While the rest of the NFL is focused on actual football to be played in the playoffs, I’m thinking about my favorite team’s draft plans. The draft is my favorite football holiday because it’s been a long time since the St. Louis Rams have made the playoffs.
The reason for the St. Louis football playoff drought is that the Sheep have drafted horrifically over the past 13 years. Jeff Fisher and company have started to clean up the mess – Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, and Alec Ogletree are all productive starters on defense; Zac Stacy and Tavon Austin (in flashes) have shown promise on offense. Chris Long was a great pick a little bit ahead of that time.
Thanks to the greatness of the RGIII trade (thank you former GM Bill Devaney) the Rams have the second and 13th selections in the first round this year, in what is looking like a loaded draft. I’m just going to break down the options for the Sheep in the first round.
Smart but boring
Trade the No. 2 pick. New GM Les Snead has already expressed some interest in trading the second pick in the draft to another quarterback hungry team (nearly every team not in the playoffs). Essentially, the Rams could get another juicy RGIII type haul, stocking the coffers with more depth at key positions. My only question is how many times should you do this? Eventually teams have to pull the trigger on a top choice to get above the .500 limbo, of which the Rams currently linger.
The other boring option is to take one of the top offensive tackles at No. 2, whether that be Jake Matthews from Texas A&M, Greg Robinson from Auburn, or Cyrus Kouandijo from Alabama. Following that selection, the Rams would then take a player at another position of need at 13, say Louis Nix III from Notre Dame at defensive tackle, cornerback Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State, or wide receiver Mike Evans from Texas A&M.
My question here: is there much difference from an offensive tackle taken at No. 2 and a tackle taken at 13? Lot’s of OTs in this draft, Texas A&M has two projected in the top 13. The Rams were burned onerously the last time they had the No. 2 pick in 2009 when they selected Jason Smith from Baylor. In fairness, Smith had only played tackle one season at Baylor, lining up at tight end the rest of his college career. Oh wait, that tact worked with Nate Solder with the Patriots. Coaching matters a lot, I guess.
Sexy but head-scratchy
Bleacher Report thinks the Rams will take South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Most NFL people speculated had Clowney been available last season that he would have gone No. 1 overall. He struggled at times this season in college, didn’t have any bear-like highlights, but he could be a steal.
The problem here is that the Rams already have two pro-bowl caliber defensive ends and they’ve drafted a lot of defensive lineman recently. There are different philosophies in this situation. Ravens draft guru Ozzie Newsome has talked about taking the best player available regardless of position. The NY Giants have periodically picked defensive lineman and play them interchangeably along the line, defying positional archetypes.
Something else to consider, in 2010, the Rams had a chance to take a game-changing defensive player, a guy who contended for the Heisman trophy at defensive tackle – Ndamukong Suh. Although controversial, Suh has proven to be one of the best players in the league. Ever since, the Rams have seemed to draft defensive lineman in abundance.
Clowney could be the next Julius Peppers, and think of what he could do next to Brockers, Long, and Quinn.
What I prefer, second option
I believe the No. 1 area of need for the Rams is quarterback. In that 2010 draft, the Rams decided to pick Sam Bradford No. 1, even though he had not played the previous season. After a strong rookie season, Bradford has been varying degrees of disappointing.
“But he’s never had good receivers.” “But he’s never had a great offensive line.”
I’m done with these excuses. I think Bradford is an average quarterback, able to shine in a more ideal situation, but lacking the talent to elevate a team.
Now the Rams still owe Bradford a lot of money. Bradford was the last quarterback taken in the old salary structure, making him the highest paid player in the league for a time.
The way the Rams could have their cake and eat it too is take either Clowney or Jake Matthews No. 2 and take a quarterback at No. 13. At this point, people don’t have any quarterbacks slotted mid round. I’m expecting guys to move up. A guy I like is Aaron Murray from Georgia. Maybe the Rams could get him in the second round, even better.
Regardless of 13th pick or second round, the Rams could sit said quarterback a year without any backlash, giving Bradford one more shot. Here Sam, you want to be a starting quarterback? Go out and earn it. Sam’s job has been remarkably secure over the years; maybe a mix up would bring the best out of him.
What I prefer, first option
I think the Rams should take a quarterback at No. 2. Since the Sheep are going for broke, might as well draft Johnny Manziel.
Most quarterback’s don’t end up with decent players around them in year one. Teddy Bridgewater, the Texans projected choice, would also have a stocked cupboard to work with. Johnny Football would have a talented running game, a former high draft pick at wide receiver, and a dynamic defense.
At worst, Manziel would add a new dimension to the Rams offense with his ability to run. Teams would have to watch for read options, QB draws, and bootlegs. His ability to scramble is second to none in this draft. There’s no reason the Rams couldn’t sit Johnny were Bradford the better choice. I think Mr. Football would blow Bradford off the field from day one.
At best, Manziel could be the type of Russell Wilson type cornerstone that keeps the Rams in contention for more than a decade.
Now, something to consider: Jeff Fisher has experience dealing with a controversial, Heisman-winning, running quarterback from Texas. Fisher and Vince Young were so toxic together that they got themselves dismissed as a pair from the Titans.
However, I think it’s time to go big. Even if the Manziel pick proves a failure, at least it would be a spectacular, entertaining failure.