How Does Jake Long Signing Impact St. Louis Rams’ NFL Draft Needs?
If you thought the impact of Jake Long finally signing with the St. Louis Rams would only be seen on the field this coming season, think again. The fact that the Rams decided to address the left tackle position in free agency says an awful lot about just which direction the team may be leaning in next month’s NFL Draft as well. With the offensive line reinforced at least in part, just where will the team now look in the upcoming draft?
There are plenty of possibilities, but the idea of trading off Long for wide receiver Danny Amendola in free agency certainly hints at one direction the team could choose. With the 16th and 22nd overall selections in the first round, there will be a bounty of wide receivers available when the Rams are put on the clock.
The only pass catcher expected to be gone by that point is Tennessee wideout Cordarrelle Patterson who is a borderline top 10 pick at this point. West Virginia product Tavon Austin as well as California’s Keenan Allen are likely to be available. Austin has a bit of Percy Harvin in his game drawing comparisons to the dynamic playmaker in his pre-draft workouts. Injuries have been driving Allen’s stock down recently as a knee and hamstring problem caused him to be limited in his pro day workout.
Justin Hunter is a receiver that could make more sense if the Rams are inclined to trade down and stockpile more picks as General Manager Les Snead has shown a knack for already in his tenure. Hunter is a receiver that will likely climb draft boards as the selection approaches, but early second round is a likely landing spot for him. At 6’4” 196lbs. with 4.44 speed, he has the ability to create mismatches all over the field.
With both Brian Quick and Chris Givens in house along with tight end Lance Kendricks and recently signed weapon Jared Cook, the team could be content to go the developmental route at wideout as well. Some nice options there could be Da’Rick Rogers of Tennessee Tech or Ryan Swope of Texas A&M.
Swope is commonly referred to as a Danny Amendola look-alike with more speed. He ran a blazing 4.34 at the Combine and will likely be a third round pick. His frame and skill set lend themselves well to be a possession receiver with the ability to break off the big one at the next level.
As for Rogers, he is a physical freak at 6’3” 217lbs. and draws comparisons to Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. The two are virtual clones in size, but Rogers’ 4.52 speed is less than ideal. He was a former recruit to Tennessee where he was eventually dismissed from the team after a number of issues off the field from positive drug tests to run-ins with coaches. Despite those issues, don’t expect the red flags of character to deter Head Coach Jeff Fisher and GM Snead from taking a player with loads of potential in round three.
Clearly there are several options for the Rams as they look to retool at receiver following the exits of Amendola and Brandon Gibson in free agency. The draft seems to be the area of focus for this team when it comes to finding replacements and there will be no shortage of playmakers available given the Rams’ bounty of draft picks in April.