The St. Louis Rams orchestrated a pair of trades on Thursday, moving up to select West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin with the 8th overall selection and then trading down and picking up Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree with the 30th pick. They sacrificed their only second round pick (46th) in the process but managed to acquire an additional 3rd rounder (92nd) before calling it a night. Despite not having a pick in the second round the Rams are still in good position to come away with skill players that can fill a need.
Not having a second rounder all but assures that St. Louis will miss out on the remaining top rated safeties like FIU’s Jonathan Cyprien and South Carolina’s D.J. Swearinger. A quick glance at the draft order reveals several teams looking for secondary help between the 33rd overall selection and the Rams next pick at 71. Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Carolina, Arizona, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, and Oakland are among the teams listing safety among their top needs heading into the second round. All of those teams have at least one pick before the Rams are put on the clock again. However, many of those teams have other needs to address first, which should give St. Louis a shot at getting a quality player with their 71st selection.
If it isn’t obvious by now I do think the Rams select a safety with the 71st pick. Here are few guys I believe may be available at that point.
1. Shamarko Thomas – SS – Syracuse . Thomas is a quick and hard-hitting safety who possesses strong coverage and good recognition skills. He plays with a linebacker’s mentality and has experience playing on the line of scrimmage. He’s speedy enough to stick with slot receivers and has proven to be an effective blitzer as well. He isn’t the tallest safety, standing only 5’9, but he can make up for that with his arm length and vertical leap.
2. Earl Wolff – SS – N.C. State. Wolff has a solid build and shows some physicality with wide receivers. His strong tackling skills translate well into limiting yards after the catch at the next level. He also has good awareness and shows the ability to play man and zone coverage. Picks up reads well and has the quickness to stay with receivers on vertical routes. The knocks on him are his average height and his inability to shed blocks when playing on the line of scrimmage.
3. Phillip Thomas – SS – Fresno State. After missing the 2011 season, Thomas returned to top form in 2012, leading the nation with 8 interceptions. He has a nose for the ball and is physical and athletic. His quick feet allow him to react to ball carriers in open space and he has the agility and speed to keep up with receivers and tight ends in coverage. That being said, he does have some issues switching directions and can also get caught out of position on play action reads.
4. Shawn Williams – SS – Georgia. This former Bulldog is athletic and strong. He attacks ball-carriers and is big enough to throw down tight ends with authority, something that I think would come in handy against teams like San Francisco. He can also play outside the box and makes good reads in the secondary. The concern for me is that he sometimes lacks the speed to keep up with slot receivers and more athletic tight ends. He also isn’t known for his ability to intercept the ball. Williams is talented but will have to develop a little more before becoming a starter. The Rams could reach for him here, or wait and pick him up later in the draft.
In addition to safety, the Rams are also in need of help at running back and guard. Depending on how the rounds play out, St. Louis may select a guard here. Especially given the fact they were able to find Daryl Richardson in the 7th round last year. If I was making the choice, I would go running back at 92. But, I’m not in charge so here are a couple of options I expect to garner consideration at both positions.
1. Le’Veon Bell – RB – Michigan State. The former Spartan is an absolute monster in terms of size. He is a north-south runner who makes strong cuts and shows a nice burst of speed coming out of them. He also has superior strength and can push the pile in short yardage situations. He also showed the ability to handle a heavy workload. However, he lacks vision that causes him to miss cutback lanes and he needs to improve at catching the ball out of the backfield to become an full-time back.
2. Stepfan Taylor – RB – Standford. Personally, I like Taylor more than many other prospects at his position. He has good vision and is a powerful, north-south runner. Taylor also runs hard and has shown that he too can carry a heavy workload. Finally, he is a good pass catcher, which is something the Rams backfield will need following the departure of Steven Jackson. He doesn’t have breakaway speed and isn’t known for being explosive beyond the tackles. However he might be the most technically sound and well rounded back in this draft class.
3. Brian Winters – OG – Kent State. First and foremost he is a finisher and he doesn’t take plays off. He shows the strength and agility that will make him an effective blocker at the next level. Winters is a solid combo-blocker who has the ability to seal the tackle before negating a linebacker using his length and quickness. He will have to change his technique to be successful at the next level, as he was known to latch on during college, but he otherwise capable of being a starter at guard or tackle in the NFL.
4. David Quessenberry – OG – San Jose State. He is solid against the pass rush and has the ability to be effective in run protection. Quessenberry also has the agility to recover well if caught lunging off the snap and plays with leverage in short yardage situations. He has also shown the ability to keep edge rushers from getting into the pocket. He is a good athlete but at only 300 pounds, he will have to add extra weight to handle linemen at the next level.
St. Louis shocked a lot of people and traded up to get their man Tavon Austin in the first round. There is nothing stopping them from doing that again if they feel they need to. However, I don’t see St. Louis moving up or down in the middle rounds. I can’t say for sure what they will do with either pick tonight, but I think the players listed above could each fill a need and become starters in St. Louis this season.