Tuesday, April 25, 2006
John Papazoglow, Portland, Ore.: What do you suppose the chances are that the Rams might make a move to trade up to say the fifth or sixth pick to try to get AJ Hawk? Do you think the Rams interest in Hawk is strong enough to warrant such a move?
NW: There is no secret about the fact that the Rams have serious interest in some of the top players on the board and to get to those player, they will have to trade up. Hawk is at the top of that list. Aside from the fact that he would have an instant impact on the defense, he's a perfect fit for the Rams linebacker corps. There are three players the Rams would realistically move up to get and those players are Hawk, Texas' Michael Huff and Maryland's Vernon Davis. But to get up high enough to get Hawk, who will likely go in the top five, the Rams will have to give up a lot. The trade value chart says it would take at least a second round pick in additon to the 11th spot, but this top five is going to be difficult to crack because the draft is so top heavy. This is a realistic possibility, but any move up the board wouldn't be made until the day of the draft when things begin to unfold.
Edward Schwab, Keithville, Louis.: Much has been mentioned about Ram interest in Vince Young's play making ability and his appeal in the draft. There was a similar player at Missouri, Brad Smith, who, though not of Young's pedigree, has demonstrated play making ability. If the Rams would be interested in taking Young, if available at pick #ll, what about considering Smith in round 3 if available? True, he may not be a blue chip quarterback pick, but he certainly fits the role Randle El played in Pittsburgh -- and who knows how his quarterback skills could develop with a good NFL quarterback coach?
NW: Brad Smith is an intriguing prospect because of his athletic talent. I have seen that talent up close on a number of occasions and know exactlty what he is capable of. He is certainly no Young, but Smith does have similar athleticism. He doesn't have the accuracy or arm that Young has. Smith has said he wants to be a quarterback in the NFL, but it isn't likely that his skills translate to the position. Rather, Smith is a better fit as a wide receiver or safety in the NFL. In fact, a few NFC scouts have told me that they like Smith better as a safety than receiver. Because of the local interest in Smith, there are plenty that would like to see the Rams add Smith. The problem with taking him in the third round is that the Rams have much more serious needs than adding another receiver, especially one that has never played the position before. From what I understand there is legitimate interest in Smith, but it just doesn't make much sense to grab him unless it was the fifth or sixth round. Smith should be long gone by then.
Allen Bluiett, Florissant, Mo.: Nick, my wife (Teresa)and I are big Rams fans. We are wondering if the Rams draft defense on the first round. Which tight end would you consider in the 2nd round?
NW: This is a popular question because it seems the Rams won't have much of a chance to draft Davis. With the 14th pick in the second round, there is a real chance that tight end will be the selection. Assuming Davis is the only tight end gone by the time the Rams come back on the clock (which probably won't be the case), this is what I believe is the way the Rams look at the tight ends. While many tout Leonard Pope (myself included), the fact is that he is almost too big to play tight end. He has trouble bursting out of his stance and getting leverage to be an impact blocker. He is a big target and nice to have in the red zone, but not a big favorite of some coaching staffs because of his immense size. Two names to remember that the Rams would have serious interest in should they be available in the second round: Colorado's Joe Klopfenstein and UCLA's Marcedes Lewis. Notre Dame's Anthony Fasano is also a consideration.
Ken Pavloff, Saratoga, Calif.: The Rams plan on selecting the BPA with their first pick. Assuming that the player selected at #11 is a defensive player, do you feel that whoever the player is, he will probably be expected to become an instant starter and major contributor on this 30th ranked D?
NW: There's no doubt that whoever the Rams draft (with the exception of a quarterback) would be expected to come in and contribute right away. As you said, any defensive player added will need to contribute right away, but it wouldn't necessarily be an instant starter. For instance, if the Rams take a defensive tackle such as Brodrick Bunkley, he would be expected to be a part of the rotation at tackle, but he would like be a backup to La'Roi Glover and Jimmy Kennedy. Either way, this defense needs impact players so having to wait around for someone to contribute would be a major disappointment.
Johann Bodell, Pitea, Sweden: How good is this year's draft class of corners if you compare them with the 2005 draft class. Are Cromartie, Jennings, Huff and Williams at the same level as Pacman Jones, Antrel Rolle and Carlos Rodgers? And do you think that Rams 2 round pick last year Ron Bartell will step up and make a diffrence?
NW: The class as a whole this year is much deeper than last year, but it isn't quite as strong at the top. Of this year's group, only Huff projects as a top 10 pick. Rogers, Rolle and Jones were all top 10 picks a year ago. But after those three, the class was considerably weaker. With Huff, Williams, Tye Hill, Cromartie, Johnathan Joseph and Richard Marshall, among others, there could be six or seven corners going in the first round. As for Bartell, he improved considerably as the year went along and is in good physical shape. With his size and athleticism, Bartell has the potential to be a top tier player. but he needs to find a permanent home either at corner or safety. He should be better than a year ago, which means he should make a difference. Still, let's give him time and wait and see how he performs in the preseason before we pass any judgments.
Taylor Bachmeier, Portland, Ore.: I would like to see the Rams make a run at the CB Antonio Cromartie. He has tremendous potential and could be the steal of the draft. I know 11 is probably too high of a risk for him here, but if he lasts past the 20th pick say, could the Rams trade for another first round selection and take him there? Should they?
NW: Taylor, I'm glad you brought him up because I believe he is one of the most interesting prospects in this year's draft. In fact, I was having a conversation with Jim Thomas and Howard Balzer (two of the most knowledgeable football guys in town) about Cromartie. We all agreed that he would have been a top five-seven pick had he not been injured last year at Florida State. In every sense of the word, I believe he is the best pure cornerback in the draft. Yes, he is a risk because he is coming off injury, but I believe the long-term reward would outweigh the risk. I think your scenario is plausible, but the more I think about it, should the top guys all be gone when the Rams pick at No. 11, I would consider Cromartie there. That might sound crazy, but again, he's as much of a sure thing as many of the others being talked about there. Cromartie has great size and talent, there's no doubt that whatever team grabs him will have a good player on their hands. Things worked out well for Buffalo when it took Willis McGahee coming off an injury and Cromartie has had much more time to rehab than McGahee did at that time.
Steven Moore, Bowling Green, Mo.: The Rams' guards arn't getting any younger and I'd like to see them take one in the second or third rounds of the draft. Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia; Davin Joseph,Oklahoma; and Taitusi Lutui,USC; would all be good picks. Which ones of these would be the best fit? Who do you see the Rams taking at Guard (if any)and why?
NW: In my mind, the interior line is a serious need that needs to be addressed at some point in the draft. Richie Incognito and Claude Terrell still have the potential for bright futures, but Andy McCollum and Adam Timmerman aren't getting any younger and the depth is inexperienced. To get any of the guys you mention, the Rams would have to pick one in the second round. That isn't likely to happen with the other needs this team has. Of the group you mentioned, I like Lutui the best, but Joseph might be the best fit because of his athleticism and ability to move in space. However, I believe this position won't be addressed until the third round at the earliest, meaning that trio will be gone. One name to remember, though, is another USC guard Fred Matua. Some believe Matua will be better than Lutui and he could be had in the fourth round or so.
Jim Kelleher, Dubuque, Iowa: Do you really think the rams are thinking at all about offense with the 11th pick of the draft? I just cannot see that, being that their defense was terrible last year. Don't you think they should take the best defensive player on the board with the 11th pick?
NW: The thought of taking offense at No. 11 is limited to two positions. One is a quarterback and the other is a tight end. From what I gather, there are only two players that would cause the Rams to select offense there: Vernon Davis and Vince Young. Yes, Jay Cutler is a possibility, but I don't believe the Rams are as high on him as they are Young. Players like Young and Davis are just too intriguing to pass on at No. 11. There was a natural reaction to cry for defense right after the season because of the struggles last year, but there have been moves made that make taking a Young or a Davis more realistic. However, if they can't get Young or Davis, I definitely believe the best defensive player approach is the best and the one most likely to be implemented.
That's all for this week. Enjoy the draft everyone.