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Rams bold trade move signals the future is now
The Rams are not rebuilding anymore. This is no longer a slow and steady three-year reconstruction plan like we thought it was only a few months ago. It’s fast tracking all the way. If you didn’t notice it with the subtle, but efficient off-season moves during the veteran free agent shopping spree, then the message was delivered with a seismic shock wave at Rams Park in the early hours of Thursday night’s first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
When you leapfrog from the No. 16 position in the first round all the way up to the eighth slot to get your man, it makes a statement about what you think you are just as much as it hints to the value placed on a dynamic receiving threat like West Virginia’s 5-foot-9 zephyr Tavon Austin.
When you make that sort of aggressive move to swoop in and get the most dynamic skill position player in this year’s draft class, it is an emphatic statement that you believe that the rebuilding process is officially over and the very serious business of the NFL playoffs are realistically on the agenda.
In other words, the future is now.
Just around midnight as head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead finally poked their heads out of the war room late Thursday night, they were both full of grins and explanations for what just transpired.
When Snead was asked what sort of message it signals that the organization made such a bold move to get Austin, he said simply: “When you combine Tavon with (veteran free agent tight end) Jared Cook, it means we have weapons that we didn’t have before. It says we have match-up nightmares that we didn’t have before. It says that a guy like Brian Quick or Chris Givens are going to get open a lot more.”
It says a lot more than that. It says that the Rams, coming off a 7-8-1 season in Year One of the Fisher-Snead era in Earth City, have every reason to believe it’s okay to accelerate expectations for 2013. Until now, it felt like the coach and general manager believed it would take three years before they could take the giant leap from NFL laughing stock to being good enough to engage in a legitimate hunt for division titles, playoff berths and serious championship consideration.
But the landscape has shifted rapidly at Rams Park. This is now an organization that believes it has put together the right pieces that have upgraded last year’s miserable offense. When you quietly go out in the free agent season and bring in the best offensive tackle in the marketplace – former Pro Bowler and No. 1 overall pick Jake Long – then quickly follow that up by bringing in the top tight end on the market – Cook – those moves were already potential game changers.
Those moves – and Snead’s unwavering faith that last year’s offensive skill position draft picks will fully mature in 2013 – created a dynamic on draft night that made the organization comfortable enough to make another bold first-round trade for the second year in a row.
Armed with that additional first-round pick from last year’s blockbuster deal with Washington, Snead knew he had the hardware needed to engineer a trade for the one skill position player everyone in the NFL believed was worth all the attention.
In a draft thin on first-round offensive skill positions – Austin was the only skill position player taken in the top 10, and only four went in the entire first round – Snead knew what needed to be done. Austin is being touted as the sort of offensive freak of nature that they simply couldn’t pass up, particularly if you believe you are now ready to make a serious playoff run.
And that’s what Snead and Fisher believe now. They’ve already seen enough evidence from last season when they held their own in the toughest division in football, going a combined 2-1-1 against the defending NFC champion ***** and the league’s hottest new upstart (Seattle) to be convinced that they were ready to take the next logical step.
Several hours before the draft began, team president Kevin Demoff was strolling through the hallways of Rams Park, perhaps just burning off some nervous energy with more than three hours to go before the first round began.
“When is the last time the NFL has had a draft when no skill position players were taken in the top 10?” Demoff wondered.
At the time, it sounded like a random question. Yet as the night progressed, it turned out to be a subtle prediction of the twists and turns that were on the way.
One of the most important things a team can do in the later stages of draft preparation is gather the most updated last-minute intelligence of what teams are doing in front of it in any particular round. As one long-time NFL personnel man told me a few days ago, the idea is to get your scouts and coaches on the phone calling any contacts they have on other teams. The objective is to get more information than you give out. Burn up the phone lines and find out whatever morsels are out there that provide clues into what everyone is thinking.
Apparently, Snead’s coaches and personnel people did darned good work, because by the time the doors closed to the second-floor war room just before 7 p.m,, Snead was fairly convinced that all the players they hoped would be available at No. 16 – Austin, Texas safety Kenny Vacarro, Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, Mizzou defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper and Alabama guard Chance Warmack – would be gone by the time the Rams were on the clock.
So the decision was made to make a move to trade up in the first round. The only question was, how far? If Snead was going to give up that valuable second-round pick (46th overall) – a precious commodity in a draft that offers prime value in the second round – then they would go all in and go after the player they wanted the most.
That player was Austin, and so the Rams began hitting the phones, renewing an earlier conversation with Buffalo that had already been explored for the past week or so. The idea was to make sure they got ahead of the one team they knew was eager to snatch the West Virginia wide receiver, the New York Jets in the ninth slot.
So the Rams made the deal with Buffalo in the No. 8 slot and suddenly they had their big-play speedster to take over for the departed Danny Amendola in the slot. Now pay attention to what is going on here. The Rams are getting faster and more athletic in every position on the offensive side of the ball.
The offensive line is stronger, the tight end position is as dangerous as ever and if last year’s rookie wideouts and running backs have grown up as much as Snead thinks they have, and Austin is as good as advertised, this offense could be a lot of fun to watch.
Re: Rams bold trade move signals the future is now
I agree 100% with nick and it validates my view expressed last night that fisher didnt think all that much of shariff floyd, who apparantly wasnt on our short list of guys we really coveted, which also explains the trade down at 22. Bottom line is that it appears we got what we wanted, now we will have to see how it plays out and what we get at 92 (along with what we get at 71, which is 7 spots higher up than our original #3).
ramming speed to all
Re: Rams bold trade move signals the future is now
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