Projected Lineups: St Louis Rams

While the Rams may have finished last in the NFC West for 2013 they have a promising group to build on for 2014 which Nathan Jahnke reviews right here.

| 3 years ago
32-lineups-STL

Projected Lineups: St Louis Rams


32-lineups-STLIf the Rams lost all of their unrestricted free agents, didn’t re-sign anyone and didn’t draft anyone, their roster really wouldn’t look significantly different than the 2013 season outside of having Sam Bradford healthy. The Rams have built their roster with recent high round draft picks who will ideally continue to improve mixed with a few veteran offensive free agents that have panned out.

In a worst case scenario a lot of these young players don’t pan out and St. Louis has another losing season. In a best case the Rams make the right moves this offseason and can help keep the NFC West the best division in football.

Key:
– Player markers are colored per class on a five-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.

 Lineup STL

Roster Notes

– The Rams have one of the least diverse rosters when it comes to talent. This is due to the fact that 18 of 24 players are in the average to below average starter category which is tied for the most in the league. This makes them as a team a largely unknown because nearly every projected starter is someone who hasn’t lived up to their draft pick yet but has the potential to improve.

– By far the best position group is the defensive line. Only three players on the roster are an above average starter or better, and two are their defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long. The two defensive tackles, Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford, are also among the best players on the roster.

– Over the last three years the Rams have spent five early draft picks on receivers, and to this point none have developed into anything more than role players. While we list these three players as the likely starters, until someone steps up we will likely continue to see a five-man rotation.

– One of the most interesting positions to keep an eye on this offseason is the interior offensive line. Most of the Rams’ notable free agents are guards including Shelly Smith and Rodger Saffold who both played well as part-time players last year. Regardless of who is or isn’t brought back, look for St. Louis to spend one or more draft picks on offensive linemen. Of the 10 linemen currently under contact, only one was drafted by the Rams.

– The biggest need is slot cornerback where Cortland Finnegan hasn’t lived up to his reputation. It wasn’t ideal to move safety Rodney McLeod to the slot when Finnegan was hurt and it wouldn’t be surprising if next year’s slot corner isn’t currently on the roster.

2014 Cap Situation

At the moment the Rams have very little money to spend on free agents and draft picks, only having roughly $600,000 of cap room per overthecap.com. A lot of this is due to Sam Bradford, Chris Long, James Laurinaitis and Cortland Finnegan having a combined 2014 cap hit of over $50 million. Luckily with high draft picks and few 2013 players as free agents, they aren’t as bad off as other teams with that little cap space.

Potential Casualties

By far the biggest question is at quarterback, where Sam Bradford is an average player and not playing nearly up to his salary. Cutting him would allow the Rams to draft a quarterback early and use the money gained to build around him. Keeping him would mean not re-signing some of their better free agents and continuing to build around him with the draft.

At cornerback, Finnegan’s contract isn’t the most friendly to be cut as it would lead to a lot of dead money, but with his age and production it would make sense to let him go.

The other two possibilities that would save a few million each are linemen Harvey Dahl and Scott Wells. Both were well-paid free agents who have played decently but not up to expectations. Letting them go would give them cap space to re-sign some of their free agent offensive linemen, and also give them opportunities to be full-time starters. Releasing Finnegan as well as these two linemen would effectively make Chris Long, who is currently 28, the oldest player on the roster.

Opportunities from the Roster

It wasn’t until Week 9 that third-round rookie Stedman Bailey worked his way into the wide receiver rotation. His playing time went up as the season went on to the point where he was playing in 40 or more snaps in each of the last two games. His PFF pass rating of +1.9 was the best out of the Rams’ wide receivers, and he could earn himself a starting job next year.

Cory Harkey mostly lines up at fullback, but at times plays tight end or goes out to play like a wide receiver. His receiving numbers on a small sample size looked very good especially late in the season, so he could gain more receiving opportunities in 2014.

 

Projected lineups by team:

ARZ ATL | BAL | BUF CAR CHI | CIN | CLE | DAL DEN DET
GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC MIA MIN NE NO NYG NYJ
OAK PHI PIT STL SD | SF | SEA TB TEN WAS

 

Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

  • Brad

    James Laurinaitis a below average starter? Get real. He is at least adequate, if not a solid starter. You have underrated a number of Rams on the defensive side, so no wonder you have them as the least diverse roster

    • Thomas Holm

      Clearly, the rams is your favorite team, so i understand why you would be biased, but are you seriously gonna argue with people who not only watch every snap, but ANALYZE every snap? You might watch every Rams game, but im 99,9% sure you dont analyze or grade any plays.

      • Brad

        Yes, I am. This guy has been in the top ten tacklers in the league since he has been in the league, led his team in tackles, never missed a game, and is the play calling captain of his defense. To say he is below average is BS. If he sucks, why isn’t any NFL pundit saying the rams need a new MLB? What makes you trust PFF statistics here anyway?

        • PFF_Neil

          There’s more to playing NFL linebacker than just production it’s true. These grades reflect only the performance we can see – being a great locker room guy and the cerebral stuff is out of scope. I recently asked one of our customers why they persisted in playing XXXXXX at MLB when he was awful and was told… “yes, we know he’s not very good but he’s the only one who get get us lined up properly.”
          So while I disagree that not missing a snap when you just aren’t very good is hardly a plus there are other things to be considered.
          As for why NFL pundits don’t know…. we’ll given very few of them watch any tape, I wouldn’t trust a healthy percentage to sit on the toilet the right way round never mind give cogent information on how someone is playing.
          The reason we have so many NFL teams taking our data (performance based scouting – not stats) is that we are the only group to watch and document every play of every game.

          • Brad

            So is the comment “I recently asked one of our customers why they persisted in playing XXXXXX at MLB when he was awful and was told… “yes, we know he’s not very good but he’s the only one who get get us lined up properly.” related to JL? You can still state that you watch every play of every game, etc., but then when you rate Eli Manning as a high quality starter when he absolutely sucked last year, it logically puts your credibility into question. With JL’s high contract, if he was truly viewed as below average by the coaching staff and others as you state, he would be cut in heartbeat to make salary cap room, since the Rams are tight against the cap and have some great draft picks coming up.

          • josh

            they cant cut him because of his contract. He signed just last year and would actually cost the team significant money to cut him. I agree with the grade pff has given jl, because we are so bad against the run, he cant get off blocks and is bad against speed tight ends

          • PFF_Neil

            No it wasn’t related to JL. Just making a point about the position being more than production.

          • Thomas Holm

            You’re forgetting that Eli was consistently a top 10 QB up until last year. He gets a pass for last year because of prior production which includes an amazing year under pressure in 2011 and some incredible post season runs.

          • Leoram

            So you rate JL as a below average performer yet the Rams rewarded him with above average money and a long term contract. With a losing record, they are clearly not infallible. Nevertheless, your evaluation process differs markedly from the team’s, thus my questions. What exactly makes him below average? Poor angles to ball carriers? Lack of speed? Inability to shed blocks? Poor play recognition? Inability to cover receivers? Do you analyze play calls and know he failed to execute the plan? Is he a bad blitzer? Seriously, I’d like details that support your evaluation.

            And while you’re at it, analyze Bradford too since this administration has obviously put all their eggs in what you call an average basket.

    • Leo

      I think that FootballOutsiders.com nominated Laurinatis as a starter ILB in their worst team of the NFL. So PFF is not alone.