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Thread: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

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    Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    An early look at Rams' draft needs
    January, 10, 2014
    By Nick Wagoner | ESPN.com

    ST. LOUIS -- ESPN NFL draft analyst Kevin Weidl completed his series on draft needs Friday afternoon with a look at the NFC West in this Insider piece.

    Throughout the division, Weidl sees an obvious need for offensive line help, including the St. Louis Rams. We covered that need earlier Friday but Weidl provides some names for the Rams to consider.

    Here's what Weidl had to say on the subject of drafting an offensive tackle:

    "If the Rams do elect to hold on to the pick, Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews makes sense here. Matthews fills a pressing need, and at this point appears to be the clear-cut No. 1 offensive tackle, although Auburn's Greg Robinson could make a push as we get further into his evaluation. Furthermore, Jake Long has dealt with durability issues the past few seasons and continuing to bolster protection for Sam Bradford, who will return from a season-ending knee injury this year, makes sense here."

    Both Matthews and Robinson figure to be of interest to the Rams and both have appealing ties to the top Rams decision makers, coach Jeff Fisher and Les Snead. Matthews is the son of Bruce Matthews, who was a standout tackle for Fisher in Houston/Tennessee. Robinson is coming from Snead's alma mater Auburn, where he was teammates with Fisher's son Trent.

    Fisher has a long history of not drafting a top offensive tackle so early but he also has rarely been in position where he needs one. Adding one early in the 2014 draft would give the Rams a complement to Long and serve as a potential long-term replacement. Much of what the Rams do on the line could come as a result of what happens with Rodger Saffold in free agency.

    After offensive tackle, Weidl points to safety and strong-side linebacker as other key needs for the Rams. At safety, he mentions Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as a possible first-round choice and follows by naming one of my favorite players in college football, Florida State's LaMarcus Joyner, as an option past the first round.

    The Rams seem set on having T.J. McDonald in one of the safety spots moving forward but could use a playmaking type to complement him.

    As for the strong-side linebacker spot, Weidl mentions top prospects like UCLA's Anthony Barr, Buffalo's Khalil Mack and Alabama's C.J. Mosley. While the Rams are probably unlikely to bring back Jo-Lonn Dunbar to handle that spot again, they do have Ray Ray Armstrong in place and may continue to develop him in 2014. Either way, I don't view another linebacker as a serious need for the Rams, certainly not one to spend a high pick on given other needs. Dunbar and Will Witherspoon played only about half the snaps this season.

    Beyond that, the Rams could use help at cornerback and receiver. To this point, Snead has indicated the Rams are content with their current receiver group but that doesn't necessarily mean they are. At this time of year, teams are loathe to share too much information. If the Rams actually aren't interested in a potential top wideout such as Clemson's Sammy Watkins, they should be.

    Any interest in bolstering the receiver group or any other position will reveal itself further as we get closer to the draft in May.


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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    Jake Matthews/Greg Robinson , second round pick in the draft? Don't see it. Yes they are good, but they are not Orlando Pace good worthy of that high a pick.

    But the Rams need depth as well, since injury is just part of the NFL game. And pinning so much on one guy when you need several on the O-line, doesn't make sense. Saffold/Dahl are all question marks as to their future with the Rams. Now if the Rams can solve their FA woes on the O-line prior to the draft well ahead of time--then maybe. Still the injury bug has to factor into it with Long, and Saffold (if the Rams retain him).

    At number two in the draft, that is a solid spot to be in with so many teams hunting for that franchise QB and this year's draft having several possible QBs. I know a lot of teams are looking for that next Wilson/Capt. Kemp. to get on the cheaper 2nd/3rd rounds, yet are they available, and can the scouts find them is the issue there.

    In an ideal world trading back and picking up an extra 2nd and 3rd would suit the Rams better

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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post
    Jake Matthews/Greg Robinson , second round pick in the draft? Don't see it. Yes they are good, but they are not Orlando Pace good worthy of that high a pick.

    But the Rams need depth as well, since injury is just part of the NFL game. And pinning so much on one guy when you need several on the O-line, doesn't make sense. Saffold/Dahl are all question marks as to their future with the Rams. Now if the Rams can solve their FA woes on the O-line prior to the draft well ahead of time--then maybe. Still the injury bug has to factor into it with Long, and Saffold (if the Rams retain him).

    At number two in the draft, that is a solid spot to be in with so many teams hunting for that franchise QB and this year's draft having several possible QBs. I know a lot of teams are looking for that next Wilson/Capt. Kemp. to get on the cheaper 2nd/3rd rounds, yet are they available, and can the scouts find them is the issue there.

    In an ideal world trading back and picking up an extra 2nd and 3rd would suit the Rams better
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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post
    Jake Matthews/Greg Robinson , second round pick in the draft? Don't see it. Yes they are good, but they are not Orlando Pace good worthy of that high a pick.
    I agree with you that trading back would be a great option for the Rams, but I find the logic in the above quote to be very strange.

    The Rams can only draft the players available in this class; passing on guys because they aren't as good as guys who have gone high in the past just isn't very logical.

    Jake Long and Eric Fisher weren't Orlando Pace good as prospects either, but both went first overall in their respective classes.
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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    By the logic best in class or year, it would make the J. Smith pick by the Jets a homerun. Though I suspect the Jets wish they had their pick back. But really the Jets are a mess so I suppose its not a correct evaluation of who or what a team should draft. Jeno was in my eyes at best a 4th rounder and a project.

    Still what one team considered a high first round pick, doesn't mean the Rams ought to...Ryan Leaf was a first round pick too. But at some point you got to get your money's worth. If the Rams take Mathews for example, eventually it will come down to will the Rams pay him or not. Now if Mathews was an O. Pace, oh yah, you pay him and hopefully you can get 8-10 good years out of your choice. It will become the "Saffold" situation revisited in a few years--is Safforld worth the money or not, will the Rams release him and need to fill another hole. We have to wait and see how the "Saffold" question is answered.

    I'd Like to get Mathews or even Robinson, but as the second overall pick in 2014--nope. Its amazing how many talented players are spread throughout the league who where not drafted. Not saying the Rams will get its O-line that way, but talent is where you find it.

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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post
    I'd Like to get Mathews or even Robinson, but as the second overall pick in 2014--nope. Its amazing how many talented players are spread throughout the league who where not drafted. Not saying the Rams will get its O-line that way, but talent is where you find it.
    So if I understand you correct you're saying we shouldn't draft an OLineman in the 1st round because there have been quality starters for the OLine drafted in later rounds? If that's the case we should just trade all our early picks and own the 5th 6th and 7th rounds since you can get good players in those rounds. Hell Brady was a 6th. Josh Gordon was a 2nd in the supplemental lets not draft a WR except there. Cameron Wake was a UDFA lets never draft a pass rusher just sign free agents after the draft.

    Matthews is the best lineman in the draft, he would have been the #1 pick last year in a draft that saw what four or five tackles in the first round? He will come in and be able to start from day 1 at LT, RT or even one of the guards spots if we need him to.

    Also every draft pick becomes the Saffold situation. We get a rookie deal, now that the rookie cap is in place, then we have to decide to resign them for likely a pay raise or we draft a replacement or sign a FA replacement. For too long the Rams have tried to fix their OLine woes with over priced free agents and projects in the draft. J Smith was a project. Alex Barron was a project. It's time to draft the real deal again and make him a cornerstone of the franchise.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post
    Jake Matthews/Greg Robinson , second round pick in the draft? Don't see it. Yes they are good, but they are not Orlando Pace good worthy of that high a pick.

    But the Rams need depth as well, since injury is just part of the NFL game. And pinning so much on one guy when you need several on the O-line, doesn't make sense. Saffold/Dahl are all question marks as to their future with the Rams. Now if the Rams can solve their FA woes on the O-line prior to the draft well ahead of time--then maybe. Still the injury bug has to factor into it with Long, and Saffold (if the Rams retain him).

    At number two in the draft, that is a solid spot to be in with so many teams hunting for that franchise QB and this year's draft having several possible QBs. I know a lot of teams are looking for that next Wilson/Capt. Kemp. to get on the cheaper 2nd/3rd rounds, yet are they available, and can the scouts find them is the issue there.

    In an ideal world trading back and picking up an extra 2nd and 3rd would suit the Rams better
    You do get that a worthwhile trade might not present itself, right?

    So what then? Is there ANY player you think is worth the second pick in this draft?

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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    By the way, there have probably only been at most 5 left tackles in NFL history as good as Orlando Pace in his prime, but even that is probably stretching it.

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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    Jake Matthews/Greg Robinson , second round pick in the draft? Don't see it. Yes they are good, but they are not Orlando Pace good worthy of that high a pick.
    Of course he's not. But that's like not drafting a LB because he's not Lawrence Taylor good. Or not drafting a DE because he's not Deacon Jones good.

    But they absolutely are Eric Fisher, Luke Joekel, Lane Robinson, Matt Kalil, Trent Williams, Jake Long, Joe Thomas, D'brickashaw Ferguson, Levi Brown, Robert Gallery, Leonard Davis, Chris Samuels, etc. -good. All of which were a top 5 pick.
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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey View Post
    So if I understand you correct you're saying we shouldn't draft an OLineman in the 1st round because there have been quality starters for the OLine drafted in later rounds? If that's the case we should just trade all our early picks and own the 5th 6th and 7th rounds since you can get good players in those rounds. Hell Brady was a 6th. Josh Gordon was a 2nd in the supplemental lets not draft a WR except there. Cameron Wake was a UDFA lets never draft a pass rusher just sign free agents after the draft.

    Matthews is the best lineman in the draft, he would have been the #1 pick last year in a draft that saw what four or five tackles in the first round? He will come in and be able to start from day 1 at LT, RT or even one of the guards spots if we need him to.

    Also every draft pick becomes the Saffold situation. We get a rookie deal, now that the rookie cap is in place, then we have to decide to resign them for likely a pay raise or we draft a replacement or sign a FA replacement. For too long the Rams have tried to fix their OLine woes with over priced free agents and projects in the draft. J Smith was a project. Alex Barron was a project. It's time to draft the real deal again and make him a cornerstone of the franchise.
    Matthews wouldn't of been the first pick in last years draft. He wasn't even the best tackle on his team and doesn't possess the athletic ability Fisher or Johnson have. He might of been the fifth tackle taken last year.

    This years draft is just as deep and taking Matthews at #2 would be a reach.

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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    Quote Originally Posted by mcpeepants232003 View Post
    Matthews wouldn't of been the first pick in last years draft. He wasn't even the best tackle on his team and doesn't possess the athletic ability Fisher or Johnson have. He might of been the fifth tackle taken last year.

    This years draft is just as deep and taking Matthews at #2 would be a reach.
    In 2013, Matthews, coming off a season in which he played RT, probably would not have been one of the top 3 OTs taken.

    However, in 2014, coming off a season in which he played LT (to universal praise), he is certainly not a reach at #2.

    The operative question is whether Matthews in 2014 is a prospect on par with Fisher and Joekel in 2013. I'd say he is, and then some.

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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    Quote Originally Posted by mcpeepants232003 View Post
    Matthews wouldn't of been the first pick in last years draft. He wasn't even the best tackle on his team and doesn't possess the athletic ability Fisher or Johnson have. He might of been the fifth tackle taken last year.
    It's worth pointing out there are NFL executives who disagree with this, and did so even before Matthews completed his first season at LT this year.

    Quoting an anonymous personnel executive interviewed in September by NFL.com when asked which of the two Texas A&M tackles he preferred: "Matthews. He is a better athlete and he has a higher ceiling. He is also a better bender and has quicker feet."

    I don't know if he could have been the first OT taken, but he was a borderline Top 10 pick when it was undetermined that he would return to school. For instance, I had him mocked to San Diego @ 11 in my final mock before the underclassman deadline last year, above Eric Fisher at the time.
    Last edited by Nick; -01-13-2014 at 08:37 PM.

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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    All I am really saying Mathews really worth the kind of money you would pay a second pick? I don't think so. I am more on the side of 8th-10pick. That second round pick, if the Rams where looking, would get one of the top of the draft Class QBs. Now, would anyone want to pay serious coin for an O-line or a QB, and not get same value for your dollar?

    If the Rams REALLY want to spend money, there likely maybe a few equally good O-line Men in FA. Personally I'd like the good/elite players the Rams find like Quinn to play their best years in St Louis. Steven Jackson, sadly, spent his best football years in a Rams uniform, but his career is winding down--I just hope when he hangs up his helmet and retires, that he does so as a Rams

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post
    All I am really saying Mathews really worth the kind of money you would pay a second pick? I don't think so. I am more on the side of 8th-10pick. That second round pick, if the Rams where looking, would get one of the top of the draft Class QBs. Now, would anyone want to pay serious coin for an O-line or a QB, and not get same value for your dollar?

    If the Rams REALLY want to spend money, there likely maybe a few equally good O-line Men in FA. Personally I'd like the good/elite players the Rams find like Quinn to play their best years in St Louis. Steven Jackson, sadly, spent his best football years in a Rams uniform, but his career is winding down--I just hope when he hangs up his helmet and retires, that he does so as a Rams
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    Re: Wagoner: An early look at Rams' draft needs

    If a guy is at number two who you really like and can fill a need, you take him. You don't worry about whether or not he measures up to players taken in the past in that slot. If there is not a guy you are really overwhelmed by and the opportunity presents itself to trade down, you examine that possibility to fill multiple needs.

    Don't think for a second because we've been fortunate enough to hit on a couple of late round diamonds that we should be able to do that every year. If it were that easy, all teams would have successful drafts. You cannot always accurately target value in the later rounds.

    It's always fun to second guess past drafts and guys "you should've taken", but ultimately it's a foolish exercise. Most all of these NFL execs and scouts target the same guys in the early rounds of every draft. But aside from measurables, there is a lot of luck involved. Will the guy's ability translate to the NFL? Will he stay healthy? How about intangibles- heart, character, intensity? It's hardly an exact science, so if you feel strongly about a guy early, you grab him- and sink or swim with the choice.
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