ST. LOUIS (AP) When the St. Louis Rams sent the second pick of the 2012 draft to Washington, they probably couldn’t imagine owning that same slot in 2014.
Thanks to Washington’s free fall last year, they do as the final payout from the Robert Griffin III trade.
This is their last chance to capitalize.
After draft day dealings last year, the Rams (7-9) landed explosive receiver Tavon Austin and outside linebacker Alec Ogletree, who led the team in tackles. They also have the 13th pick.
Ideally, the move would again be parlaying the prime pick into more choices. That might be harder to pull off given uncertainty at the top of this draft, so they could end up addressing needs on the offensive line and taking Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews.
Two years ago, quarterback was a rare area of strength. Plus, the Redskins were desperate.
So the franchises swapped first-round spots, with the Rams moving down just four places, plus they gained Washington’s first-rounders in ’13 and `14.
They’re still playing catchup in the NFC West behind Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona, which all have rebounded quickly from down times. But the rebuilding effort of coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead might be getting closer.
Since the Griffin deal, they’ve also added running back Zac Stacy, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
Five thing to look for in the draft for the Rams:
ON THE CLOCK: No deal means decision time. Going for need, they could pluck Robinson or Mathews – unsexy picks that would bolster protection for Bradford.
The line is in flux with Chris Williams leaving in free agency, along with top backup Shelley Smith, and Harvey Dahl released in March. Rodger Saffold nearly left, too, but re-signed after failing a physical with Oakland, and will start at guard.
The team maintains left tackle Jake Long will be ready for the opener coming off knee surgery in January.
FUTURE QUARTERBACK: They’re set for now with Bradford, rehabbing from knee surgery, and new veteran backup Shaun Hill. Bradford has two years to go on his contract.
But don’t be surprised if they grab a quarterback to groom in the early rounds. Bradford has been dogged by injuries and even when healthy has fallen far shy of elite status, although the talent he’s working with has a lot to do with it.
ON THE FLY: After years of neglect, more attention has been spent on improving Bradford’s downfield options. Now, patience is being tested.
Perhaps it’s a stretch, but the search for a consistent downfield threat could lead the Rams to grab Clemson’s Sammy Watkins with the second pick.
Austin was chosen eighth overall last season and West Virginia teammate Stedman Bailey was a third-rounder. In 2012, Brian Quick was taken at the top of the second round and speedy Chris Givens was a fourth-rounder, and in 2011 Austin Pettis was taken in the third round.
Plus, they’re taking a shot with former Titans star Kenny Britt, reunited with Fisher.
The diminutive Austin has game-breaking skills, but is more of a specialty performer. Quick could be a late-bloomer, but has just 29 catches with four touchdowns in two seasons. Pettis is a possession-type, with 38 catches, a 10.5-yard average and four TDs last year.
NO. 13: Their second pick of the first round could address a need in the secondary, with Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix showing up on multiple mock drafts. Wide receiver is considered a deep position this year, too, with LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. among the options.
MORE DEPTH: Consecutive seven-win seasons under Fisher is a marked improvement for a franchise that’s gone a decade without a winning record. They’re still rebuilding from an historic five-year trough in which they averaged three wins a season.
Last year the Rams had the youngest team in the NFL and they still need help all over. The exception is defensive line, where they’re loaded with former first-rounders and have one of the league’s top pass rushes.
The Rams have 12 picks overall, including a sixth-round and two seventh-round compensatory selections after losing five players in free agency in 2013 and adding two.
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