Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh - Round 1
Many Rams fans will probably be upset that I don't have Donald as the potential boom pick. I think he is going to be a good pro who is a plus starter, but I have some doubts about him being the dominant force that some are expecting him to be. The reason is Donald (6-1, 285) lacks weight and has short arms. Thus, I think he could have some issues in run defense against physical, downhill run teams like Seattle and San Francisco. Still, Donald has rare ability to be a superb interior pass-rusher.
In college, Donald totaled 27.5 sacks over the last three years with two 11-sack seasons. His consistent pass rush on the inside is tremendous. At the Senior Bowl, Donald was the most impressive player. He was phenomenal in the pass-rushing one-on-ones as he constantly beat blockers to get to the quarterback. Donald is very strong for his size and is able to bull rush heavy interior blockers. He also is extremely fast with natural pad level to fire by guards off the snap.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Rams eventually move to a rotation that protects Donald from some obvious running situations. Another heavy tackle to play next to Michael Brockers would keep Donald fresh to rush the passer. With Chris Long and Robert Quinn coming off the edge, Donald should be in position to get one-on-ones with guards. It would be surprising if Donald doesn't become an effective pass-rusher and a quality starter for St. Louis.
Most Likely To Bust
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn - Round 3
This was a tough choice because there wasn't a pick from St. Louis who was really questionable. Late third-day picks can't be considered busts if they don't pan out. Among the Rams' selections in the first three rounds the options are Mason or Lamarcus Joyner. I chose Mason because there could be a few issues that he has to overcome.
The biggest challenge that Mason has to overcome is pass protection. He didn't learn to pass block at Auburn, and that will limit him early on in the NFL. Mason also will have to earn his reps as St. Louis has a very talented young starter in Zac Stacy. The Rams also have a lot of picks invested in their wide receivers, so the team should feature a lot of passing next season.
I don't think that Mason is likely to be a bust, but among St. Louis' early picks from the 2014 NFL Draft, he has the most pitfalls that could cause him not to provide an impact in the NFL.
Potential Boom Pick
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn - Round 2
I think the Rams were the perfect landing spot for Robinson. Everybody agreed that the 6-foot-5, 330-pounder is a rare athlete with a fabulous combination of strength and speed. He can be a road-grading run-blocker, and has the potential to be an elite pass-blocker. Robinson is raw in protection and needs to improve his technique, but the Rams are a perfect place for him to learn.
Veteran left tackle Jake Long can teach Robinson the ropes. Watching Long will help Robinson, who will also pick up experience while starting at left guard. Long is likely to be an eventual cap casualty, which will allow Robinson to move over to left tackle. The same kind of plan worked well for Jonathan Ogden in his Hall of Fame career for the Baltimore Ravens.
Robinson has the size, strength and quickness to be an elite left tackle. Having an easier development by starting out at guard could make a huge difference for him rather than being thrown into the fire at left tackle. Robinson has the potential to be one of the top left tackles in the NFL.
Future Depth Player
E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri - Round 6
The Rams had a need at corner, and Gaines was the second one they selected. However, Lamarcus Joyner could also be a starting free safety for St. Louis, and that would open up more competition for playing time at nickel corner. Gaines (5-10, 190) could be a nice developmental player there.
Gaines played well for Missouri in 2013 with 68 tackles with five interceptions and three passes defended. Late in the regular season, he came up with some huge games. Gaines held Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans to only four catches for eight yards. Gaines may not have the skill set to develop into an NFL starter, but he could be a nice depth cornerback who also contributes on special teams.
Walt's 2014 NFL Draft Grades:
2. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: C Grade
I'm really not a big fan of this pick. I don't hate it, but I feel like the Rams should have gone with Sammy Watkins instead. St. Louis has Jake Long and Joseph Barksdale, who played well last year. Greg Robinson is obviously an upgrade over the latter - or the former if he can't return from injury - but Jeff Fisher has a great track record of getting the most out of his linemen. I get that Robinson is very talented, but why not take another great prospect at a different position instead?
13. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: A Grade
Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald. Holy crap. The Rams already had a ridiculous defensive line, and now it's somehow even better.
I love this pick. Donald should have been a top 10 selection, and he would have gone in that range had the earlier teams not been so incompetent. He was arguably the top player available, and he will be a full-time starter once Kendall Langford moves on. Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer are not happy campers right now.
41. Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State: B Grade
Lamarcus Joyner was arguably the next-best defensive back on the board, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the Rams selected him. The Rams had terrible corner play this past season from Cortland Finnegan, who is no longer on the roster. An upgrade had to be made, and Joyner could easily qualify as one.
75. Tre Mason, RB, Auburn: C+ Grade
This is like the Buccaneers' Charles Sims pick, except the Rams aren't reaching at all. This is actually solid value for Tre Mason, but it doesn't fill a need at all. The Rams are fine at running back, and there's a better class at that position coming up next year, so I wish St. Louis would have addressed another position.
110. Mo Alexander, S, Utah State: D Grade
Mo Alexander is a reach. He has off-the-field issues, so he was projected to go much later. The Rams, however, have shown that they don't care about such things. They're filling a need, but I don't get why they'd pass on someone like Dion Bailey.
188. E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri: B+ Grade
The Rams are taking their second cornerback of this draft, but I don't have an issue with that because it's a position that had to be addressed. I figured E.J. Gaines would be chosen a bit earlier than this, so I'm a fan of this selection.
214. Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU: B Grade
Jerry Jones' heart is broken because he wanted Garrett Gilbert in the seventh round. The Rams needed to take a young, developmental quarterback, and Gilbert was one of the top signal-callers available.
226. Mitchell Van Dyk, OL, Portland State: C Grade
There's no such thing as a reach in Round 7, but I highly doubt many teams had Mitchell Van Dyk on their boards.
241. C.B. Bryant, S, Ohio State: C Grade
This is the Rams' second safety, but I don't feel as though they've appropriately addressed the position. I didn't have C.B. Bryant as a draftable player, and there were better options available.
249. Michael Sam, DE, Missouri: A Grade
It's ridiculous that Michael Sam lasted this long. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Sure, he doesn't have the measurables, but he can be a very good situational pass-rusher, and those type of players go in Rounds 4-5, which is where Sam should have gone. The Rams are getting great value at this spot, and as Jeff Fisher said before the draft began, you can never have enough pass-rushers.
250. Demetrius Rhaney, C, Tennessee State: C Grade
Nothing wrong with offensive line depth, and the Rams need plenty of it. Demetrius Rhaney wasn't viewed as a draftable player, but it's Pick No. 250, so who cares?