Improving Defense Is St. Louis Rams’ Blueprint For Successful 2014 NFL Draft
St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead has always been willing to consider moving up, down or out of a given selection during his tenure with the team. Though his track record isn’t lengthy, Snead actually has two trades in each of the two first-rounds that he has conducted with St. Louis over the past two seasons.
Obviously the most famous and biggest haul came via the Robert Griffin III heist of the Washington Redskins back in 2012 when the Rams moved back from No. 2 overall to No. 6 while picking up a second-round selection in 2012 in addition to first-round picks in 2013 and this coming year. Last year Snead actually moved up from the team’s No. 16 overall pick to find wide receiver Tavon Austin at No. 8 overall before moving back from the No. 22 overall pick to land linebacker Alec Ogletree at No. 30.
Needless to say it’s a safe bet the Rams will be looking to wheel and deal once again in the early goings of the 2014 NFL Draft. And that strategy seems like a sound one when evaluating the team’s No. 2 and No. 13 overall selections as the draft is currently configured.
Though a team that went 7-9 certainly doesn’t have a terrific roster top to bottom, it really isn’t a stretch to say that St. Louis has some of the best young talent in the league. That means targeting a few instant impact guys could drastically alter this team’s record in 2014 and take them from a middling squad to a real playoff contender.
At the Senior Bowl this past week, GM Snead told NFL Network:
“I think as you’ve seen in that division (NFC West), one thing you better be able to do is play defense. Play tough defense. That’s something you gotta feel — that’s stopping the run, that’s harassing the QB.”
Call it a harbinger if you must, but there’s no question this team needs to improve on a defense that was average at best. Their No. 15 overall ranking highlights that mediocrity, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t more extremes along the way. The team finished No. 19 against the pass and No. 9 against the run, but there were some outings where the pass defense was solid and likewise more than a few games where the run stop was nonexistent.
Obviously consistency is the biggest thing for a young team to iron out, and the Rams need a few more key pieces to establish any kind of steady performance level. One potential target who would fit in perfectly with what the Rams do on defense is defensive tackle Aaron Donald out of Pittsburgh. A stellar Senior Bowl week has vaulted him up some draft boards, and it wouldn’t be a strange thought to see the Rams attempt to trade back in round one – similar to the Alec Ogletree deal a year ago – in order to land the talented three-technique penetrator. He would pair perfectly with Michael Brockers inside and allow the Rams to release the overpriced Kendall Langford to save some serious cap room.
As for the No. 2 pick, that remains a mystery at this point, but clearly Snead is open for business if any team is looking to jump up the draft board to land a franchise quarterback. If not, the Rams could always stay put and take a guy like Jadeveon Clowney to build one of the most fearsome pass rushes the league has ever known if the Houston Texans decide to go with a quarterback as many suspect they will.
After two trades in both first-rounds he has already navigated the Rams through as GM, look for Snead to make some serious waves at this year’s draft. There’s no question they have the ammunition to make some marked improvements to the roster. Now it’s up to the front office to execute the right strategy to get this team its first winning season in over a decade.