Rams’ needs, 10th pick, available talent might not align quite right
ST. LOUIS — The Rams may not have ideal options to fill their needs with the 10th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, according to a pair of draft experts.
On the bright side, general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher have done well in the middle of the first round since taking over three years ago. No. 8 pick Tavon Austin has suffered some injuries and failed to live up to the hype through two seasons, but No. 14 pick Michael Brockers hasn’t missed a start since early in his rookie season in 2012 and No. 13 pick Aaron Donald just won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors as selected by the Pro Football Writers of America.
A loaded class of edge rushers means another one might be available on April 30, but it’s time for St. Louis to look elsewhere. Fisher and Snead both recognize the need for a quarterback to challenge Sam Bradford when he returns from a second ACL tear, so they may be disappointed when evaluating this year’s prospects.
"This may be the worst class of quarterbacks I’ve ever seen," says Russ Lande, the founder of GM Jr Scouting and a former scout for the Los Angeles Rams. "There’s nobody I see that’s going to be there in the second round that’s going to be a starter in the league."
Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston are the only first-round-caliber quarterbacks, and both figure to be off the board before the Rams’ selection. However, Draft Geek and SI.com have recently put out mock drafts with Winston falling to St. Louis, citing his off-the-field issues.
Those kinds of concerns haven’t bothered Fisher and Snead, who have been rewarded after taking chances on linebacker Alec Ogletree in the 2013 draft and wide receiver Kenny Britt in free agency last year. Though he didn’t talk about Winston specifically, Snead indicated he would be willing to take a quarterback dealing with legal or personal issues.
"It’s got to be case by case and you’ve got to get to know that human being, know the issues, why the issue was there," Snead says. "Really, the most important part is OK, as this kid develops, matures, is he going to be able to not repeat the same issues?"
St. Louis probably won’t get the chance to make that decision with Winston, leaving the offensive line as the most important piece to find. How much of a priority it is will depend on whether tackle Jake Long returns from his second ACL tear and if the Rams re-sign starting right tackle Joe Barksdale, an unrestricted free agent.
Either way, the line needs to improve, and Ourlads general manager and national scout Dan Shonka says the Rams’ first pick might end up being an offensive tackle by default. But even though that position may have the best available players at No. 10, can’t-miss prospects are hard to find.
"You can get a good tackle in the second round," Shonka says. "I don’t know if any of those tackles are head and shoulders above the rest."
In fact, his favorite prospect, Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley, announced he’ll be returning for his senior season earlier this week. That leaves a solid group of tackles frequently tabbed to go to St. Louis in mock drafts, including Miami’s Ereck Flowers, LSU’s La’el Collins, Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi, Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings and Iowa’s Brandon Scherff.
The varying opinions on all of them indicate it might be somewhat of a crapshoot for the Rams, who didn’t exactly get what they expected from No. 2 pick Greg Robinson last season. Nonetheless, he made significant strides and will be their left tackle moving forward.
"I think you always want to think long-term," Snead says. "But there’s a fine line on ‘Hey, how far away is he?’ because at that point maybe you don’t draft him as early."
Lande says given the Rams’ track record, it’s also possible they could make some moves to get a higher draft pick or perhaps acquire a veteran to fill one of their holes. The Rams have a solid core and expect to win next season, so maybe it’s time to get more aggressive.
"Sometimes you might have to just go out and trade for somebody," Shonka says. "That might be the best option."
Essentially, the Rams are left with no easy answers. But Fisher and Snead have shown a considerable knack for identifying talent, so it’s always possible a surprise could fall into their laps or they’ll find a player they really like between now and April 30.