2012 NFL Draft | St. Louis Rams Team Needs
The St. Louis Rams struggled to a 2-14 finish in 2011, which led to changes in the front office and a new head coach in Jeff Fisher . They had the #2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but they made a trade with the Washington Redskins to swap first round picks this year while they also acquired two future first-round picks. They are currently slated to pick sixth overall next week.
The Rams have some glaring needs on the roster on both sides of the ball and they stand to get an impact player with the No.6 pick no matter which direction they choose to go with the pick, which could include trading down again if they get a significant offer. Adding talent around quarterback Sam Bradford should be among the team’s highest priorities during the draft.
Protecting Bradford is a high priority, as the Rams allowed a league-high 55 sacks in 2011 and Bradford played just 10 games due to a lingering ankle injury. Center Scott Wells was signed away from the Green Bay Packers in free agency, but guard and tackle both look like spots the team may address during the draft at some point. Former #2 overall pick OT Jason Smith has been a bust, but he may be given another chance by the new coaching staff. St. Louis lost some depth with guard Jacob Bell signing with the Cincinnati Bengals, center Jason Brown being released as well as OT/OG Adam Goldberg still being on the market and looking unlikely to return. Even if they do not draft a sure-fire starter sometime in the early rounds, the Rams need to at least add some depth and competition here.
St. Louis lost their best wide receiver, Brandon Lloyd, during free agency to the New England Patriots, so they are now left with a fairly mediocre looking position group. The signing for former New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles WR Steve Smith adds an intriguing player to the mix, but he has not been healthy the last couple seasons. The other incumbents include Mark Clayton and Danario Alexander, who have had their own injury issues, and an otherwise largely unproven group including Brandon Gibson, Austin Pettis and Greg Salas. If the Rams keep the #6 pick, Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon is a strong possibility with the pick as they look to give Bradford a legit No.1 wide receiver once and for all. In any case, they could use more than one pick on a wide receiver for the second straight draft in an effort to further bolster their depth.
Many reports have suggested the Rams have strong interest in Alabama RB Trent Richardson, even with Steven Jackson in place as their starting tailback. Jackson will turn 29 in July and may not have a lot left in the tank, so finding his potential successor may be something the team begins to at least look at. St. Louis could theoretically look to trade Jackson if they are able to draft Richardson, but getting Richardson is no guarantee with the Cleveland Browns (No.4 overall) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No.5) both possibly having strong interest. It would not be a big surprise to see the Rams use a middle round pick on a running back in order to at least upgrade their depth behind Jackson.
St. Louis signed cornerback Corteland Finnegan in free agency, with may not be a coincidence since Fisher coached him while the two were with the Tennessee Titans. So the Rams have a legit top cover corner in the fold now, but adding some more depth should still be a consideration in the draft due to the number of injuries they endured at cornerback in 2011. If the Rams could choose LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick, if he is available, to add another high-end talent to the mix and give them a solid cornerback duo immediately. As with wide receiver, adding a top talent as well as using another later pick to add depth here is a strong possibility.
The Rams had the league’s 31st-ranked run defense last season (152.1 yards per game), and they have added some depth to the defensive line in free agency with the signing of defensive ends Kendall Langford and William Hayes and defensive tackle Trevor Laws. That said, adding a dynamic young player to the interior defensive line would help things immensely, and a couple potential options who could get the Rams’ attention with the sixth overall pick are Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox and Memphis DT Dontari Poe. The defensive tackle class is solid this year, so St. Louis could still get a solid player with a later pick if they choose to go that route.
The Rams are set at middle linebacker with James Laurinitis in place, but outside of him (literally and figuratively) the talent pool here is not particularly deep. In free agency, they essentially traded linebackers with the New Orleans Saints as Chris Chamberlain went to the Saints and Jo-Lynn Dunbar coming to St. Louis. Last year’s starting outside linebackers, Ben Leber and Brady Poppinga, are not expected back as Leber was released and Poppinga is still unsigned, so adding another player to the mix seems like a virtual necessity. One player that could appeal to St. Louis in the middle rounds of the draft is Sean Spence out of Miami (FL), who could be vastly undervalued since he is considered to be undersized (5’11″).
Brad has contributed to many sports-related websites for the last eight years, covering predominantly fantasy sports (football and baseball), the NFL and MLB. Some of the websites where his work has been or is currently featured include KFFL.com, Rotowire.com, Bruno Boys Fantasy Football and Tree.com. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.