Playing in the toughest division in football, the Rams at times even without Sam Bradford gave their NFC West foes pretty much all they could handle.
Led by a ferocious pass rush and the emergence of defensive end Robert Quinn, the Rams had the luxury of two picks not only just in the first round of the draft in 2014, but two picks in the top 13, including 2nd overall.
That 2nd overall pick, acquired in the trade St. Louis made with Washington for Robert Griffin III, was used to select a cornerstone piece of the Rams’ future along the offensive line in Auburn’s Greg Robinson, a freakishly athletic player and a mammoth of a man who has drawn comparisons to former Rams great Orlando Pace.
This draft class will be critical to the Rams’ success in competing for a division title in 2014. The odds are already stacked against them, playing in a division that had three other teams with double digit victory totals from a year ago, but the Rams showed a lot of life last season, even after San Bradford’s latest season-ending injury.
How will they respond this year? Here’s how their draft class shook out, and what players can make an instant impact.
1. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Massive OT prospect with elite athleticism. Could start his career off at guard, but should be a future staple for the Rams at left tackle.
2. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Incredible strength and quickness from the interior, Donald gives the Rams another dangerous weapon for their already stellar front four.
3. Lamarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State
Versatile DB who can play safety or nickel, Joyner will fit right in with Jeff Fisher’s aggressive style.
4. Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Big, quick runner with vision and better timed speed than you might think. Very good ball carrier who needs to evolve his abilities in the passing game.
5. Mo Alexander, S, Utah State
Relatively unknown physical specimen at safety who is a hometown kid, physical, hard hitter that put on an athletic show at the combine.
6. E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
Gaines is a smaller corner at 5’10″ who is a smooth athlete with very good ball skills. He will press for playing time right away.
7. Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU
Fantastic young arm to develop for the Rams, who have lingering questions about the QB position. Gilbert really impressed people at offseason workouts.
8. Mitchell Van Dyk, OT, Portland State
Massive OT prospect out of Portland State with the frame at 6’7″ 313 lbs. to add some weight yet. Could be a future right tackle for St. Louis.
9. C.B. Bryant, DB, Ohio State
Aggressive safety prospect who was a three-year starter and captain at Ohio State. Physical style of play who dropped in the draft because of injury.
10. Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
SEC Co-defensive player of the year in 2013 who fell in the draft mostly due to athletic concerns. Sam has a knack for putting pressure on QBs.
11. Demetrius Rhaney, C, Tennessee State
Strong, pretty athletic big man who adds depth to the Rams’ interior offensive line
The Rams have a few guys I could see as instant impact players. For one, 2nd overall pick Greg Robinson will start his career at left guard. He’ll be an immediate contributor this season as will fellow first round pick Aaron Donald, who I might be even more excited about. Donald is such a quick player on the defensive line with strength and great hand placement who moves upfield in a hurry and disrupts plays time and time again.
You have to also look at a guy like Tre Mason and think he’ll be able to get on the field early, but the real secret weapon of this Rams’ draft class is Lamarcus Joyner, who can play safety and nickel. He’ll also probably make an impact initially on special teams.