St. Louis Rams go into combine in better shape

BY JIM THOMAS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
02/24/2010


Two months to go until the NFL draft, so a lot can happen for the Rams between now and April 22-24. And despite the understandable obsession with the No. 1 overall pick, the Rams do have eight other selections.

But as the NFL converges today in Indianapolis for the six-day gridiron job fair known as the NFL scouting combine, four names stand out for St. Louis: defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma and quarterbacks Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame.

At this point repeating, at this point it looks like the Rams' No. 1 overall pick will come from one of those four names.

Suh and McCoy are widely considered the top two players in the draft. Most mocks have Suh rated ahead of McCoy, but a few have it the other way around. What can the two do to separate themselves at the combine?

"I don't know," Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. "They've done everything. With their play. Their character is off-the-charts positive. They love playing football. There's nothing more they can do. Those two kids are awesome."

Suh will work out at the combine. There has been no indication that McCoy will not. Devaney isn't a workout guy, per se, but even he is looking forward to the prospect of watching both those guys run around the floor of Lucas Oil Stadium.

"They're both great players," Devaney said. "It's amazing how the same position a little bit different styles but man, I don't think you can go wrong with either one of those guys."

Unless, of course, you really, really need a quarterback. In the case of Bradford and Clausen, neither will throw at the combine because of injuries. Clausen is recovering from toe surgery, Bradford from shoulder surgery. Dozens of doctors and athletic trainers will take a look at them in Indy.

"The medical (reports) will be important for both those quarterbacks," Devaney said. "And we want to see Colt McCoy's (medical info) to a lesser degree."

McCoy, the quarterback from Texas, suffered an injury to his throwing arm early in the BCS championship game against Alabama.

"It sounds like he's going to work (at the combine)," Devaney said. "It doesn't seem like it was as serious as the other two guys. But we're anxious to see him throw."

Bradford isn't scheduled to throw for pro scouts until March 25 in Norman, Okla. Clausen isn't expected to do so until the first week of April in South Bend, Ind.

For those quarterbacks in particular, the combine interview sessions might be important as well, helping a coach gauge their intelligence, passion for the game, and personality.

"It's really important," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I'm a visual guy. So it's always helpful to me if I've sat and visited with somebody for 10-15 minutes. It helps me in the whole evaluation process. Now, can people fool you in 15 minutes? Yeah, they certainly can. But it's a beginning."

Devaney and the Rams' scouting department work on the draft literally year-round. Spagnuolo and his coaching staff don't, so the combine marks a chance for them to catch up. During the workout portions of the combine, Spagnuolo plans to be by Devaney's side digesting as much information as possible.

"And then as the next few weeks unfold here, it'll start to make a little bit more sense to me," Spagnuolo said. "It's just information gathering."

With just a couple of exceptions, Spagnuolo's coaching staff returns intact this season, meaning the Rams at least have the beginnings of continuity. Devaney and his scouts have at least some idea of what the coaches are looking for the kind of players they like, the kind of players that fit their scheme, etc.

Last year in February, Devaney was training the coaches as well as some new scouts on the grading scale and symbols and terminology he uses in evaluating personnel.

"All that stuff is time consuming," Devaney said. "It takes away from the most important thing looking at tape and evaluating players. So we're light years ahead of where we were at this time last year."

Each draft has its own identity, and the Class of 2010 is starting to develop its personality.

"Already at certain positions you know it's going to be pretty deep," Devaney said. "Defensive tackle is deep that's encouraging."

(Particularly if the Rams trade out of the No. 1 spot and don't take a DT with their first pick.)

"I think wide receiver is going to be pretty deep," Devaney said. "There may not be those stud impact guys, but it's a real good group. The offensive line tackles again. The past few years, there's been a pretty good run of tackles."