Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  By Nate Latsch  |  Last updated 5/10/14
ST. LOUIS -- The Rams weren't kidding. They've been pledging their allegiance to quarterback Sam Bradford for months and general manager Les Snead has been telling anyone willing to listen since last season ended that he believed in their group of young and still mostly unproven wide receivers. But there was plenty of reason not to believe those claims. Bradford's career so far has made him a polarizing figure in St. Louis, with his fans and his detractors unsure of what he is and his propensity for injuries leaving him unable to prove them right or wrong. The Rams' young receivers have yet to live up to their potential, either. So in the days leading up to the NFL Draft, when there was plenty of talk about the Rams possibly taking quarterback Johnny Manziel or using an early pick on a playmaking wide receiver like Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans, you began to wonder where Snead and Jeff Fisher really stood on those topics. Now we know.   The Rams didn't go down any of those paths with their two early picks in the first round Thursday and, with more chances on Friday to take a quarterback or wide receiver in the second and third rounds, again opted to improve their roster with other positions. When they selected Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner in the second round with the No. 41 overall pick, trading a fifth-rounder (No. 153 overall) to move up three spots, they filled a need for a nickel cornerback after they released Cortland Finnegan this offseason.   Wide receivers Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt), Paul Richardson (Colorado), Davante Adams (Fresno State), Cody Latimer (Indiana), Allen Robinson (Penn State) and Jarvis Landry (LSU) were all available and would be selected later in the round. But Snead and Fisher identified their player and made a move. "We didn't want to lose him, and he's just an outstanding player," Fisher said. "He plays all over their defense. He plays outside, he plays in the slot, he plays high, he blitzes, so he's a plug-in Day 1 nickelback. He's very, very aggressive, tackles well. He's got average ball skills. We'll work on that." Fisher noted that they suspected another team was hot on Joyner's trail and could've picked him if the Rams didn't move up. So they moved up. Joyner is undersized-but-versatile, and started at safety in 2011 and 2012 but played nickel cornerback this season and racked up 69 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles as the Seminoles won the BCS national championship. Fisher described the 5-foot-8, 182-pounder as a player St. Louis could plug into a nickel cornerback spot on Day 1, which should help them defend the various sets of multiple wideouts from the rival Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals in the NFC West. But by bypassing a wide receiver there, it shows that the Rams are confident about going into the 2014 season with the collection of mix-and-match wideouts currently on the roster: Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis, Justin Veltung, Emory Blake and recently-signed free agents Kenny Britt and T.J. Moe. St. Louis could still add to that group in the later rounds, but they weren't willing to use their second- or third-round picks there on Friday. St. Louis also wasn't willing to invest their selections on a quarterback of the future, either, even though names like Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois), A.J. McCarron (Alabama), Aaron Murray (Georgia), Tom Savage (Pittsburgh) and Zach Mettenberger (LSU) were out there. Among those prospects, only Garoppolo was selected on Friday, with the New England Patriots picking him late in the second round, No. 62 overall. So the Rams could still nab one of the others on Day 3 as a developmental project. The Rams' third-round pick, running back Tre Mason of Auburn, wasn't a player the team had focused on during their pre-draft visits and workouts but was there for the taking at No. 75 overall. The 207-pounder rushed for 1,816 yards and scored 24 touchdowns in helping Auburn to an Southeastern Conference championship and runner-up finish -- against Joyner's Seminoles -- in the BCS championship game. "Tre is a change-of-pace back," Fisher said. "Obviously for us, very productive runner, good zone runner. Obviously, the numbers speak for themselves. He was a guy we just couldn't pass up at that point." It's unlikely to think that Mason will come in and replace Zac Stacy as the St. Louis starter after Stacy ran for 973 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games as a rookie last season. But Mason, like Stacy a year ago, will arrive at Rams Park with a strong resume of success in the SEC and be given a chance to show what he's capable of.   The Rams on Friday added two more draft selections who should be able to contribute this fall, adding to the pair of potential impact players they picked in the first round on Thursday. They represent another step in the right direction for the Rams as well as affirmation that all that talk from the St. Louis brass these last few months wasn't a deliberate smokescreen after all. DAY 3 PREVIEW The Rams have seven selections left to make on Saturday. St. Louis has one in the fourth round (No. 110 overall), two in the sixth (No. 188 and No. 214) and four in the seventh (No. 226, No. 241, No. 249 and No. 250). The Rams could try to add depth and fill some specific needs, like adding a safety or offensive linemen. "I think you're going to get to an element, you're getting to the stage where, 'Hey, there are some guys that you have to develop,'" Snead said. "We're going to look at our roster -- who fills a role?  Whatever role that is and if it helps us become a more successful team that's what you kind of try to do. You get some talented guys and guys that are going to fill roles and guys that got a special teams dot on them -- that means they have a good chance of dressing out in the 46(-man roster) for special teams. You'll have fun with the last picks." You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.
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