St. Louis Rams Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell
June 3, 2013

Solid Starter

Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia – Round 3
The Rams entered the 2013 NFL Draft with only three receivers on the roster, so selecting more than one was a necessity. St. Louis went with the “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” approach when it reunited Bailey with Tavon Austin. Bailey and Austin were the most prolific receiving tandem in college football last year, lighting up secondaries and the scoreboard.

Bailey was one of the most productive receivers in the nation in 2012 and routinely torched defenses. He made 114 receptions for 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns. Bailey had 13 catches for 303 yards and five touchdowns against Baylor. Bailey is a superb route-runner, has great hands with an underrated speed and physicality. It wouldn’t be surprising if the rookie is a serious competitor to start this season due to polished skill set.

The Rams received a good rookie season from Chris Givens last year, but rookie Brian Quick was slow to develop after making the jump from Appalachian State. Bailey (5-10, 193) could win a starting spot opposite Givens or Tavon Austin. Those three players should be St. Louis’ top-three receivers, and the third receiver is on the field more than the starting fullback. Bailey should continue in the years to come to be a solid receiver who moves the chains with defenses so focused on keeping Austin from breaking off a long touchdown.

Most Likely To Bust

T.J. McDonald, S, USC – Round 3
I think Les Snead’s drafts have a tendency to include some great picks along with a couple of picks that I really dislike. For example, I hated the selection of Isaiah Pead in the 2012 NFL Draft. I thought he ran too upright, had fumbilitis and was nothing more than a third-down back for the NFL. I also was skeptical of Brian Quick, but everybody knew he needed more time than most due to coming from a small school. Pead had an awful rookie year while Quick didn’t impress. However, I know that Snead and the Rams have a good scouting staff, so the organization deserves the benefit of doubt along with time and patience to see if the players develop.

I liked all of the Rams’ selections this year with the exception of McDonald. I think 6-foot-3, 219-pounder is a straight-line safety who is going to struggle in pass coverage in the NFL. He could be a liability when asked to cover slot receivers or tight ends. McDonald has good run defense, size, length and hitting ability, but the lack of agility to maintain pass coverage looks like a real weakness to me. It was disguised to a degree in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 system at USC, but good NFL safeties are able to cover slot receivers and tight ends.

McDonald will have to play strong safety responsibilities and has no problem as the eighth man in the box. He isn’t a rangy center fielder who will take away the deep part of the field. Having McDonald on the field limits St. Louis’ ability to disguise what its safeties are going to do because McDonald isn’t versatile enough to play free safety.

I think the Rams had another good draft class and are building themselves into something, but McDonald was the one pick I’m not a fan of. I could see him turning into a bust in the passing-driven NFL.

Potential Boom Pick

Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia – Round 1
This was a tough call between Austin, Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree and Alabama center Barrett Jones. Jones was one of my favorite prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft. I think Jones was an absolute steal for the Rams in the fourth round and will end up being an excellent starter at center or guard for years to come. Ogletree is fast and physical, plus tremendous in pass coverage. He could turn into one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL.

While I liked Jones and Ogletree, you can’t say that either has bigger boom potential than Austin. The diminutive speedster is a home run threat any time he touches the ball. He could reignite the “Greatest Show on Turf” and transform the Rams’ offense.

Austin totaled 114 receptions for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. The senior also had 72 carries for 643 yards and three touchdowns. Austin was an electric play-maker who was able to consistently produce long scoring plays. IAustin caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior. He scored eight touchdowns in his 58 receptions for 787 yards in 2010.

There are a lot of reasons why Austin (5-9, 174) could be a boom pick for St. Louis. One, his speed and play-making ability could transform the offense. Austin’s ability to create splash plays would change how defenses approach the Rams. He can help open up the running game for St. Louis as an offshoot.

Austin really means that Sam Bradford finally has a big-time play-maker to work with. The high-paid signal-caller has had a pedestrian receiving corps over his first three seasons. Austin changes that for Bradford and shoul open things up for the other receivers.

It won’t be a surprise if Austin fulfills his pre-draft hype and becomes one of the top play-making receivers in the NFL.

Future Depth Player

Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt – Round 5
Considering St. Louis’ lacking at the running back position, Stacy is a contender to start in 2013. However in an ideal running back situation, he would be a backup or the secondary option in a platoon.

Stacy ran well for Vanderbilt in 2012, but he lacks the elite size or speed to be an impact starter in the NFL. He is a well-rounded back who has some toughness, quickness and running ability. The senior totaled 1,141 yards (5.5 average) and 10 touchdowns in 2012. Stacy would be a solid secondary back in a good backfield situation. Perhaps the Rams can land a good starter after the 2013 season and Stacy will fill in the No. 2 role for the future.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

8. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: B Grade
I’m usually not a fan of teams moving up for players because if they end up drafting a bust, their depth is completely destroyed. However, the Rams had the resources to do something like this, and they really needed to find a weapon for Sam Bradford. Tavon Austin is the only player in this draft who has plenty of experience and can go the distance on any play. He’ll help Bradford, but hopefully he can stay on the field, unlike Danny Amendola.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

30. Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia: A Grade
This is awesome work by the Rams. They would have considered Alec Ogletree at No. 16 if they couldn’t move up (for Tavon Austin) or down to pick up some selections. St. Louis gambled and still got its man. The reason Ogletree fell is because of character concerns, but the Rams have shown that they don’t care about that. Ogletree is extremely talented and will be a huge asset on the defense if he can stay out of trouble.

71. T.J. McDonald, S, USC: C Grade
The Rams are desperate at safety – they need two starters at the position – but there were better players available. T.J. McDonald probably should have been a fourth-rounder at best because he can’t cover very well.

92. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia: B+ Grade
The Rams already drafted Tavon Austin, but they needed a second wideout, given that they had only three on the roster entering this weekend (Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis). Stedman Bailey, who could have gone a bit earlier than this, is a solid prospect who should be able to push the disappointing Quick for a starting job across from Givens.

113. Barrett Jones, C/G, Alabama: A+ Grade
This is one of my favorite picks thus far. Barrett Jones would have gone much higher than this if he didn’t have injury concerns. He’ll eventually be healthy though, so this will be viewed as a steal. The Rams were desperate for offensive line help, and Jones can play pretty much every position up front, save for left tackle.

149. Brandon McGee, CB, Miami: B Grade
The Rams have their starting cornerbacks set, but they had absolutely no depth at the position. They had to spend at least one selection on a corner, and Brandon McGee is a fine choice in the middle of the fifth round.

160. Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt: B+ Grade
I thought the Rams would address the running back position earlier in the 2013 NFL Draft, but with solid talents like Zac Stacy available in the fifth round, they could afford to be patient. Stacy could be the starter this season.

2013 NFL Draft Team Grade: A- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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