The St. Louis Rams hold the second overall pick in the NFL draft for the second time in three years. However, unlike last time, the selection was acquired as the final asset of the infamous Robert Griffin III trade in 2012.
Now that the college football season is over, it’s time to start evaluating options for the 2043 NFL Draft. What will the Rams look to do with the second overall selection? A lot of it depends on what the Houston Texans do with the first overall pick but ultimately, St. Louis could go in plenty of different directions.
From a need standpoint, the Rams will likely take a long look at the top offensive tackle prospects due to injuries and free agency woes. Jake Long’s season ending knee injury in Week 16 of the 2013 NFL season makes it difficult to see if the Rams will even have an established left tackle when they kickoff next September. It’s also hard to rely on Rodger Saffold to save the day with offensive line injuries in 2014. The verstaile Saffold is expected to command a large paycheck in free agency and might not be back with the team next season.
The name fans need to know if the Rams do look towards an offensive tackle is Jake Matthews. At Texas A&M, Matthews established himself as possibly the safest prospect in this draft. He has an excellent build for an elite left tackle in the NFL. Matthews also shows a nasty streak by battling through the whistle, and he obviously has spectacular blood lines. Jake’s father, Bruce Matthews, is an NFL Hall of Famer who earned 14 Pro Bowl appearances during his 19 years in a Houston Oilers uniform. Even if the Rams open the 2014 season with Long and Saffold on the field, Matthews could work his way in at right tackle if the Rams move Saffold to guard. He would also be in a great position to learn and develop into an elite blindside protector for Rams’ quarterback Sam Bradford.
Jeff Fisher and the Rams could also flirt with the idea of taking the best player available on the board. If the Texans choose to go with a quarterback, Jadeveon Clowney is highly regarded as the top player in this draft. Despite potential character issues, some experts believe Clowney could be the next elite 4-3 pash rusher due to his amazing combination of size and athleticism. Standing at 6’5 and 258 pounds, Clowney was a man among boys in his time at South Carolina. Though some have questioned his work ethic, he shows very few weaknesesses when his motor is running. Clowney has great length and quickness as a pash rusher, but he also boasts the ability to diagnose running plays.
The biggest problem with drafting Clowney is that the Rams are likely content with their effective combination of Chris Long and Robert Quinn. The duo recorded 27.5 sacks on their own to lead a defense that finished third in the league in total sacks. That said, St. Louis could be a really effective place for Clowney to land because it would put him in a situation where he can receive guidance from elite players and be humbled by not being given a starting position. That could motivate him to become the very best he can be at defensive end.
The Rams already implement a defensive end-by-committee approach by using William Hayes and Eugene Sims to keep Quinn and Long fresh. Adding Clowney would instantly give the Rams the most feared pass rush in all of the NFL. By rotating elite players in and out to keep them rested, the Rams could find themselves in a similar situation as the 2011 Superbowl champion New York Giants. The Giants used the likes of Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul to torment offenses throughout the 2011 playoffs, and the Rams could benefit from using a similar approach.
Despite the undeniable talent of Jake Matthews and Jadeveon Clowney, the most popular and possibly most effective approach would be for the Rams to trade the number two selection to acquire more draft picks.
Finally, the Rams are in a position similar to the situation in 2012: there are lots of teams in the top 10 in need of a quarterback. Although there aren’t any quarterback prospects like Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck in this draft, it is likely that a team will fall in love with one of this year’s prospects, including Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel. If any team is desperate enough to guarantee their a franchise quarterback, they may have to trade with St. Louis to do so. The Cleveland Browns have two first round picks in the 2014 NFL draft, which makes making them an obvious trading partner in this scenario.
If the Texans choose to take a quarterback off the board with the first overall pick, there are also a few teams that could be in the market to move up to guarantee Jadeveon Clowney. The most likely suitor in this scenario would be the Atlanta Falcons with the sixth pick. The Falcons have proven over the past few drafts that they are willing to move up in their attempt to win now. In 2011, the Falcons traded up in the draft to select Julio Jones, and last year they moved up to select starting cornerback, Desmond Trufant. The Falcons clearly believe that they aren’t that far away from having a championship caliber roster. Moving up to select Clowney would instantly enhance a Falcons pash rush that ranked 29th in the NFL in sacks last season.
In the upcoming months, the NFL draft picture will become clearer, but until that time, there are plenty of different routes the St. Louis Rams could take. Stay tuned and enjoy the offseason ladies and gentlemen.
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