2014 NFL Mock Draft: Jake Matthews, HaHa Clinton-Dix to the Rams

Sep 21, 2013; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies offensive tackle Jake Matthews.

The St. Louis Rams once again have two picks in the draft due to the RG3 trade, and the Rams have one heckuva pick from the Washington Redskins with the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Josh Sanchez over at the FanSided.com main page frequently does mock drafts on the main page, and I like to go over his picks for different teams. Today, we’ll take a look at the two players the Rams took in the first round with the third and 15th overall picks in his most recent mock draft.

If the Rams want to take the best player overall with the third pick, then I am all for drafting Jake Matthews. He’s the best offensive tackle in the draft, and he has the makings of a star player in the NFL. However, the Rams are set at tackle, and it’s not worth bypassing other needs to pull Matthews off of the board. There isn’t an issue playing Matthews at right tackle with star Jake Long obviously locked in as the left tackle after signing a huge contract in the offseason, and having a great bookend of tackles is awesome. Heck, the whole LT vs. RT thing is often overblown.

But at the same time, selecting Matthews there isn’t the wisest thing for this team to do, since I think they need to pick on need. For that reason, drafting Sammy Watkins with the third pick is the best thing for this team to do. Yes, Matthews is the better prospect, but the Rams already have a solid right tackle in Joe Barksdale, who was awesome filling in for Roger Saffold, who is also a solid tackle. Saffold is gone since he wants to play at LT and be paid like one, but Barksdale has played well enough to ensure that he and Long will be the Rams starting bookend in the future.

Meanwhile, the Rams could really use a star receiver, and I think Watkins is good enough to be worth the third pick. Nobody should give up on Tavon Austin- or even Chris Givens yet- but I don’t think selecting Austin with a top-ten pick last year should deter the Rams from taking another receiver high. Watkins is a different animal from Austin, and Watkins is undoubtedly the best wide receiver in the class. He can be a true No. 1, “X” receiver as a rookie, and he could give Sam Bradford a major weapon and legit star to throw it to.

Should the Rams select a quarterback? I don’t think so, because the organization is high on Sam Bradford and he played well enough before the injury to deserve another year. The Rams have stuck with him long enough, so they shouldn’t give up now that he’s actually performed well. Plus, adding Watkins could greatly help out the next quarterback in St. Louis, if the Rams figure out that Bradford isn’t the answer following the 2014 season.

The Rams other first-round pick was Alabama Crimson Tide safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, who is the best safety in this draft class. I don’t think his meniscus surgery is an issue at all, so a mid-first-round pick is definitely good enough value for him. The Rams were projected to draft Kenny Vaccaro last year in many mocks, but they traded away from that slot. They could still use an upgrade at safety, and I think Clinton-Dix is a great pick.

Topics: Alabama Crimson Tide, Football, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Jake Long, Jake Matthews, Joe Barksdale, NFL Draft, Sam Bradford, Sammy Watkins, St. Louis Rams, Tavon Austin, Texas A&M Aggies

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  • Gary Stewart

    the thing that scares me about the watkins pick is we begin to look like the lions from the early 2000s picking one wr after another and not doing much with them id say they went 2 for 5 calvin being the real solid pick of course. watkins is not a value at #3 and i see the rams trading out of the pick. especially if it winds up #2 and that could happen if wash doesnt win 2 more, i feel 4-12 will pick #2 plus the rams may wind up 6-10 which should put them in the top 10. 2 top ten picks could easily parlay the rams into 4 top 50 picks and a 2015 1st rounder

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      I agree with your statement that Watkins isn’t worth the third pick, but I couldn’t just trade the Rams out of that pick in a mock draft analysis haha. Trading back is the ideal scenario for the Rams, unless they want to surprise us and pluck a QB. Gary, I agree with your take of what the Rams should do, and I think they’ll have some trade partners to speak with. But if the Rams have to pick someone with the third pick, then I think they need to fill a need and take Watkins.

      • Gary Stewart

        after the thursday night game between hou and jax and going on the theory that both tb and wash will win one more game the skins (rams) would have the 2nd pick by virtue of the strength of schedule tie breaker the team that plays the weaker schedule gets the tie breaker. as you know having number 2 worked out pretty well for the rams a couple years back. the idea that we might pick a qb at #2 will almost assuradly cause someone to jump up and i would much rather they had to come to us at 2 because they are far more likely to go for the number 2 pick then #3, with that said if we had #2 and didnt trade out would you have us using it on watkins instead of clowney? if houston picks clowney at 1 then bridgewater is there and someone would have to come get it at #2. and if as i predict the rams only win the tb game going 6-10 it has us picking 8-10th with our own pick we would lose most SOS here so lets say #10 we could still get a delightful pick watkins probably would be avail there or another array of picks in that spot either way it should be great this is the list of names on my wish list not in order just mainly need clowney, mike evans, watkins, barr, haha dix, cj mosely, louis nix, jake matthews and the kid at cb out of okla state whose name escapes me now with 2 top 10 picks we should easily end up with 3 of them and an additional 1st or 2nd round 2015 pick in the end.

      • Gary Stewart

        ive been touting barr all along think about it barr ogletree and laurinitis all flying around. one other point not brought up as far as the jake matthews pick, fisher goes back more than 20 years with jakes daddy 17 years playing on the line as an oiler/titan so that connection is real and if a trade partner comes to us from the 5-6 area while we hold the 2-3 pick we might get to choose who is left for us there between barr and matthews while stockpiling more picks and still getting possibly watkins or evans a bit later and haha and the kid at cb out of okla state im gonna watch the ok okst game a bit closer today good work all 3 of you i look forward to kearns blaine and now soriano good work boys

  • Nathan Kearns

    Nice summary, as always!

    Mocking at this point in the season is tough, with the rest of the season to play out and the start of Free Agency still to occur. As the roster is currently arranged, the St. Louis Rams will not be drafting an offensive lineman in the first round.

    Joe Barksdale has played like a Top 10 RT/ Top 20 OT, and has the numbers and grades to prove it. Rodger Saffold will have little leverage to go elsewhere after the season hit and he is a free agent, especially after being “demoted” two in 2013 alone (first at LT for Long, then at RT for Barksdale after his injury). Plenty of teams will be clamoring for a “franchise” blindside protector, but we saw how stagnant the market got during the 2013 offseason, and that was will legitimate, “proven” offensive tackles available. If the Rams want him, he will have him… and not by paying him “left tackle money.”

    Moreover, Jeff Fisher has not taken an offensive lineman (of any kind) in the first round since he took over for the Oilers in 1994. In fact, he hasn’t even taken one in the Top 40, with Michael Roos being the 41st overall pick in 2005 by the Tennessee Titans. For nearly two decades, Fisher has been vocal about the ability to find starters on the OL in the mid-rounds of the NFL Draft, and has “lived” that philosophy by the selections he has made…

    Realistically, there is no way the Rams would stay in the Top 3 and actually make a pick. However, in this mock scenario, I’d say UCLA’s OLB Anthony Barr would be more up the Rams alley. He may not seem like a fit in a prototypical 4-3 base defense. However, the Rams do not always maintain that base, with heavy doses of nickel and constant lineup alterations in the front-seven. Jo-Lonn Dunbar is a “safe” run stuffer, but St. Louis still lacks a true “playmaker” or pass rusher in the second level. Barr will likely be the most “moldable” player taken in the Top 5 that I can ever remember, coming out of college with only an extremely limited knowledge base of what the linebacker position entails. However, he has the frame to competently contend as a 4-3 outside linebacker, and, more importantly, the speed and instincts to be a force in the opposing backfield.

    I’d imagine the Rams hammering out a 1-2 punch in the first round, going with one conservative pick and one “luxury pick.”

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      Nathan. it’s always awesome when you drop by and comment on the site, since you always have kind words and exceptional analysis. Barksdale’s play this year has been key, and it’s always good to see guys like him break out.

      I can’t see the Rams wanting to keep Saffold, unless if he still isn’t signed once we get into the later parts of free agency. As you said, I definitely can’t see the Rams taking an OT in the first, and I learned something new today with your explanation of Fisher’s philosophy on drafting OTs.

      If the Rams can, they need to trade down from the third pick, and so I agree with both you and Gary on that for sure. I was strongly considering Barr with the third pick for the Rams, but I actually decided not to suggest that the Rams draft Barr due to my concerns with his transition to the 4-3. Based on your argument, I should have selected Barr as the team’s choice, especially since Barr is the better overall prospect than Watkins. Not saying Watkins is bad, but Barr is a real blue-chipper.

      Thanks for dropping by.

    • Beer O’Clock

      Which is why Jeff Fisher will continually get beat by teams who do pick quality offensive linemen in the first round, like the Seahawks and the 49′ers (who picked two in the first round in one year).

      The fact that Jeff Fisher spent a king’s ransom on Jake Long (a former first round pick) is a good indication that Fisher is rethinking his “old” ways.

      • Nathan Kearns

        I’d have to disagree with you on your latter point. Fisher has a history of shelling out money for “proven” veterans on the offensive line, regardless of where they were taken in their respective drafts.

        Moreover, the St. Louis Rams are certainly not being beaten because of below-average line play. The offensive line as a unit is ranked 10th overall in pass blocking efficiency; meanwhile, Joe Barksdale is ranked 5th among right tackles as a pass blocker and Jake Long is ranked 6th overall (period) among all offensive tackles.

        Hell, the offensive line (specifically) has only allowed 15 sacks all season, and eight of those came in that abysmal two-game stretch (Dallas-San Fran) at the very beginning of the season. That means the offensive line has given up approx 0.63 sacks per game in those other 11 matchups…

        Even looking back to last year’s Top 10 class…
        No.1 Eric Fisher – 75th overall offensive tackle (out of 79 players)
        No. 2 Luke Joeckel – 59th overall
        No. 4 Lane Johnson – 52nd overall
        No. 7 Jonathan Cooper – DNP
        No. 10 Chance Warmack – 47th overall guard (out of 75 players)

        If Jeff Fisher were to break his nearly two decade streak of not drafting offensive linemen in the opening round, it would likely be on an interior lineman… after trading back into the bottom quarter of the first round. I’d bet my wife and kids (that I don’t have) that it won’t be anywhere near the Top 10 or on an offensive tackle.

        • Beer O’Clock

          7 of the 10 offensive linemen chosen for the 2012 NFL All-Pro team were first round draft selections (Duane Brown, Ryan Clady, Joe Thomas, Joe Staley, Logan Mankins, Mike Iutapi, Maurkice Pouncey). All 4 (of 4) offensive tackles chosen for the 2012 NFL All-Pro team were first round draft selections.

          The last Ram offensive lineman to make the All-Pro team was Orlando Pace, who was not only a 1st rounder, but the first player chosen in the draft. How well did that work out for the Rams?

          Counting Pace, who is a 100% lock to make the NFL Hall of Fame, 3 out the 4 Rams offensive linemen in the HOF were 1st round draft selections: Tom Mack (1st round, 2nd overall), Bob Brown (1st round, 2nd overall), Orlando Pace (1st round, 1st overall). Only Jackie Slater was not (3rd round).

          Pro football focus (a group that I often disagree with their ratings, but most football fans will agree with the first two on this list) rated the top three offensive lines in 2012 as:
          1) 49′ers: 3 first round picks on the starting line
          2) New England: 2 first round picks on the starting line
          3) Jets: 2 first round picks on the starting line.

          My list is NOT what I think Jeff Fisher WILL do, it’s what I think Jeff Fisher SHOULD do. Though overwhelmingly more often than not, I tend to agree with Fisher’s approach to football. With Fisher’s 5-7 record, he’s not beyond someone differing with his opinion.

          Finally, I’m stunned that an NFL writer of worthy of print would judge the performance of last years 1st round picks on the legitimacy of choosing a particular position in this year’s draft. But using such a ludicrous metric, no one should pick a WR, DE, QB, TE or CB in the first round of this year’s draft either. If history is any indication, many of the players in your OT list will most likely playing in the Pro Bowl later down the road (presuming there is a Pro Bowl later down the road).

          • Nathan Kearns

            This is why I enjoy our conversations…

            Love all of the points, which are more than enough to convince anyone that taking an offensive lineman in the opening round could, and may very well, lead to an eventual high-caliber player. Even looking back over the last 5 years in the draft, you can certainly count more “hits” than “misses” for offensive tackles taken in the first 15-20 picks, with a fair number of them making the Pro Bowl in either their first or second season in the NFL.

            My look back at last year’s Top 10 was merely to highlight that not all top prospects pan out immediately, and some do not pan out at all. *cue anti-highlight film of Jason Smith*

            Moreover, while all of those players mentioned in your opening “All-Pro” argument were first rounders, the vast majority were taken in the mid- to late-first round: Brown (26th), Mankins (32nd), Pouncey (18th), Clady (12th), and Iutapi (17th). As you well know, Matthews won’t fall out of the Top 5…

            However, in all, my over-arching goal was not to compare the success-or-failure rate of top-tier offensive line prospects. Rather, it was to highlight that 1) the St. Louis Rams offensive line is not in “need” of an offensive tackle and 2) that not all top prospects pan out immediately… or at all, in some cases.

            Then again, it appears we may be arguing over different points.

            I am arguing what I think Jeff Fisher WILL do, then attempting to support that case by highlighting the success of the current offensive line and Fisher’s personal draft history.

            Obviously, the 5-7 record for the St. Louis Rams signals that “something” is in need of fixing. However, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any supported argument that would point to offensive tackle as a “major” cause. Remember, my entire argument is predicated on the disagreement that the St. Louis Rams will select Jake Matthews with their first pick in the draft…

          • Beer O’Clock

            Thanks, Nathan. I enjoy our conversations, as well.

            Like many who have posted, I’m also in favor of trading back if Snead can broker a good deal. There’s no way we’ll see an RG3-like trade because no player in this draft that has the draft appeal of RG3.

            Still, due to the poor crop of QBs in last year’s draft and the large amount of teams in dire need of a productive QB (5 definites and 2 that really should), I see a good deal coming for the team in the #2 position.

            The way I see it, the Rams most important game of the season could be the Skin’s at Atlanta.