When a team is as stocked with draft choices as the St. Louis Rams will be in April, the NFL Scouting Combine becomes an even more important exercise. The club will have a number of different options to choose from in the first round as the only team with two selections in the top 22. Trading down is always a sensible choice while staying put and adding two potential instant starters is also a viable possibility.
Whatever the Rams decide to do, the Combine over the next week will likely have a large impact on just which players end up in St. Louis for 2013.
There are three clear needs for the Rams coming into the offseason with offensive line, wide receiver, and safety all leading the way. Any of these positions could be where the Rams focus in the upcoming draft, but a potential wild card could be outside linebacker. The team really struggled at that spot this past season and everyone is well aware of the fact that during Head Coach Jeff Fisher’s lengthy tenures as an NFL coach, never has one of his teams drafted an offensive lineman in the first round.
Defense is always a priority with Fisher and even though the Rams have glaring deficiencies on offense, the team may choose to continue beefing up the other side of the football. With the 16th pick, a player to keep an eye on at the Combine will be safety Kenny Vaccaro of Texas.
While he can make plays in coverage, perhaps his best asset is coming down into the box and acting as that fourth linebacker. He doesn’t shy away from contact and can certainly help against the run, but there are questions about his ability to defend the pass. If he can show some decent speed, test well in all of the agility exercises, and show some knowledge during interviews, Vaccaro may be on the Rams’ radar at pick number 16 in April.
A possible surprise pick at number 16 overall could be Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree. There are plenty who believe he has the talent to be a top 10 pick, but almost assuredly after his recent DUI arrest and failed drug test prior to the 2012 season he will end up much lower.
As a converted safety, clearly Ogletree has the rangy speed to excel in coverage. He could easily play outside backer in the Rams 4-3 alignment and would help mask some of the team’s difficulties in coverage as a result. He isn’t the best against the run, but the Rams have a number of players who would complement that skill set quite well.
There is no doubt he will test well at the Combine and if his interviews go alright, don’t be surprised if Fisher and his Rams take a gamble on a player with ridiculous upside who has some character questions (i.e. Janoris Jenkins).
It’s still too early to know which direction the Rams are leaning in, but after the Combine, players will rise and fall rapidly which should only further serve to focus their intent in the upcoming draft. It certainly couldn’t be a surprise to see the Rams take a calculated risk on some players that they feel could really pay off immediately, even if they aren’t necessarily in the most talked about areas of need for the team.