CSN Mock Draft, Pick 22: Rams select ...

CSN Mock Draft, Pick 22: Rams select ...
April 14, 2013, 9:00 am
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Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (6-0, 214)

In Jeff Fisher's first season as head coach in St. Louis, the Rams made great strides after years of absolute futility. It certainly helps when your franchise QB (Sam Bradford) stays healthy for an entire season, and your defense gets a big boost from three rookies (Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson).

But the Rams reside in a brutal division -- who'd have thought that three years ago -- and there's still a lot of work to do to get them to the level their NFC West rivals Seattle and San Francisco are at right now.

The Rams made a splash in free agency by signing away 2008 No. 1 overall pick OT Jake Long from Miami. Long will slide into LT, shifting solid Rodger Saffold over to RT, finally giving St. Louis a pair of quality pass protectors. With the earlier selection of Jonathan Cooper at No. 16, the Rams should be happy with how their offensive line is shaping up and might look to improve at the offensive skill positions.

With Steven Jackson off to Atlanta, the Rams have no obvious successor at running back. Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead don't have the looks of a suitable RB combination, both being more third-down types at this point. The Rams could reach at No. 22 for a RB like Alabama's Eddie Lacy or Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell, but I don't think the value is there this early. They may have to wait to see if either is available in the second round.

They are also thin at WR, where they lost Danny Amendola to free agency, and will rely heavily on youngsters Brian Quick and Chris Givens. California's Keenan Allen is still available, but he just ran a 4.7 40 at his pro day (granted he's been hurt), and is similar in size to Quick, their second-round pick last season.

On defense, the Rams could use some help at OLB, but no 4-3 linebacker is worthy of this high a pick. They may have to wait till later to grab a player like Rutgers' Khaseem Greene in the middle of the second, or South Carolina's DeVonte Holloman in the third.

The secondary is where I feel St. Louis' biggest holes reside. While Jenkins, Cortland Finnegan and Johnson have the looks of a strong corner trio, the safety position is void of starting talent. Both of their starters from last season, Quintin Mikell (released) and Craig Dahl (free agency) are no longer with the team, and only Darian Stewart and Rodney McLeaod remain on the depth chart.

Vaccaro is the top safety in the 2013 class. He combines big hitting with outstanding coverage skills. As a Longhorn, Vaccaro was often asked to cover slot receivers man-to-man, and he showed the quick feet and fluid movement skills to handle the job. While Fisher's defense is Cover-2 heavy, having a safety capable of blanketing receivers is never a negative.

Vaccaro may struggle initially with playing deep safety in the Cover-2, as he wasn't asked to do it at Texas. He's extremely aggressive and likes to play downhill. If he can keep his aggressiveness in check, he'll be fine; he can run with receivers and plays the ball well in the air.

Against the run, Vaccaro is willing to get his nose dirty and seems to enjoy making big hits. His over-eagerness sometimes leads to missed tackles, though.

With the Rams trying to keep up with their division rivals, adding difference-makers with their first two picks is a must. In Cooper and Vaccaro, Fisher is getting two players who fill needs, and are the best players still on the board. Definitely a combination NFL front offices love to find.