Rams still not tipping their hand when it comes to draft

News-DemocratApril 24, 2013 

St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

ZIA NIZAMI/BND

— The St. Louis Rams have plenty of options heading into the 2013 NFL draft.

With two first-round picks -- No. 16 and No. 22 -- the Rams have the firepower to move up in the draft.

They also could try to move down like they did last year and collect more picks. Or, they could simply stand pat.

And, there are multiple positions of need that the team could address.

"There's a few positions that we would probably eliminate just because of players that we have on our roster,'' Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "But there's more positions of need than one would expect, so we have a number of players that we think can help us there."

The Rams' three most pressing needs are wide receiver, safety and running back. They also could use help at guard and outside linebacker.

This year's draft has a lot of depth at wide receiver, but maybe not as much high-end talent as recent years.

"It's a good class,'' Fisher said. "There's going to be receivers that can help you throughout the draft."

Last year, the Rams selected wide receiver Brian Quick out of Appalachian State in the second round and wide receiver Chris Givens out of Wake Forest in the third round.

Givens, a speedster, had a good rookie season, catching 42 passes for 698 yards and three touchdowns.

Quick, an imposing 6-foot-3, 220-pound target, had less of an impact as a rookie, catching 11 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

"Receiver, historically, to me is the toughest transition from college to the NFL,'' Rams General Manager Les Snead said.

Asked why wide receivers have the toughest time making the move from college to the NFL, Snead said, "Typically in college, a lot of corners are scared of them, so they don't get a lot of tight coverage. People back off, let him catch the ball. (He) probably doesn't have to be as detailed in his routes. And offenses are changing. They're not running traditional NFL routes.''

West Virginia's Tavon Austin is generally considered the top available wide receiver.

Austin lacks size at 5-foot-8, 174 pounds, but he doesn't lack big-play ability. He caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

"I think they have a chance to play if you have a tall quarterback because he can find him,'' Fisher said of small wide receivers. "If you have a shorter-style quarterback, it's tough to find a shorter receiver."

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford happens to stand 6-foot-4.

The Rams also could go big at wide receiver with Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson (6-3, 2-5) or California's Keenan Allen (6-3, 206).

Southern Cal's Robert Woods (6-1, 190) is not big or exceptionally fast, but he has been productive. He caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns two years ago before seeing his numbers slip to 76 catches for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns last year as the Trojans struggled.

The Rams also are known to have shown interest in Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins.

The 6-1, 200-pound Hopkins caught 82 passes for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns last season for the Tigers.

With Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl gone, the Rams have only three safeties -- Darian Stewart, Matthew Daniels and Rodney McLeod -- on their roster.

The top prospects at safety are Texas' Kenny Vaccaro, Florida's Matt Elam and Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien.

Many mock drafts have Rams taking the 6-foot, 210-pound Vaccaro at No. 16.

Rams running back Steven Jackson now is playing for the Atlanta Falcons, so the Rams could be looking for another ballcarrier.

They drafted two running backs -- Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson -- last year, but Snead didn't rule out the possibility of adding another player at that position.

"We're always going to be looking,'' Snead said. "I think like I've mentioned before, we've lost a veteran, great leader, great player for this organization. We had two young ones last year that were up there in yards per carry. One at 4.5, one at 4.8. So, we're excited to get them the ball as well.''

Alabama's Eddie Lacy, a powerful 5-10, 220-pound runner, headlines the class of running backs.

Lacy rushed for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns during a breakout junior season last year.

The top guards are Alabama's Chance Warmack and North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper. Both Warmack and Cooper could start right away in the NFL.

Two tackles -- Alabama's D.J. Fluker and Florida State's Menelik Watson -- also could be available to the Rams.

Both Fluker and Watson could play guard early in their careers before moving out to tackle.

As coach of the Tennessee Titans, Fisher was known for not taking offensive linemen high in the draft.

"It was circumstance,'' Fisher said. "There was one taken or two taken before I got there in the first round. They played a long time and they played at a high level, so therefore you can fill in, (and) that's what we did.''

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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