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Thread: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

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    Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist | Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012 10:19 pm

    Rams fans seem to be upset over the team's first-day trade-down maneuver that ended with the team choosing LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers with the 14th overall selection.

    I'll start off by issuing my usual caveat: anyone who is throwing down an immediate and conclusive judgment is just fluffling their own ego, or shrieking to be heard. You don't grade draft picks 30 seconds after they're chosen. It can take two or three years to really know if the guy was a great pick, a lousy pick, or an OK pick. So if you wish to be a poser by declaring Brockers a home-run pick or a strikeout as soon as commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name, be my guest. It's laughable.

    Now let's begin ...

    Here was my mindset going into the Rams' draft, and I can sum it up in two quick parts:

    1. The best thing the Rams could do was accumulate as many picks as possible in the first three rounds. And that's even after they picked up three No. 1s and a No. 2 from the Redskins in exchange for moving down four spots in the first round. Why collect premium draft picks? Does that really require an explanation? If this isn't the least talented team in the NFL, it's close. The Rams roster is a disaster area, as one might conclude after noting the team's 15-65 mark since 2007, the worst five-year record in NFL history.

    2. If the Rams couldn't trade down and stayed in the No. 6 overall slot, and their preferred wide receiver (Justin Blackmon?) was there, then they should just go ahead and take the wideout ... even if Blackmon wasn't really the sixth best overall player in the draft.

    In my opinion, the worst thing the Rams could do was give up draft picks to move up in the draft. There are simply too many holes to fill to give away picks for one player. The scouts I talk to really believed there were only three truly elite players: quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin the 3rd, and RB Trent Richardson. After that, there just wasn't much difference between the fourth player and the 15th, 16th player.

    So many areas of this team need major reinforcement, you could draw up a list of the top five needs and not be wrong in ranking them. I looked at the most pressing needs this way: Wide Receiver, Defensive Tackle, Guard, Cornerback, Offensive Tackle. You can put Outside Linebacker on there, too.

    To me, if the Rams came out of the first two or three rounds with seemingly legit pieces that addressed this long list of needs, I wouldn't have a major complaint. This is not a team that will leap into becoming a playoff contender based on a first-round draft pick this year. The Rams need many good players. In many areas. And over multiple drafts. So if the Rams filled each of the shaky roster spots in a methodical manner -- I'm fine with that. I said that before the first round, and I'm still saying it again after the first round.

    OK, so what about moving down to take Brockers?

    If you don't mind a pragmatic assessment of this move, then hopefully you'll continue reading. If not, by all means click away from this blog. No offense taken here. Thank you.

    I'm fine with the Brockers selection for a several reasons; (1) defensive tackle was on my list of priority positions; (2) run defense has been a horrible weakness on this team for several years; (3) Brockers has received strong advance grades for his ability to stop the run; (4) Rams coach Jeff Fisher had a reasonably successful track record of drafting and developing DTs in Tennessee. (The Titans got lots of starts and production from drafted defensive tackles including Albert Haynesworth, Gary Walker, John Thornton, Randy Starks, etc.)

    I wasn't stunned by this pick; on my Thursday radio show on 101 ESPN I recited Fisher's draft history and noted that he liked taking DTs and defensive ends. It fits his profile of team-building. And the Titans were consistently good on defense under his leadership.

    That's why I thought DT Fletcher Cox was a possibility for the Rams, even at No. 6. But Cox is more of a pass-rushing defensive tackle. Brockers is more of a stout, point-of-attack guy that can take on blockers. So GM Les Snead and Coach Fisher apparently wanted to go with the run stuffer. Cox went 12th; Brockers went 14th.

    Pardon my snark, but if you are one of the critics that didn't think a DT should be a priority area, then I am not sure what you have been watching since 2006.

    Over the last six seasons combined, this is where the Rams rank in run defense among the 32 NFL teams:

    -- 136.4 rushing yards allowed per game, 29th.

    -- a yield 4.6 yards per carry, 32nd.

    -- 111 rushing touchdowns allowed, 30th.

    -- giving up 369 carries that gained 10+ yards, 32nd.

    Moreover, the Rams have permitted individual running backs to rack up a total of 35, 100-yard rushing days -- topped by DeMarco Murray (253 yards vs. STL last season), Beanie Wells (228 yards) and Michael Turner (208 yards.)

    You you don't have to be Chuck Noll to know that any firm run defense starts up front, between the tackles. As my friend Rick Venturi told me -- he coordinated defenses in the NFL for a long time, at Indianapolis and New Orleans -- his worst defenses surfaced in seasons in which his unit was thin at defensive tackle.

    So Brockers may not play the position that you wanted the Rams to target in the first round, and he won't be catching passes for Sam Bradford, but if he can develop and be a positive force against the run, he most definitely fills a need.

    One aside: you know what's completely irrelevant? Citing previous DTs drafted by the Rams -- DTs that never panned out. On Twitter Thursday night, folks were puking up the names of Damione Lewis, Jimmie Kennedy, Adam Carriker, etc. (They were also mentioning Ryan Pickett, which is really dumb, considering that he's been an 11-year starter in the NFL. And he's been a run-playing standout for Super Bowl-caliber teams in Green Bay.) How silly is this? What in the world do these DTs have to do with Snead and Fisher? Bulletin: Snead and Fisher didn't draft Kennedy, Lewis or Carriker. This is the first draft at Rams Park for Snead and Fisher. They had nothing to do with the Rams draft busts of the past. It's just nutty.

    Thursday night, I asked longtime NFL scout Dave Razzano for his opinion of the Brockers pick. Razzano is an independent thinker; his refusal to be a yes-man in draft war rooms cost him a job or two, because GMs and coaches don't want a lowly scout to tell them they're making a mistake in drafting a certain player.

    So I value Razzano's opinion. His quick take on the Brockers pick: "It's a great pick. I had Brockers as one of the seven best players in the draft."

    My friend Russ Lande, who runs a scouting service, broke down tapes of four of Brockers' games.

    This is what Lande's comprehensive report had to say about Brockers' run-stopping ability:

    "This is where Brockers is a dominant force. I have seen very few defensive linemen that can so easily jolt OL run blockers upright and backwards, toss them aside and make tackles behind the line. He is quick to get hands on run blocker, locks out and can press OL backwards until the ball carrier is about to make move and then can free up to make tackle."

    Lande had a lot of positive things to say about Brockers; he praised his instincts and work ethic. "He is a very competitive player who goes hard on every snap, which is impressive for such a big man as big DL often do not compete as a high level all the time."

    Lande has one concern: Brockers' inexperience. He said that a lot of NFL people are reluctant to invest a first-round pick in a player that hasn't started many games at college. (Brockers, 21, left LSU after his sophomore season.)

    "He has not proven his durability over the long term," Lande said of Brockers.

    Brockers could also develop into an above-average pass rusher but that won't be his job right away; the Rams signed free-agent DT Kendall Langford to give them an inside pass rush. No, Brockers was grabbed so he could give the feeble Rams some desperately needed muscle against the run.

    By trading down, the Rams picked up the 45th overall pick from Dallas. That means they'll have the 33rd, 39th and 45th pick in Friday night's second round. And that's where the accumulate-picks strategy can really make a difference. This is where the excitement -- and an increased challenge -- begins.

    I don't know how the Rams really felt about Justin Blackmon, or Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd. But based on their approach -- the Rams declined to be aggressive to move up and take either wideout -- they apparently weren't too bothered by losing out on them.

    If you think I'm letting the Rams off the hook for not having addressed the wideout position, then you're wrong. The missed in free agency. They made the decision to bypass a WR in the first round. They left themselves vulnerable to the whims of other wideout-seeking teams; a couple of WRs came off the board after the Rams selected at No. 14. (Kendall Wright went 20th to Tennessee, and A.J. Jenkins went 30th to San Francisco.)

    But if the Rams didn't love any of these WRs as a first-round target, then why would we really expect them to take one? After Blackmon and Floyd were gone, why would we expect the Rams to settle for a decent but not imposing WR with the 14th pick? Why force it? It's how you get in long-term roster trouble.

    That said, Snead and Fisher are under enormous pressure to grab a wideout in the second round. And they've taken a risk here; perhaps they were banking on someone being there that's already gone.

    I don't know, because I doubt that they'll volunteer that information. But maybe, just maybe, a WR they really like is still there, on the board, waiting for the Rams to pull his name. And if that's the case, then the Rams will have activated a strategy that I discussed in Thursday's print-edition column: target another area of need in the first round, then go for the WR in the second round. They can still achieve that.

    We'll see what they do. They'll have three picks in the second round, and then No. 65 overall (early in the third round.) That gives them an opportunity to address the holes at WR, guard, OT, LB, maybe CB ... but again, they have so many glaring weaknesses, that I can't really growl about where they decide to go in the second round and third round as long as they come up with good players who can start early in their careers.

    The only exception to that, of course, is wide receiver. Fisher and Snead will take a credibility hit if they ignore a neglected area ... again.

    If the Rams don't take a WR early in the second round, then I'll co-sign on your dissent.

    But at the end of the first day, as I write this late Thursday night/early Friday morning, I certainly won't rip Snead and Fisher team for drafting a promising run-stopping defensive tackle who kicked arse in the toughest college football conference in the nation. That would be the SEC.

    No, I'm not going to have a coronary episode over this pick after I've spent the last six years of Sundays watching this Rams defense getting prison-yard stomped by bullying offensive lines that rammed the football at will against soft or invisible DTs.

    Thanks for reading this...

    -Bernie

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    First, let me say that I am not upset with having Michael Brockers join the team (Welcome Michael). My angst is derived from my opinion that the Rams did not get enough compensation for the 6th pick. I don't care about the numbers game for draft picks. Heck, that went out the window last year when Atlanta went all in for Jones, and when Washington gave up a 2nd, and 2 firsts for our #2. The point now is, supply and demand. We had the pick, Dallas wanted Claiborne. The trade had been made before we were even on the clock. We could've at least pretended we were thinking about it. Trading down to #14 from #6, knowing that Dallas was going for Claiborne, and that Arizona wanted Floyd (I knew, and the announcers knew. It was all over the blogs. If the Rams didn't know, there's a definite issue), the Rams should've tried to squeeze more out of Dallas, and if they couldn't, use the pick. Take a much needed CB, and be happy with your position in the 2nd Round to add some meat.


    Is it too early to judge whether Michael Brockers will be a good selection? Absolutely. But it's not too early to say that the Rams should've gotten more for the 6th pick.
    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!!

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Bernie writes a cohesive, well-thought out piece. And I love defensive football- hell, my childhood idols were Jack Youngblood and Nolan Cromwell and played defense for four seasons of high school ball. But in this league, you need offense. You just drafted a franchise QB two years ago, and thus far you've given him nothing to work with. The one guy who was as close to a featured receiver as we've had in recent years (Lloyd) left. Steven Jackson- warrior that he is- is on the tail end of a great career. Our greatest success in recent years came with two unbelievable receivers, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt along with a wonderful cast of characters like Proehl and Curtis complementing them. I think it was a mistake not to get the game breaker in round one while filling other needs in rounds 2-7, it's as simple as that.

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by Truth View Post
    First, let me say that I am not upset with having Michael Brockers join the team (Welcome Michael). My angst is derived from my opinion that the Rams did not get enough compensation for the 6th pick. I don't care about the numbers game for draft picks. Heck, that went out the window last year when Atlanta went all in for Jones, and when Washington gave up a 2nd, and 2 firsts for our #2. The point now is, supply and demand. We had the pick, Dallas wanted Claiborne. The trade had been made before we were even on the clock. We could've at least pretended we were thinking about it. Trading down to #14 from #6, knowing that Dallas was going for Claiborne, and that Arizona wanted Floyd (I knew, and the announcers knew. It was all over the blogs. If the Rams didn't know, there's a definite issue), the Rams should've tried to squeeze more out of Dallas, and if they couldn't, use the pick. Take a much needed CB, and be happy with your position in the 2nd Round to add some meat.


    Is it too early to judge whether Michael Brockers will be a good selection? Absolutely. But it's not too early to say that the Rams should've gotten more for the 6th pick.
    If the Rams stayed at 6 they were planning on taking Brockers anyway. Claiborne wasn't as highly rated, and the Rams front office didn't even care about Floyd to the point they cheered when he was taken above them by the Cardinals because it left Brockers on the board. Don't assume that media draft rankings are the same as those of NFL teams.

    As a Rams fan you need to decide what you prefer, because there were only two options once Blackmon was gone:

    Take Brockers at #6

    or

    Take Brockers at #14 and get an extra 2nd rounder

    Choose between those two. I know what I would pick.

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie
    I'll start off by issuing my usual caveat: anyone who is throwing down an immediate and conclusive judgment is just fluffling their own ego, or shrieking to be heard. You don't grade draft picks 30 seconds after they're chosen. It can take two or three years to really know if the guy was a great pick, a lousy pick, or an OK pick. So if you wish to be a poser by declaring Brockers a home-run pick or a strikeout as soon as commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name, be my guest. It's laughable.
    It's not often I get to say this, so take note........Bernie is absolutely 100% correct! I'll say it again: Bernie is absolutely 100% correct!
    Why collect premium draft picks? Does that really require an explanation?
    Yes, Bernie, unfortunately it does. Some of these people just aren't getting it.
    So many areas of this team need major reinforcement, you could draw up a list of the top five needs and not be wrong in ranking them.
    That's not true, Bernie. By not selecting a WR with their first pick, Fishead has put the Earth in jeopardy of spinning backwards on its axis!
    This is not a team that will leap into becoming a playoff contender based on a first-round draft pick this year. The Rams need many good players. In many areas. And over multiple drafts. So if the Rams filled each of the shaky roster spots in a methodical manner -- I'm fine with that.
    No, no, no! Had this team added Blackmon or Floyd last night, Goodell would have simply handed over the Lombardi to Fisher, on the spot.
    But if the Rams didn't love any of these WRs as a first-round target, then why would we really expect them to take one?
    Because we're fans; and we OBVIOUSLY know more about what the Rams need than the GM and Head Coach!
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    Bernie writes a cohesive, well-thought out piece. And I love defensive football- hell, my childhood idols were Jack Youngblood and Nolan Cromwell and played defense for four seasons of high school ball. But in this league, you need offense. You just drafted a franchise QB two years ago, and thus far you've given him nothing to work with. The one guy who was as close to a featured receiver as we've had in recent years (Lloyd) left. Steven Jackson- warrior that he is- is on the tail end of a great career. Our greatest success in recent years came with two unbelievable receivers, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt along with a wonderful cast of characters like Proehl and Curtis complementing them. I think it was a mistake not to get the game breaker in round one while filling other needs in rounds 2-7, it's as simple as that.
    And what if (as it seems to be) that game-breaker was not available? What if the professionals did not see Blackmon or Floyd as "game-breakers"? And if they do see them as game-breakers, how many other needing positions should they have neglected in order to give up picks to move up and take one of these WRs?
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    And what if (as it seems to be) that game-breaker was not available? What if the professionals did not see Blackmon or Floyd as "game-breakers"? And if they do see them as game-breakers, how many other needing positions should they have neglected in order to give up picks to move up and take one of these WRs?
    I never suggested the Rams move up. They were originally in an ideal position and chose to trade out of it. We can play the "what if" game with any player and any team, but if the vast majority of pundits and people in the know felt Justin Blackmon was a game-breaking difference maker, then I'll sign on. I simply feel it is easier to find a good run stuffer or interior lineman later in the draft than hope a receiver in rounds 2-7 will turn into a 'find".

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    I never suggested the Rams move up. They were originally in an ideal position and chose to trade out of it. We can play the "what if" game with any player and any team, but if the vast majority of pundits and people in the know felt Justin Blackmon was a game-breaking difference maker, then I'll sign on. I simply feel it is easier to find a good run stuffer or interior lineman later in the draft than hope a receiver in rounds 2-7 will turn into a 'find".
    But it wasn't a choice between Blackmon and a 2nd round DT or Brockers and a 2nd round WR.

    Ultimately (given the Jaguars trade), it was a choice between Blackmon or Brockers, 2 second round picks, and 2 future first round picks.

    How are you not getting this?
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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    The Rams basically need 7 starters.
    On Defense: CB, WLB, SLB, DT and S
    On Offense: G, WR

    They have 1 down, they'll pick up 3-4 more today. I absolutely LOVE what the Rams are doing. This is how you go about rebuilding a franchise. I'd trade down from #33 if a team throws enough at us.

    In 2013 they'll have 2 first rounders to fill holes that develop.
    In 2014 they'll have 2 first rounders to fill holes that develop.
    Things are looking up boys. Be happy.
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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    I never suggested the Rams move up. They were originally in an ideal position and chose to trade out of it. We can play the "what if" game with any player and any team, but if the vast majority of pundits and people in the know felt Justin Blackmon was a game-breaking difference maker, then I'll sign on. I simply feel it is easier to find a good run stuffer or interior lineman later in the draft than hope a receiver in rounds 2-7 will turn into a 'find".
    So are you suggesting we should have stayed at #2 and drafted Blackmon, rather than trading down twice and adding two second rounders and two future first rounders?

    Or, put another way, do you think Blackmon is worth two first round picks and two second round picks?

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    I never suggested the Rams move up. They were originally in an ideal position and chose to trade out of it. We can play the "what if" game with any player and any team, but if the vast majority of pundits and people in the know felt Justin Blackmon was a game-breaking difference maker, then I'll sign on. I simply feel it is easier to find a good run stuffer or interior lineman later in the draft than hope a receiver in rounds 2-7 will turn into a 'find".
    You would have passed up the Redskins trade for Blackmon?!
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by tomahawk247 View Post
    If the Rams stayed at 6 they were planning on taking Brockers anyway. Claiborne wasn't as highly rated, and the Rams front office didn't even care about Floyd to the point they cheered when he was taken above them by the Cardinals because it left Brockers on the board. Don't assume that media draft rankings are the same as those of NFL teams.

    As a Rams fan you need to decide what you prefer, because there were only two options once Blackmon was gone:

    Take Brockers at #6

    or

    Take Brockers at #14 and get an extra 2nd rounder

    Choose between those two. I know what I would pick.
    Yes, I also read that the Rams wanted Brockers. As I stated, my issue is not with the choice of player, it is with the garnering of only a second rounder for the pick. Dallas wanted Claiborne. REALLY wanted Claiborne. I would've like to see the Rams get another pick beside #45. even a 4th round pick, or a 2nd or 3rd round pick next year. The swiftness with which the trade was made, left a definite odor of desperation in its wake.
    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!!

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by Truth View Post
    Yes, I also read that the Rams wanted Brockers. As I stated, my issue is not with the choice of player, it is with the garnering of only a second rounder for the pick. Dallas wanted Claiborne. REALLY wanted Claiborne. I would've like to see the Rams get another pick beside #45. even a 4th round pick, or a 2nd or 3rd round pick next year. The swiftness with which the trade was made, left a definite odor of desperation in its wake.
    It's obvious we have very different viewpoints. I would have gladly taken one less future 1st round pick (the suggested Cleveland trade) and moved to #3 than take the Washington deal and moved to #6. We could have still gotten Blackmon (or even Richardson, for that matter) AND accumulated picks to build for the future. Of course what exactly Cleveland offered will never be known and it's now a moot point.

    I don't understand what you guys don't get about this basic belief: It is easier to find a good, solid interior lineman in the latter rounds than it is to get a receiver who is regarded as a lethal offensive weapon for your 50 million dollar investment at the QB position. How can you not see the absolutely critical need (above all others, in my view) of getting Sam Bradford surrounded with high caliber help? Steve Smith? Austin Pettis? Please.

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by Truth View Post
    Yes, I also read that the Rams wanted Brockers. As I stated, my issue is not with the choice of player, it is with the garnering of only a second rounder for the pick. Dallas wanted Claiborne. REALLY wanted Claiborne. I would've like to see the Rams get another pick beside #45. even a 4th round pick, or a 2nd or 3rd round pick next year. The swiftness with which the trade was made, left a definite odor of desperation in its wake.
    And they tried. If you read the piece elsewhere on this website you will see that. But the Cowboys wouldn't offer more.
    So it comes down to whether you take Brockers at 6, or take him at 14 and get JUST and extra 2nd rounder.

    The result we ended up with sounds good to me
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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Brockers and the Rams strategy

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    It's obvious we have very different viewpoints. I would have gladly taken one less future 1st round pick (the suggested Cleveland trade) and moved to #3 than take the Washington deal and moved to #6. We could have still gotten Blackmon (or even Richardson, for that matter) AND accumulated picks to build for the future. Of course what exactly Cleveland offered will never be known and it's now a moot point.
    I'm glad you aren't our GM then

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