush that could be very useful on third downs and other obvious passing situations.
Round 6, Pick 188: AC Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
The Rams lost tight end Mike McNeill this offseason, which means they’ll have a lack of depth beyond their primary three players at the position. Seeing as the Rams liked to run three and even four tight end sets during 2013, it would probably be wise for them to add another player to the group. Leonard isn’t a very good blocker, but he is extremely athletic and has the potential to be a solid receiving tight end down the line.
Round 6, Pick 214: Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut
Jeff Fisher and defensive line coach Mike Waufle obviously have a particular type of defensive tackle that they’re looking for: among the players they have brought in since the beginning of their tenure have been 6-foot-5, 325-pound Michael Brockers, 6-foot-6, 313-pound Kendall Langford, 6-foot-7, 290-pound Matt Conrath, 6-foot-7, 285-pound Mason Brodine, and 6-foot-5, 300-pound Alex Carrington. They could opt to add some further interior depth and select UConn’s Shamar Stephen, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound mauler who provides immense strength and is a very solid run defender. Stephen would be fighting for a roster spot with some of the aforementioned players, but he could have solid potential as a nose tackle down the line if he is developed well.
Round 7, Pick 226: Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville
Even after adding Brooks, the Rams need another safety to provide depth and help out on special teams. Smith, who played strong safety alongside standout Calvin Pryor at Louisville, is not a huge hitter, but he’s exceptionally disciplined and will not give up big plays. He’s got a big body that he still needs to add some weight to, but he should be at the very least a quality special teamer.
Round 7, Pick 241: Cassius Marsh, DE, UCLA
The Rams were hurt last year by the unexpected loss of developmental defensive end Gerald Rivers on waivers last year to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and they’ll be aiming to replace him this year. Marsh is a big, athletic pass rusher who could fit in at either the end or tackle positions after playing in UCLA’s 3-4 defense. He’d face a real battle to make the roster out of training camp, but he is an interesting developmental prospect nonetheless.
Round 7, Pick 249: Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame
The Rams could really use some more cornerback depth, seeing as they only have three corners on their roster who have ever played in an NFL game. Even if they draft a player early such as Justin Gilbert, it would be smart too add to the back end of the group as well. Jackson is a big, disciplined corner who plays well in press coverage and can make good use of his hands when necessary.
Round 7, Pick 250: Danny Kistler Jr., OL, Montana
There’s really no team that fits Kistler Jr. better than the Rams. He’s an ideal Jeff Fisher lineman- monstrous at 6-foot-8 and 315 pounds with the ability to play tackle and guard, and as a bonus he comes from Montana, which has been a bit of a pipeline under Fisher, largely because of his son Brandon’s former involvement as a player at the school. He would be competing for a roster spot in training camp, but if developed correctly he could end up being a starting tackle a few years down the line.