NFL Draft: St. Louis Rams

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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The pick: Tre Mason, running back, Auburn

My take: This is the first pick the Rams have made that caught me off guard. I thought the Rams might grab a receiver or quarterback if they were going to add at the skill positions but didn't expect any running back to be the choice this early. I have to think this was one of those situations where value was too good for the Rams to pass up. Reuniting Mason with tackle Greg Robinson allows them to get the nation's most dynamic rushing combo back together. Honestly, I feel as if the Rams could have had similar value at a position of need. Even doubling down on Florida State defensive backs with safety Terrence Brooks would have been a good play. Mason is a good back and could actually push for starter carries, but the Rams could have waited and taken another back to contribute later.

Message sent: At the scouting combine in February, coach Jeff Fisher said he wanted to give the bulk of the carries to Zac Stacy and though that's still possible, Mason has the ability to eventually wrest the job away. Barring that, the rest of the running back group has been put on notice. The Rams like Benny Cunningham and this move would seem to put Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead in danger of not making the roster. The Rams would probably be happy to get a pick for either at this point.

What's next: The Rams dealt their fifth-round pick to Buffalo earlier in the night, leaving them with a pick in the fourth, two in the sixth and four in the seventh before calling it a draft. The Rams still have needs at quarterback, on the offensive line, linebacker and in the secondary.

Outside of Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney is the NFL prospect who has received the largest amount of attention during the 2014 draft process. That attention hasn’t always been positive, as many called into question his effort and work ethic during his three-sack junior season for South Carolina in 2013.

However, he has gone wire to wire as the No. 1 overall prospect in my Top 32 rankings, and I feel he is the clear-cut premier talent in this draft.

Ahead of his pro day Wednesday, I decided to break out my scouting report on him (you can find the full version in our draft tracker), looking at the four position-specific attributes we use to evaluate defensive ends, and adding some final notes on what makes him such a rare talent and where I expect him to land in the 2014 draft.

McShay Mock 3.0: Rams 

March, 6, 2014
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Todd McShay's third NFL mock draft for 2014 is out on ESPN Insider today.

This is an intriguing draft for the Rams, as they have two picks in the top half of the first round at No. 2 and No. 13, respectively. I view offensive line as a huge need for the Rams and locking up two of their own, Rodger Saffold and Shelley Smith would be prudent free-agent moves after some cap maneuvering. Independent of that I could see them going with one of the top tackles with the second pick (McShay had them taking Auburn's Greg Robinson in his second mock) or after trading back.

The secondary is another need area for the Rams, because while several of the Rams' young lesser-known members of their secondary showed some promise last year, adding one high-end guy could go a long way toward completing a potentially great defense. Many consider wide receiver a huge need for this team, but to me, addressing that issue in free agency makes much more sense considering how many early picks they used on wide receivers recently and how young this position group is right now overall.

I am also in the camp that using a second- or third-round pick on a quarterback would be a wise move for the Rams.

Whom does McShay have the Rams drafting at No. 2 and No. 13? Let's take a look:


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Kiper-McShay Mocks 2.0: St. Louis Rams 

February, 6, 2014
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In their first mock drafts, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper each tabbed the same offensive tackle for the Rams, who own the No. 2 pick thanks to their trade with Washington two seasons ago: Jake Matthews of Texas A&M.

For the Rams' second pick of the first round, McShay projected Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix while Kiper went offense with Texas A&M WR Mike Evans.

Has there been a change for their second mocks? Here's the latest projection from each of our experts.

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Kiper Mock Draft 1.0: St. Louis Rams 

January, 15, 2014
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Armed with the Nos. 2 and 13 picks, the St. Louis Rams find themselves in an enviable position heading toward this year's NFL draft.

While general manager Les Snead insists the team's biggest need is experience, there are plenty of areas by which they can bolster the roster.

Offensively, the Rams have a line with question marks, as two 2013 Week 1 starters, Rodger Saffold and Chris Williams, are scheduled for unrestricted free agency, while two more, Harvey Dahl and Scott Wells, are possible cap casualties. Jake Long is recovering from a torn ACL and MCL. Tackles like Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Auburn's Greg Robinson would have plenty of appeal.

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McShay Mock Draft 1.0: St. Louis Rams 

December, 18, 2013
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The season may not have played out the way Jeff Fisher and the youthful Rams would have liked after an offseason of offensive upgrades and high hopes, but they can thank the Washington Redskins for a very nice consolation prize -- the No. 2 overall pick. Paired with the Rams’ own first-rounder (currently slotted at No. 14 overall) St. Louis can considerably bolster its depth and fill some holes.

So who could the Rams target?

Todd McShay released his first 2014 mock draft Wednesday, and in doing so identified the biggest areas of need for the Rams. The most urgent: O-line, defensive secondary, running back, receiver … and even QB. Here’s who McShay believes will provide the best fit for St. Louis at No. 2 and No. 14 overall

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Who will be No. 1 pick in 2014? 

December, 4, 2013
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Teddy BridgewaterAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesWith Marcus Mariota returning to school, Teddy Bridgewater is now the top QB prospect for 2014.
The number of potential No. 1 overall picks for the 2014 NFL draft shrunk by one Tuesday afternoon, with the announcement that Marcus Mariota will be returning to Oregon for his redshirt junior season.

With Mariota no longer in the equation, who will go No. 1? Let's answer that question by looking at the most logical picks for the six likeliest teams to land the top pick in the 2014 draft.

One note before we get started: It is still very early in the draft process, and I'm just scratching the surface with my evaluations at this point, especially when it comes to the quarterbacks. I still have nearly all of the 2013 season tape to study, in addition to background checks, measureables, pressure drops tests, etc. But what follows is a look based on what we know right now.

We've ordered the teams below based on which are likeliest to land the No. 1 pick, according to Football Outsiders' projections.

1. Houston Texans
Needs: QB, OT
Likeliest No. 1 pick: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Case Keenum is not the long-term answer at quarterback for the Texans. I think it would have been easier for Houston to take Mariota as its QB of the future, given his elite potential, especially since there are some long-term durability concerns with Bridgewater because of his frame. So there's a chance they would instead choose to address their offensive line and take Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews at No. 1.

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Rookie Review: Tavon Austin 

November, 18, 2013
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St. Louis Rams' Tavon AustinAP Photo/Darron CummingsYes, there are times where it seems as if the Rams' Tavon Austin can fly.
Tavon Austin was one of the most talked about prospects heading into April’s draft. The pint-sized receiver (5-foot-8, 174 pounds) from West Virginia was heralded by many as one of the most electrifying playmakers from the 2013 class.

Entering his senior season, there was talk about Austin maybe working his way into the first-round mix. He put together a tremendous senior year in which he accumulated 2,917 total yards while adding 17 touchdowns in a variety of manners -- receiving, rushing and on special teams as a returner. He combined that with a strong pre-draft process during which he confirmed the speed he had displayed on tape by clocking in with the second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.34). The St. Louis Rams traded with the Buffalo Bills from No. 16 to No. 8 to take Austin.

What made Austin unique coming out of West Virginia was his rare combination of lateral quickness and top-end speed. On tape, he was able to effortlessly weave in and out of traffic and was a threat to deliver a home run from anywhere on the field. Austin also brought excellent versatility, which was seen in last year's Oklahoma game, when he lined up at running back for the first time in his career and manufactured 344 yards rushing and two touchdowns. I attended that game, and it was the best individual performance I have seen live, as Austin registered a Big 12-record 572 total yards of offense against the Sooners.

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Rams can still build around Bradford 

October, 25, 2013
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Sam BradfordTroy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsCan Sam Bradford still develop into a top-level NFL quarterback?
Following the season-ending ACL injury to Sam Bradford, the St. Louis Rams’ search for a short-term fix at quarterback included reaching out to the agent of Brett Favre, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday. While Favre’s assertion that he has no interest in staging an NFL comeback took some drama out of that situation, how the Rams approach their long-term decision at QB remains an intriguing subject.

Independent of the issue of Bradford’s health, which is obviously a factor the team will need to consider, there are legitimate questions as to whether he should be considered the long-term answer. When he has been healthy, he hasn’t yet played up to the potential he showed as a former No. 1 overall draft pick.

However, after studying Bradford’s performance and the Rams’ personnel on the tape of several of the team’s games so far this season, I feel as though a healthy Bradford is capable of being St. Louis’ franchise QB, and that the team would be better off focusing on building up the supporting cast around him on offense, including in the 2014 NFL draft, than trying to start over with a new quarterback.

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Offseason moves -- both trades and free-agent signings -- can significantly change a team's draft needs and strategies.

Teams have a much easier time picking need over value when they have already addressed their most glaring weaknesses before draft weekend. On the flip side, organizations that fail to fill big roster holes are more likely to reach to fill needs, and those picks are more likely to backfire.

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Nickel Package: Five valuable slot WRs 

November, 7, 2012
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As more and more NFL teams spread the field with multiple-receiver sets, slot receivers have become increasingly valuable. To that point, many people I talk to in scouting circles are now evaluating slot guys and perimeter receivers as separate groups.


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Five players who stand out in space 

April, 20, 2012
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The fourth annual edition of my All-Satellite team has arrived, offering up the five players from the 2012 draft class who are most dangerous in space.

These players present all kinds of danger in the open field and each has the ability to burn a defense for a touchdown with the ball in his hands. Here's how they break down, with prospects listed in order of their overall draft grade.

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Redskins had to go after RG3 

March, 10, 2012
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The Washington Redskins' desire to find a franchise quarterback drove them to pay a huge bounty -- picks No. 6 and 39 in this year's draft, and first-rounders in 2013 and 2014 -- to the St. Louis Rams for the No. 2 overall pick and the right to draft Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, but it was a move the Redskins had to make.


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Big pro days coming for rising prospects 

March, 5, 2012
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Now that the NFL combine is in the rearview mirror, scouts and other team personnel turn their attention to on-campus pro days that give prospects a chance to build additional momentum or prove that subpar combine workouts were simply blips on the radar screen.

Below is a look at four players who showed well in Indianapolis and could use their pro day workouts to lock down their draft status, and teams that could be possible fits.

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Later-round backs can prove valuable 

February, 14, 2012
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Not one of the running backs who finished in the top five in the NFL in rushing yards in 2011 was drafted in the first round. Three came from the second round, but the Atlanta Falcons' Michael Turner was drafted in the fifth round in 2004 and the Houston Texans signed Arian Foster as an undrafted free agent in 2009.

And look no further than the teams that played in Super Bowl XLVI for more evidence that running backs with lower grades can become contributors on championship-caliber teams. The New York Giants don't have a back on their roster who was drafted before the fourth round, while the New England Patriots signed their top back, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, as an undrafted free agent.

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