Tuesday, November 29, 2011

St. Louis Rams: Early 2012 Mock Draft

The St. Louis Rams (2-9) have no shot at making the playoffs, and with their most recent loss against the Arizona Cardinals, they blew their shot at maybe the last clearly winnable game on their schedule. 

The rest of their 2011 season will play out as follows:

at San Francisco 49ers (9-2)

at Seattle Seahawks (4-7)

vs Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)

at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3)

vs San Francisco 49ers (9-2)

The game at Seattle seems like a winnable match-up given the Seahawks' 4-7 record, but the Rams already lost convincingly to the Seahawks in a 24-7 loss two weeks ago at the Edward Jones Dome. Also, the Rams haven't won a game in Seattle since their 2004 comeback victory that went into overtime. 

With only five games left this season, and with a 2-14 record a realistic possibility, Rams fans are struggling to find any positives from a disastrous season that was suppose to provide them with their first division title since 2003. 

Frankly, the 2012 NFL Draft could not come any sooner if you're a St. Louis fan. 

The team is struggling to stop the run on defense, while the offense cannot protect the quarterback and possesses very little firepower. 

The team needs some young reinforcements, so here is how the 2012 draft could play out for the Rams...

Round 1 (3): Justin Blackmon (Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State)

School: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 215 pounds
Position: Wide Receiver

Justin Blackmon is the best college receiver in the country by a mile. There are some out there willing to give that honor to Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina) because Jefferey is three inches taller, but that's simply absurd. 

Rams fans know perfectly well that height doesn't make a receiver special given the failed Drew Bennett experiment. On the other hand, there have been plenty of elite receivers who lacked towering height: Jerry Rice, Torry Holt, Steve Smith, Marvin Harrison. 

Meanwhile, in the last two seasons for Oklahoma State, Blackmon has scored 35 touchdowns and has 3023 yards. 
Blackmon catches everything thrown to him and will fight for the ball, which is perfect for a Rams team that has struggled with dropped passes. 

He lacks elite straight line speed, but he has great quickness and solid route running. He's also capable of gaining yards after the catch. 

There's a decent chance that the Rams could lose the No. 2 overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings, who will almost certainly draft offensive tackle Matt Kalil (USC). That would make Blackmon a no-brainer for the Rams with the No. 3 pick. 

Round 2 (35): Levy Adcock (Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma State)

School: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 322 pounds
Position: Offensive Tackle

It's becoming painfully clear that Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2009 draft, has proven to be a bust. 

If Smith doesn't quit the game due to his struggles with concussions, then the Rams will certainly attempt to restructure his $62 million contract and perhaps try him out at left guard. If he refuses, then the Rams will flat out cut him and take the dead money, which won't hurt nearly as much as the $10 million due to him next season. 

Whether Smith is at left guard or off the roster in 2012, the Rams will need to find a replacement for him. And by pure coincidence, they'll take another Oklahoma State Cowboy in the second-round: Levy Adcock. 

Adcock is a pure right tackle with an absolutely massive 322 pound frame. With Rodger Saffold on the blindside and Adcock on the right, the Rams could be set at tackle for the next 10 years. 

Adcock has plenty of experience with pass blocking given the Cowboys' trigger happy aerial attack, but it will take some time for him to adjust and become an efficient NFL run blocker. 

However, even though right tackles are traditionally better run blockers, the number one priority is to keep Sam Bradford upright, which Adcock will be able to help with from day one. 

Round 3 (67): Ben Jones (Center, Georgia)

School: Georgia Bulldogs
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 316 pounds
Position: Center

Jason Brown has been the Rams' center ever since signing his $37.5 million contract in 2009, but he was benched after a poor performance during the team's Week 9 match-up against the Arizona Cardinals.

Brown was forced back into the starting lineup at right guard last Sunday during the team's rematch against the Cardinals, but he committed three penalties, including a 10-yard holding penalty that knocked the Rams out of field goal range, which was the difference in the team's 23-20 loss. 

With $11.2 million due to Brown over the next two seasons, the Rams will likely cut ties with him and eat the dead money. 
Tony Wragge will likely enter training camp in 2012 as the team's starting center, but if they draft Ben Jones with their third-round pick, then he has a shot at winning the job by Week 1. 

Jones has started 47 games during his four seasons with the Bulldogs, so he has plenty of experience with snapping the ball. 

He is a team captain for Georgia and should continue to show solid work ethic and determination at the NFL level. 

With Levy Adcock as the team's second-round choice, the addition of Jones would go a long way towards fixing the Rams' atrocious offensive line. 

Round 4 (99): Marcus Forston (Defensive Tackle, Miami)

School: Miami Hurricanes
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 300 pounds
Position: Defensive Tackle

Miami defensive tackle Marcus Forston injured his knee in early October, which ended his season prematurely. With the injury, combined with his NCAA suspension for taking improper benefits, the Rams have a realistic shot of drafting Forston with a fourth-round pick. 

Fred Robbins will turn 35 after this season, so there's a good chance the Rams will lose him to retirement. The Rams' other starting defensive tackle, Justin Bannan, will turn 33 in April. 

Forston will provide the Rams with some much needed youth in the middle. 

The Rams also rank dead last in run defense (159.0 yards per game), so acquiring a talent like Forston this late in the draft would be a bargain too appealing to pass up. 

Round 6 (162): Chris Galippo (Linebacker, USC)

School: University of Southern California Trojans
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 250 pounds
Position: Inside Linebacker

For far too long, the Rams have had thin depth all around. If middle linebacker James Laurinaitis were to go down with a major injury, then the Rams would struggle to recoup from a loss like that. 

As a result, the team would be wise to draft Chris Galippo out of USC in the sixth-round (the Rams will lose their fifth-round pick to the Denver Broncos as a result of the Brandon Lloyd trade).  

Galippo would provide the Rams with an insurance policy behind their star linebacker. In the meantime, Galippo will appear on defense in certain goal-line and short-yardage packages, while also being a contributor on special teams.

Galippo has good instinct on the field and enough strength to burst through the line and make a tackle for a loss. He's also able to play outside linebacker in a pinch if necessary. 

Round 7 (194): Steven Johnson (Linebacker, Kansas)

School: Kansas Jayhawks
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 237 pounds
Position: Outside Linebacker

Steven Johnson is a good linebacker on a very bad Kansas Jayhawks football team that finished in last place in the Big 12 with a 2-10 overall record. 

The Jayhawks defense gave up an average of 43.75 points per game in 2011, which will possibly make some NFL teams shy away from Kansas defenders. However, Johnson is talented enough to earn some attention from scouts.

The Rams have been struggling to find a solid starter to play alongside star middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. They signed Ben Leber and Brady Poppinga in free agency as an attempt to fill the void, but both players are 32 years old and have been too slow to stop the run. 

Johnson will likely take some time to develop and will only see special teams play as a rookie, but he has the speed and talent that the Rams are looking for at outside linebacker and could be handed a starting job somewhere down the line.  

Round 7 (201): Joe Halahuni (Tight End, Oregon State)

School: Oregon State Beavers
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 255 pounds
Position: Tight End

The Rams' 2010 fifth-round pick Mike Hoomanawanui has struggled with multiple injuries in his first two seasons and it looks as though he's incapable of maintaining health for any significant amount of time. 

Lance Kendricks, the Rams' second-round pick of 2011, is having a slow start to his career (19 receptions, 240 yards), which is a disappointment considering he's supposedly a dangerous threat in the passing game a potential boost to the offense. 

The only other tight end worth mentioning in Billy Bajema, who is a blocking specialist. 

Hoomanawanui may not be back at all next year, so it's clear the Rams still need help at tight end, which is why Joe Halahuni makes sense as a late round pick.

Halahuni racked up 1,147 yards and 12 touchdowns during his four year tenure with the Oregon State Beavers.

Though he's a raw prospect, his 255 pound frame and his respectable height (6'2") could make him a formidable option in the redzone, which is an area where the Rams have struggled greatly on offense this season.  

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