2013 NFL Draft Preview: St. Louis Rams

By David Parks
PSDC NCAA Specialist

Team: St. Louis Rams

2012 Record: (7-8-1), 3rd in NFC West

2012 Summary:  Back in 2003, few franchises were enjoying success like the St. Louis Rams. Despite losing in the divisional round of the playoffs that year, the Rams were coming off their fourth playoff appearance in five years and in those five years, owned a combined record of 56-24.

Proving how tough it can be to sustain success in the NFL, the Rams have mustered just one playoff appearance since, and haven’t had a winning season since the 2003 campaign.

A huge reason for their demise has been the loss of a core group of players that made up “the greatest show on turf.” Gone are Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. Now? The Rams nucleus is made up of Sam Bradford, Chris Long and James Lauranitis.

Despite the franchise’s tough times, things are finally looking up in St. Louis thanks to head coach Jeff Fisher. Last season Fisher took over a Rams team that finished 2-14 the previous season. The results in one year under Fisher?  Plus-5 win differential. Make no mistake about it, the Rams have a long way to go to get back to where they once were. The road to recovery isn’t easy playing in a division with Seattle and San Francisco, but the Rams have quietly assembled some nice, young talent and have the chance to add to that group in next week’s NFL Draft. For the first time in almost a decade, people in St. Louis can finally be excited about their team.

Key Offseason Acquisitions:
OT Jake Long
TE Jared Cook 

Key Offseason Departures:
WR Danny Amendola (Patriots)
WR Brandon Gibson (Dolphins)
RB Steven Jackson (Falcons) 

2013 Draft Position: 16, 22 (8 picks total) 

2013 Draft needs:
Wide Receiver
Offensive Tackle
Running Back

Three draft picks that make the most sense:
S Kenny Vaccaro (Texas)
WR Tavon Austin (West Virginia)
LB Alec Ogletree (Georgia)

Wildcard pick: RB Eddie Lacy (Alabama) 

Prediction: 16 – Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee), 22 – Matt Elam (Florida) 

When looking at the Rams’ roster, it’s not hard to spot what positions they need help at the most; wide receiver and safety.

In fact, an argument could be made that St. Louis needs to draft multiple guys at both positions in lieu of offseason departures by receivers Amendola and Gibson and safeties Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl.

For years now Sam Bradford has lacked a go-to receiver. Sure Amendola was nice, but he was never going to be the guy that could be a dominant possession receiver for Bradford. Patterson has elite athleticism. His technique will need some refining, but there’s not another guy in this class that possess the physical tools he has. Route running can be taught; athleticism cannot.

On the other side of the ball, addressing the safety position is an absolute must with one of their first round picks. Kenny Vaccaro is the draft’s top safety, but he’ll likely be off the board by the time 16 rolls around. A name you’ll hear a lot is Jonathan Cyprien out of FIU. He’s been on the rise of late, but San Francisco reportedly loves him and has enough ammunition to trade up in front of St. Louis for his services. That leaves Elam, the draft’s third rated safety, for the taking at 22. Elam is a headhunter who will be able to provide excellent run support. Although still a little raw in terms of pass coverage, he plays with a nasty streak that Fisher loves. Although the players could wind up being different than Patterson and Elam, there’s no doubt that receiver and safety are the two biggest needs for this team leading up to the draft.

Follow David on Twitter: @_DParks

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