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  1. #1
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    Wagoner: Rams Ready for Difficult Decision

    Rams Ready for Difficult Decision
    Friday, April 24, 2009
    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    NEW YORK – As Billy Devaney sat before the assembled media on Monday to discuss tomorrow’s NFL Draft, he was asked how to weigh and discern who the best player in the draft is and how the Rams play the best player available versus a player at a position of need.

    Devaney quickly went into a baseball analogy and weighing the options of swinging for the fences and a home run against taking the sure thing with a nice double and a run batted in. Such are the tough decisions a general manager and his staff must make when they hold the second pick in the draft.

    “We’re going to be aggressive if it calls to be aggressive,” Devaney said. “If it turns out we just stand pat and use all our picks and don’t maneuver up or down, we’re going to do what’s best for the Rams. We’re open to every possibility. We want to come out of this with a bunch of players that come in and make us a better football team and whatever that takes, we’re willing to do.”

    But Devaney was quick to add that he didn’t believe his team was in a position to take a risk.

    “I think we’re kind of in agreement that we’re at the point where we want to bring in good solid people, I don’t think we’re in a position to swing for the fences right now,” Devaney said.

    Fortunately for the Rams, the players under consideration for that second spot come with little risk. Instead, they all have perceived flaws that may or may not be based in reality.

    By now, it appears the Rams have narrowed the field to Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe, Baylor tackle Jason Smith, USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry with the first three out front.

    All except for Sanchez are in New York for the draft but none of the other three had much of an idea of what the Rams were thinking in terms of potentially drafting one of them.

    By now, the common assumption is that the Rams will go with Monroe or Smith when all is said and done. That makes sense because the team’s greatest need is at the tackle position after it parted ways with Orlando Pace earlier in the offseason.

    With Pace gone, the only true tackle the Rams have under contract is Alex Barron. That makes Smith and Monroe a common pick among draft pundits filling out their mock drafts.

    If indeed tackle is the way the Rams choose to go, the debate then becomes which one?

    Monroe and Smith are the same size at 6’5, 309 pounds but come from extremely different backgrounds.

    Coming out of high school, Monroe was considered one of the nation’s best prospects while Smith was a tight end with no experience playing tackle.

    Now, Monroe is regarded as the most polished offensive tackle prospect with the ability to step in right away and be an outstanding pass blocker right away. And though he’s considered the most polished prospect, some say it like it’s a negative.

    “I don’t think that being the most polished or most ready to play is a cap on someone’s upside at all,” Monroe said on Friday. “It’s just maybe that their opinion of me is that I am further along in my ability at this point when it comes to maybe technique but it shouldn’t be a knock at all.”

    Monroe’s pedigree is so strong that teams have searched far and wide to find flaws with him. Monroe has spent the better part of the past few months answering questions about an injury that happened long ago.

    “I had a knee injury my freshman year in spring ball and I played three seasons with no issues,” Monroe said. “I am not worried about it. I don’t know why people are talking about it exactly. I am not listening. I worked out well, nothing that I have done. I don’t know. I am just waiting on Saturday. Whatever questions, I have hopefully answered already.”

    For his part, Smith is considered the better run blocker, the type of tackle who has the attitude and nasty streak that coaches absolutely love.

    As a former tight end, Smith also brings quick feet and athleticism. But some scouts question whether Smith can make the transition to playing with his hand in the dirt after standing up at tackle in Baylor’s spread offense the past three years.

    And though Monroe is almost criticized for his being too polished, Smith hears constantly how he has all this potential like he couldn’t make an impact right away.

    “If you are a confident person and you have confident preparation in yourself you don’t worry about things like that,” Smith said. “I know in my mind I am ready. Now in the coach’s mind or technique, am I? I don’t know. The only thing I can control is my attitude.”

    All of that said, how would Smith separate himself from the other tackles, Monroe and Mississippi’s Michael Oher? He says he wouldn’t because it’s not up to him to decide.

    “Obviously, you would look at all of us and say those guys are tier 1 tackles,” Smith said. “Can I make the decision on who is the best? In my mind, when I go to sleep every night, I know who I think is the best. Eugene knows who he thinks is the best. Michael knows who he thinks is the best. For me to stand here and say one way or the other, it’s a bald faced lie because we are all tier 1 tackles. We are all capable of doing the same thing. We are just different people.”

    Should the Rams opt to not go with one of those people, they have other excellent options in Curry and Sanchez.

    It’s widely held that Curry is the best defender in the draft, a player capable of playing any of the linebacker spots and the type of guy that can be a leader for years to come.

    Much like Monroe, Curry has been tagged as a polished player who is the “safest” prospect in the draft. Curry doesn’t mind that label, though.

    “I love it,” Curry said. “That tells every team in the NFL that whoever ends up with me, they have nothing to worry about. They don’t have to worry about me blowing their money, they don’t have to worry about any problems in their locker room and that I will always represent their team and organization very well.”

    Even Curry comes with his share of detractors. Many pundits and wanna be pundits say Curry is the best player in the draft, the only guy who doesn’t have any chinks in his armor.

    Still, the teams that pick at the top of the draft and many of those same experts wonder whether a linebacker is worthy of being picked so high and getting such a big contract, especially a linebacker who doesn’t have a track record as a pass rusher.

    “Every time I think about that question, I say to go back every year and watch Ray Lewis play,” Curry said. “Watch Brian Urlacher play, watch Derrick Brooks play. And see the effect they have on their team, not just the defense but the team in general. Ray Lewis takes great care of the Ravens because he is a great leader. Same with Brian Urlacher and Derrick Brooks. Where would those franchises be without those players? If people were to go back and study that and remove those players from the program, they wouldn’t be complete. It takes a special kind of linebacker to put in the middle of the defense or on the outside of a defense. Guys like that, who I look up to and try to emulate, if you remove them from that franchise, where would it be?”

    Many of those leadership qualities that teams see in Curry, they also see in Sanchez. Sanchez is known as a “gym rat” with an affinity for watching film and doing all of the things that make him and his teammates better.

    And while Sanchez has experience in a pro style offense, he also hasn’t had much of a sample size after playing just one full season as the starter for the Trojans.

    When all is said and done, anything could happen when the Rams come on the clock tomorrow. After months of anticipation, the decision remains difficult. But the wait is almost over.


  2. #2
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    Re: Wagoner: Rams Ready for Difficult Decision

    Okay, y'all know I am a "Curryite", but if I can't get him, then put me on the Smith bandwagon. Heard him a couple days ago on some sports show and like the tenacity. So, my preferences in order are CURRY, and if I can't have the best MLB the Rams will ever have, then Smith. Anyone else and I will start questioning someone's sanity.
    This space for rent...

  3. #3
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    Re: Wagoner: Rams Ready for Difficult Decision

    c'mon Rams lets wrap up Curry while yall have the chance..

  4. #4
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    Re: Wagoner: Rams Ready for Difficult Decision

    DeVaney said he wants to get big and push people around for a change. I think he'll go in the direction of Monroe. If the only question is getting the guy to finish off plays i'm sure Spags will motivate the guy to move mountains. This year offensive line is where the draft starts for the Rams.

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