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2013 NFL Draft primer: St. Louis Rams

Tavon Austin of West Virginia escapes the tackle

Tavon Austin of West Virginia escapes the tackle of Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas in the second quarter of the Pinstripe Bowl. (Dec. 29, 2012) Credit: Errol Anderson

The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft kicks off on April 25, and every team will look to build for both present and future. This is the 16th in a two-a-day, 30-part series that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.


2012 record: 7-8-1

Key offseason acquisitions:

Jake Long, tackle

Jared Cook, tight end

Key offseason departures:

Steven Jackson, running back

Danny Amendola, wide receiver

Brandon Gibson, wide receiver

Quintin Mikell, safety

Craig Dahl, safety

Rocky McIntosh, linebacker

Bradley Fletcher, cornerback

Biggest holes in roster: Wide receiver, running back

No sooner had St. Louis' offense shown flashes of its potential than free agency tore it apart. Danny Amendola, Sam Bradford's favorite target, went to the Patriots to become Wes Welker 2.0. The Rams cut Steven Jackson, their longtime starting running back. Brandon Gibson, who set career-highs in receiving yards (691) and receiving TDs (five), is now a Dolphin.

The Rams are still on the right track, though. They signed former Dolphins tackle Jake Long -- the first overall pick in 2008 -- to protect Bradford's blind side. They also upgraded at tight end with the signing of ex-Titan Jared Cook, who played under Rams head coach Jeff Fisher when they were both in Tennesee.

Still, they need more weapons. Luckily, they have two first-round picks this year thanks to last year's deal that sent the No. 2 overall pick to the Redskins (who then drafted Robert Griffin III). And it just so happens that the middle of the first round should yield a lot of good offensive prospects.

No matter what, the Rams should go wide receiver with their first pick at No. 16. If West Virginia's Tavon Austin slides to this point, the Rams would have to jump at the chance to take probably the most dynamic offensive skill-position player in this year's draft. He's a clone of Percy Harvin and Randall Cobb -- an explosive playmaker who is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Austin can line out wide, in the slot, in the backfield and return kicks and punts. He'd instantly add a new dimension to the Rams' offense.

What if Austin is off the board? Try Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson. He's a burner with size (6-2, 216 pounds) and agility. The knock on Patterson: one season of FBS experience. Cal's Keenan Allen is also a possibility, though he'd be a reach this high.

It won't be long before the Rams are back on the clock after they pick at No. 16. They also have the No. 22 pick (from Washington).

Not too long ago, it seemed a virtual certainty that the Rams would draft Alabama running back Eddie Lacy with that No. 22 pick. Lacy is a powerful back that hits holes hard. He racked up 1,322 rush yards on 204 carries last year in his only season as a starter. And he hails from the same school that produced two recent first-round tailbacks in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.

But now his slower-than-expected 40 at Alabama's Pro Day has scouts and wondering whether he's even first-round material. Granted, his fastest 40 time was a 4.58, which is still respectable, and he was never really known as a burner in college. But a 4.58 raises two questions: whether or not he's got the home-run speed to break a long run, and whether or not his conditioning is up to par.

A running back has been taken in the first round in every year since 1963, but Lacy's poor Pro Day and the relative weakness of the running back class could threaten that streak. Besides, the Rams have needs in the secondary, too. It might be best for them to stick with second-year pro Daryl Richardson (98 carries, 475 yards) at running back and draft a safety such as Florida's Matt Elam or LSU's Eric Reid.

Still, if the Rams decide to roll the dice on Lacy at No. 22, it'd be because of the striking similarities to another former first-round running back named Eddie. We're talking, of course, about Titans great Eddie George, who like Lacy was a powerful workhorse that wasn't known for his speed. Fisher drafted and coached George during their time together on the Titans, and he may not hesitate at the chance to add someone just like the former All-Pro.

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