Nick's Mailbag: Saturday
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Nickís Mailbag Ė Saturday, February 23, 2008
INDIANAPOLIS Ė

Robert Zemojtel

Please tell me that the rams are going to sure up the OL through free agency and concentrate on the defense through the draft! Dorsey from LSU would be awesome!

NW: As I wrote about yesterday, the offensive and defensive lines are, without question, the Rams top priority entering this offseason. The Rams have needs all across the offensive line and the defensive line needs anyone that can get after the passer. As I wrote on Friday, the Rams have little cap room so they are going to have to make some moves if they want to be active in free agency. It appears the best plan of action for now would be to sign an interior offensive lineman in free agency, draft a top defensive lineman in round one and grab a top offensive tackle in round two. Given the level of talent at those positions in free agency and the draft and the Ramsí limited cap space, that plan would make a lot of sense. As for Dorsey, the Rams are very high on him.


Don Cummings

Are the Rams looking for a new punter? Thanks for your time.

NW: I know it was hard to notice last year because so many things were going wrong, Don, but punter Donnie Jones had the best season of any St. Louis Rams punter since the team moved to the city and set several franchise records along the way. The Rams have a lot of needs, but punter isnít one of them. Finally.


Rey Garcia

How do the Rams plan to address the o-line through the combine and or free agency?

NW: See above for a piece of this answer, but the Rams have this as priority numero uno. Most likely, the team will look to add a veteran for the interior of the line (preferably at center) in free agency then pick up some help at tackle early in the draft and some developmental help at guard in a later rounds. Though I wouldnít personally be opposed to them going defensive line in round one then spending say three of their next four picks on offensive linemen with a receiver mixed in. Some names to keep an eye on in free agency: Indianapolis G Jake Scott , Tennessee G Jacob Bell , Kansas City C Casey Wiegmann, New Orleans C Jeff Faine.


Gus Alvarez

Are there any free agents that are interested in the Rams? If so, who?

NW: Every free agent is interested in the Rams so long as the check has the proper amount of zeros on it. Free agency has gotten so diluted by the inflated salary cap and the number of franchise tags being thrown around that there are very few quick fixes available. So, what will happen is just like in baseball. Players that arenít worth mega millions will get monster contracts not based on what theyíve done or what they could do, but instead because they are the best of a bad lot. Thatís why you hear Billy Devaney and Scott Linehan constantly talking about building through the draft and thatís why President John Shaw told me in December that the teamís top priority is improving draft day performance.


John Hermann

Nick,

I have been a Rams fan since 1973. I have seen many great victorious moments, but also experienced some disappointments. It is obvious that the Rams need help on both sides of the line. With the interior the issue, I sincerely hope the Rams focus on the defense, preferably Chris Long (or Glenn Dorsey). I know Jake Long is impressive, but the O-line could recover because of the extraordinary number of injuries last season, even with an aging Pace. Do you agree? One other question: What is your take on Lofton from Oklahoma ? He could be a steal in the later rounds.

NW: John, itís clear your years of being a fan have allowed you to build tremendous insight into whatís going on. I couldnít agree with you more. Thereís no doubt the team needs help on both lines, Linehan said as much on Friday. But I think we all saw just how much a tremendous pass rush from the front four can elevate a team. The Giants gave everyone the blueprint and reminded us all why a great defense will beat a great offense every time. Every indication I get is that the Rams will go defense with that first pick. Jake Long is not out of the question and a trade down brings a variety of things into play but if they stand pat, I think thereís an excellent chance Dorsey could be the guy. Devaney talked a bit about Chris Long on Friday (check out my feature later on Chris Long for some of Devaneyís thoughts on him) and while he loves the kidís work ethic and motor, it doesnít sound like heís as high on him as Dorsey. However, I think Long is growing on the Rams and a good workout here this week could boost his stock even more. Again, itís the season of misinformation, but Iím not sure the Rams value any defensive player more than Dorsey.

As for Lofton, he is one of my favorite players in this draft and I have a strong feeling that he wonít be around in the later rounds. In fact, I have him projected to go in round one and I wouldnít be surprised if he climbs into the middle third of that round. I watched Lofton work as a one man wrecking crew against my beloved Missouri Tigers twice this season and Iím convinced there isnít a better inside Ďbacker in the draft. If heís around in round two, Iíd give plenty of thought to adding him to the mix. Letís play make believe for a moment. What if the Rams draft Chris Long in round one and Lofton is on the board in round two. You grab Lofton and you decide at that moment you want to go to a 3-4. Think about a front three of Long, Clifton Ryan in the middle and Adam Carriker with Pisa Tinoisamoa and Leonard Little as your outside Ďbackers and Lofton and Witherspoon in the middle. Thatís a versatile, strong and athletic group. Again, itís far fetched, but itís fun to think about on paper.


Ed Reitz

It seems to me that Peyton Hillis would be a great addition - outstanding blocker, better than average runner, great receiver...great work ethic and unselfish....What do you think?

NW: I believe Hillis is the best fullback in the draft, but Iím not sure if heís that hammer type of fullback that opens big holes for his running backs. Heís a good blocker and a versatile guy, but heís also a little more of a runner than a blocker and is similar to Brian Leonard in a lot of ways. I wouldnít be against grabbing him in the later rounds, but heís not necessarily a major need.


Donald Perkins

Since the Rams have the second pick in the draft. It is almost certain that the value of the pick will cost the Rams. How do the dollars spent count toward the salary cap. Whether the selection is defensive or offensive line is the value the same. What was paid for Joe Thomas last year will cost the Rams more. Where do they get the money and does it mean that more veterans will be cut from the team?

NW: Every team accounts for the dollars it will have to spend on draft picks before going into free agency so it knows how much it can spend on free agents and contract extensions. To get to your point, yes, it doesnít matter if itís an offensive lineman, defensive lineman or punter. The draft dollars are handed out based on a slotting system done by the agents. So, letís say the No. 1 pick and the No. 3 pick are signed for a certain amount of money, the No. 2 pick will come in somewhere in between. Generally, quarterbacks command more money than other positions, but the fact remains that no agent worth his salt will allow a pick to make less money than someone drafted below him. As for cutting veterans from the team, as I wrote on Friday, thereís no doubt the team is going to have to make some moves in that vein to free up some dollars.


Justin Me

What's your take on OSU DE Vernon Gholston? Is it just me or doesn't he seem like a bigger, stronger, Leonard Little?

NW: I know there is a growing sentiment out there for Gholston, but I still have my doubts. Thereís no doubt that when heís at his best, heís the best pure pass rusher in the draft. He comes as the whole package in terms of measurables and athleticism, but I have watched quite a few of his games and his effort level seems to come and go. If you could put Chris Longís motor into Gholstonís body, you would have a slam dunk No. 1 pick. I do like the fact that Gholston shows up for the big games, though. He was one of two guys to beat Jake Long for a sack. The other question is whether heís an every down end in a 4-3 or a stand up, Terrell Suggs type in a 3-4. Iím not against Gholston; I just think he has more to prove before he becomes a surefire top pick.


Jeff Freed

Nick, what kind of safeties and inside linebackers look like they will be viable players coming out of round 2-4?

NW: Unfortunately, these two positions are fairly weak this year, Jeff. I would like to see the Rams grab a safety to develop to replace Corey Chavous in a year, but Iím not sure anyone in this draft has eventual starter potential. There are some guys that could be solid depth and good special teams guys like LSUís Craig Steltz, but I donít know that many of them have long range potential as starters. Miami ís Kenny Phillips and North Carolina State ís DaJuan Morgan are the best safeties in the draft. Both could potentially fall to round two where they would deserve consideration but after that duo, thereís a certain drop off. Inside linebacker is a similar story after Lofton. Of course, the Rams are in good shape at that position with Witherspoon and Chris Draft as a backup.


Robert Andersson

Hey, I think Gholston will provide more of a pass rush compared to Long and also be a solid every down DE. Is there anyway the Rams grab him at No. 2 or do we need a trade down? Would love a trade with Jets and have Vilma and Gholston next year but would like him with a trade for just an extra 2nd round pick, or no trade down at all.

NW: I wouldnít count on a trade such as the one proposed. The Rams will consider trade down options, but Iím not sure Vilma would be the answer and my understanding is that any discussions for making a deal for Vilma are premature. As for Gholston, he might be a better speed rusher than Chris Long, but that doesnít mean heís the best. Look at the top three pass rushers in the league last year. Patrick Kerney, Aaron Kampman and Jared Allen are outstanding at getting to the quarterback, but none qualify as typical speed edge rushers. A guy like Long gets after the quarterback with a relentless rush and outstanding technique. Kampman, Kerney, Allen and someone like Kyle Vanden Bosch have had similar success with that method. If the Rams decided Gholston is the guy, thereís no doubt a trade down would likely come first.


Sean Boyer

What are the odds of the rams trading Pace and Bruce to Cincy for Chad Johnson?

NW: About as good as the odds of me starting at quarterback next season.


Al Trinidad

Have the Rams put the franchise tag on any player? I have been seeing a lot of teams declaring this but nothing about the Rams.

NW: Al, the Rams have no unrestricted free agents worth tagging this season. The only one that would even draw consideration is linebacker Brandon Chillar and Chillar would be more likely to get a transition tag.


Kyle Feltes

Could the rams get a 2008 1st round pick for Orlando Pace? And if so, would they draft Chris Long with their first pick, and then pick up either Jake Long, Sedrick Ellis, or a top tier LB?

NW: Thereís no chance the Rams would get a No. 1 pick for a guy who has played nine games in the past two seasons. When healthy, Pace is still in the top tier of left tackles, but he hasnít been healthy in two years. Itís not likely the team will have two first rounders this year unless they give up next yearís No. 1 and then some.


Jon Black

Since St. Louis has the second pick in the draft and is guaranteed a chance at grabbing the very best player at the defensive end or linebacker position, two positions that over the past few years are a problem, why would they be crazy enough to even think about trading down in the draft?

NW: The same reason most teams would consider trading down from such a lofty position: needs. The Rams have plenty of needs across the board and a trade down opportunity would allow them to fill more of those needs and add talent across the board. The only way itís crazy to make a trade is if you are moving so far down you take the top guys out of play. For instance, Mel Kiper Jr. believes there are six players a cut above the rest in this draft. If you move down beyond No. 6, you are taking yourself out of getting an impact player under Kiperís scenario. Personally, I think they should stand pat at No. 2 because that ensures they get one of the best players in the draft, but you have to be open to improving your team and trade down scenarios could yield the best opportunity to do just that.


Taylor Buck

So I was looking at some mock drafts and found one that at first seems ridiculous, but possibly makes sense. It had the Rams taking Vernon Gholston the DE and passing on Dorsey and Long. Now that seems ridiculous, but Gholston is a lock for the top 10 and if he has a good combine his stock could shoot up. From what I gather he could be the "freak" of this years' combine putting up crazy speed and strength numbers. Plus this guy is definitely the pass-rushing end the Rams need and could be put to fill in at OLB when the Rams go 3-4, which sounds like Haslett loves. What do you think about this guy and if not at the 2 spot could they trade down to say the 5 and take him? Should they?

NW: I spoke at length about Gholston above, but allow me to add something here. I am always wary of guys that are the ďfreaksĒ of the combine. There have been many tales of guys coming here, putting on a show and looking great in their skivvies but never becoming much in the NFL. Mike Mamula is just one example of that type of guy. Again, I think Gholston is a top 10 pick, but I donít think heís a No. 2 pick and I donít know how well he fits what the Rams are doing. Chris Long does fit and seems to be growing on the Rams.


Cary Sherrow

It's painfully obvious that the Rams need a defensive end that can pass rush and a speedy wide receiver that can stretch the field. Is there anyone in the draft that fits the receiver need?

NW: The receiver position is one of the most curious in the draft. Nobody really stands out. The guys with speed struggle with catching the ball and the guys that catch the ball arenít as fast. Take Houston ís Donnie Avery as an example. He can run all day, but his hands are questionable (or at least they were at the Senior Bowl). Some guys I like with top end speed that could be considerations in the second or third round: Indiana ís James Hardy, Kansas State ís Jordy Nelson , California ís Lavelle Hawkins , Virginia Techís Eddie Royal and Michigan State ís Devin Thomas.

I think Michigan ís Mario Manningham, California ís DeSean Jackson and Texas í Limas Sweed are the best wideouts in the draft, but I think all three will go in round one.


Donald Perkins

With the second pick in the draft the Rams should have a good chance to select either Jake or Chris Long. Considering the offensive line problems last year are the Rams leaning toward the offense line as their first priority in the draft.

NW: Iím going to take the cop out answer and apologize for it, Donald. I think the offensive line and defensive line as it stands are the top priorities for this team. Now, if you ask me again in April, we will know what the Rams did in free agency and we can know what the top priority between the two would be for the draft. I tend to think as of now the Rams favor going defensive line with the first pick.


Thatís all for today. Thanks for all the great questions and be sure to keep firing away as Iíll be back for more tomorrow.