St. Louis Rams' Top Needs & Fits in the 2014 Draft
The St. Louis Rams have plenty of ammunition in upcoming draft—two first-round picks to be exact—to solidify the roster and upgrade the team's playoff chances in 2014.
The Rams have multiple roster needs, and the draft can plug a few of those holes if done right.
Typically, it's not ideal to base draft-day decisions on roster needs. Drafting a player simply because he plays a position of need and passing on a better player in the process is not a recipe for success.
Having said that, if the Rams are on the clock and debating between two equally talented players, they'll most likely choose the player who plays the more convenient position. For example, if they're deciding between a defensive end and a safety who have equal grades as prospects, the Rams will draft the safety because that's the greatest roster need at the moment.
If the Rams do decide to approach the draft determined to fill all roster needs, here are several players capable of filling those needs. If any of these players are drafted, they'll be instant starters and make the Rams a better football team.
Note: All height and weight statistics courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.
FS Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Weight: 208 Pounds
Projected Round: 1-2
The Rams will likely let Darian Stewart walk in free agency. Rodney McLeod started 16 games in Stewart's place in 2013, so there's no need to retain him.
McLeod, a former undrafted rookie from 2012, still has some growing to do and may eventually develop into a solid starter, but his spot on the defense can certainly be upgraded.
If the Rams fail to find a safety in free agency and decide to upgrade the position with a first-round pick, then the top option available is Alabama's Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix.
Clinton-Dix is a hard hitter and provides great run support. Teaming him up with T.J. McDonald will give St. Louis a dangerous duo of head-hunters up top.
If the Rams want to improve tackling in the secondary, Clinton-Dix is the man for the job.
On the other hand, he does lack speed. His coverage skills were acceptable at the collegiate level, but covering speedy NFL receivers will be a major challenge for Clinton-Dix.
If Clinton-Dix can overcome his lack of elite speed, he'll be a competent NFL starter and certainly an upgrade for the Rams.
CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Weight: 200 Pounds
Projected Round: 1-2
With Cortland Finnegan soon to be out of the picture, the Rams need another cornerback to upgrade the secondary.
The Rams have two capable starters in Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, so drafting a corner in Round 1 may be overkill, but Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert is totally worth the price tag.
The St. Louis secondary had too many missed tackles in 2013. The Rams need to add a big, physical corner who can not only cover receivers but also make thunderous open-field tackles.
Gilbert is also a capable kick returner, which is another need for St. Louis. Tavon Austin only returns punts, so competition for the top kick-returner role is wide open.
Adding Gilbert to the roster would instantly give St. Louis one of the better trio of corners in the league.
OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor
Weight: 340 Pounds
Projected Round: 2
Harvey Dahl will likely be a cap casualty and there's no guarantee St. Louis will re-sign free agent Rodger Saffold, which means the team is in need of a guard.
Baylor rushed for 3,376 yards in 2013 and featured perhaps the most prolific offense in all of college football this past season. The eye-popping numbers were possible thanks to Cyril Richardson, who got it done up front every single week.
Richardson will be an instant starter for St. Louis. And if Saffold returns, the two could team up to give St. Louis its best interior offensive line since the Greatest Show on Turf era.
Jeff Fisher doesn't draft offensive linemen in Round 1, but if Richardson slips to the second round, he'll be hard to pass up.
Note: Height and weight statistics according to BaylorBears.com.
DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Weight: 292 Pounds
Projected Round: 1
It's possible that Kendall Langford will be a cap casualty this offseason, though the Rams would love to have him back in 2014.
If Langford is cut loose, the Rams cannot depend on Matt Conrath and Jermelle Cudjo to fill the void; they'll need to find a permanent replacement with great potential.
It's doubtful that the Rams want to use a first-round pick on a defensive tackle. Michael Brockers is a rising star, so the team just needs a competent, mid-round talent to play next to him.
If the Rams decide to shock everyone and select a first-round tackle, Florida State's Timmy Jernigan is the most exciting option.
Jernigan was the anchor of Florida State's championship defense. He recorded 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks this past season.
At just 292 pounds, he's lighter and quicker than the 326-pound Brockers. He'd be a nice complement to Brockers on the inside.
If the Rams were to grab Jernigan in the first round, all four of their defensive line starters would be former first-round picks. There would not be a single weak spot up front.
If Jernigan comes to St. Louis, it would give the Rams the best defensive line in all of football. They're already in that conversation, and Jernigan would put them over the edge.
OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Weight: 320 Pounds
Projected Round: 1
As my regular readers know, I'm convinced that Greg Robinson is one of the more alluring first-round options for St. Louis and certainly the most appealing tackle from this draft class.
Robinson has the pure strength and athleticism that Jake Matthews can only dream of. He's a road grader. He has a mean streak and plays the game with attitude. He has Harvey Dahl's mentality, Russell Okung's body and Orlando Pace's athleticism.
His lack of experience as a pass-blocker—thanks to Auburn's run-first approach on offense—is the only thing keeping Robinson from being a top-three pick.
If Jadeveon Clowney goes No. 1 overall and no team is willing to trade up to No. 2, you certainly won't hear any complaints from my corner if Robinson is selected with that second pick. And if he happens to fall to No. 13, it would be a dream come true—basically the equivalent of Robert Quinn falling to No. 14 in 2011.
Even if Long is healthy come Week 1 and Saffold in re-signed, the Rams can still make use of Robinson by playing him at left guard.
With Robinson paving the way, it's not hard to picture Rams running back Zac Stacy producing Pro Bowl numbers in 2014.
Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.
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