ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Rams addressed perhaps their neediest position in the third round of the NFL draft Friday night, selecting Southern California safety T.J. McDonald.
The 6-2, 219-pound McDonald led the Trojans with 112 tackles as a senior and could fill one of the Rams' two starting vacancies at safety after getting taken with the 71st overall pick.
Then they grabbed another prolific West Virginia wide receiver. Stedman Bailey, taken late in the third round, had 25 touchdown catches his senior season. The Rams traded up eight spots in the first round to get Tavon Austin with the eighth overall pick with plans to use him all over the field.
The 5-9, 197-pound Bailey, taken with the 92nd pick is bigger than Austin and almost as fast with 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed. Bailey caught 114 passes for 25 touchdowns and a 14.2-yard average, with 13 catches for 303 yards and five touchdowns against Baylor and four touchdown grabs against Oklahoma.
McDonald's father, Tim McDonald, was a six-time Pro Bowler who also starred at Southern California and they're the only father-son combination to have captained the team. Tim McDonald was a rookie with the Cardinals in 1987, their final season in St. Louis before moving to Arizona.
McDonald landed on a team that has a strong Southern California connection in coach Jeff Fisher, a former defensive back for the Trojans. The Rams brought McDonald in for a visit that left the player, who has experience at both safety spots, feeling it might be a fit.
"My dad has a lot of respect for coach Fisher and he's definitely proud I get to play for him," McDonald said. "I kind of got a sense for myself about what kind of coach he was. Just from meeting him, it doesn't take very long and you can tell he's a great coach."
McDonald's senior season was considered a bit of a drop-off from his junior year.
"I wouldn't say a bad year, I would say it was a different year," McDonald said. "I wasn't coming down from 15 yards deep flashing across the screen making those plays. I still went out there and made plays, that's the name of the game."
One of the starting safeties last season, Craig Dahl, signed a three-year free agent deal with San Francisco. The Rams had been considering re-signing the other safety Quintin Mikell, who was released to save salary cap space.
The only safety with starting experience on the roster is Darian Stewart, who played mostly on special teams last season.