The St. Louis Rams had a whopping seven picks on the third and final day of the 2014 NFL Draft, and for the most part the picks were very solid. They theoretically could have done a better job of addressing some needs, but this third day should make the team more talented when they open up the season in September. Here are some initial grades on the Rams’ third day selections.
Maurice Alexander, S, Utah State: Alexander could easily end end up being a really good pick, as he’s a big, athletic safety who has the ability to hit hard and still has plenty of room to grow as a player. He has some rather significant character concerns, but the Rams have shown the ability to control those issues with other players under Jeff Fisher. As a bonus, he has a nice story, as he’s a local kid from Eureka who actually worked in the Edward Jones Dome as a janitor in 2012.
The only frustrating element of this selection was that the Rams took Alexander, who many projected as a sixth or seventh round pick, so early when more high-profile prospects at need positions, such as wide receiver Martavis Bryant and cornerback Pierre Desir, remained on the board.
E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri: Even as a sixth-rounder, Gaines should be an upgrade over 2013 fifth-rounder Brandon McGee, who couldn’t make it onto the field as injuries decimated the Rams’ cornerback corps and lost snaps as the nickelback to safeties Rodney McLeod and Darian Stewart. Though he hasn’t shown a tremendous amount of playmaking ability, Gaines is a great run defender and is very solid in coverage, which he showed when shutting down Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans last year. If injuries hadn’t limited him during the pre-draft season, he likely would have been a higher pick. Expect Gaines to battle with McGee for the Rams’ fourth cornerback job and possibly see some action from scrimmage depending on how the safety and nickel back situations shake out.
Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU: The Rams made it clear before the draft that they planned to select a quarterback, but as they came up on round six it seemed like less of a sure thing, as they let other quarterbacks who they had privately worked out, such as Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron and Tom Savage, all be selected. Gilbert gives the team a solid developmental prospect who can serve as the third-stringer, but he’s not NFL ready and probably won’t be for at least a few years. It’s good that they’re making an effort to create depth at the position, but statistically the chances of Gilbert working out as a sixth rounder from a less-esteemed college program are not the greatest.
Mitchell Van Dyk, OT, Portland State: Van Dyk fits the profile of the offensive tackle that the Rams have been trying to develop since the start of Jeff Fisher’s tenure. He’s 6-foot-8 and 315 pounds, roughly the same size as Ty Nsekhe and Sean Hooey, two tackles who the Rams have tried to develop without much success over the past two years. While Van Dyk could finally be the player who achieves success, it’s unlikely he’d ever receive an opportunity to start anyway, as the Rams should have their lineup set for a while with young tackles Greg Robinson and Joe Barksdale. The Rams could have gone for a more versatile, proven commodity such as Charles Leno Jr. or Antonio Richardson, but instead they decided to go for the unknown with Van Dyk.
C.B. Bryant, S, Ohio State: Bryant, an undersized safety, didn’t play much during his senior year at Ohio State and couldn’t workout during the pre-draft season due to ankle surgery. He’s highly athletic, though, and is said to be a great leader. The Rams could use some backup safeties to play special teams, and Bryant is a good guy to bring in to battle for a job. With that said, the Rams had already drafted three defensive backs, so it may have been smarter for them to fill a bigger need at a position such as wide receiver or tight end.
Michael Sam, DE, Missouri: The Rams like to have lots of pass rushers on hand, and they didn’t have a fifth defensive end following the unexpected loss of Gerald Rivers on waivers late last season. The Rams needed another end, and after Cassius Marsh, another player they were heavily targeting, was taken by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round, Sam became the most logical target. Sam may not be a part of the active roster during his rookie year, but his college production alone makes him a tremendous value at the end of the seventh round.
Demetrius Rhaney, C, Tennessee State: This was the Rams’ eleventh pick of the weekend and fourth pick of the seventh round, so it’s not like there was a whole lot at stake here, but still, why take a center? The Rams had needs at wide receiver and tight end, and they already have three centers on their roster in Scott Wells, Tim Barnes, and Barrett Jones, though maybe this selection signifies that the 33-year-old Wells is close to being on his way out. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, Rhaney is on the small side for any position besides center on the line. He is probably a practice squad player at best as a rookie unless one of the Rams’ other centers gets hurt.