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Gordon: Draft debate shifts almost daily
Draft debate shifts almost daily
By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Monday, Feb. 23 2009
On our live chats here at STLtoday.com, the NFL Draft questions began arriving
early last season. The Rams’ 2-14 free fall prompted fans to look forward to
Would the Rams lock in on massive Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith with
their first-round pick? That seemed like an excellent idea at the time, given
the advanced age of Orlando Pace and the inconsistency of Alex Barron.
Later, after this team locked up the second overall pick, the fan consensus
shifted toward playmaking Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree.
After watching Larry Fitzgerald carry the Cardinals to within inches of a Super
Bowl championship, fans wondered if the Rams would boost their aerial attack
with a big receiving target.
The Crabtree Camp started winning over your cyber-correspondent with that line
of reasoning, thanks to the unfortunate decline of high-salaried veteran Torry
Mizzou fans campaigned for Jeremy Maclin, who could boost the Rams offense AND
provide game-breaking kick return skills. Dante Hall offered only glimpses of
his old brilliance in that role the last two seasons, between leg injuries.
But the draft debate shifts almost daily. Although both Pace and Holt could
depart Rams Park as salary cap casualties, the local discussion has expanded
beyond Smith, Crabtree and Maclin.
Issues arose with all three players in recent days. The NFL Scouting Combine
reminded us why the draft is tricky business.
These are just young men, after all, and they are very human. Projecting their
future performance is an inexact science.
Andre Smith decided not to work out for the assembled scouts at the combine.
Then he left early and unannounced.
“If I had the chance to do it all over, I wouldn't have handled it the way I
did,” Smith said, according to an NFL news release. “I should have told my
group leader that I was leaving, and I didn't. I didn't mean to ruffle any
feathers or step on any toes. I didn't mean to grandstand anyone at the
combine. That was not my intention at all, and I apologize for my mistake.”
Smith can quell the rumbling with a strong showing at his March 11 pro day at
Alabama. If he shows up at the suitable weight and excels in the drills, he can
cement his standing as the top tackle available.
(Neither Eugene Monroe or Michael Oher put up impressive numbers on the weight
machines. Both have some catching up to do. Baylor’s Jason Smith, a workout
warrior, could leapfrog the whole bunch during the weeks ahead. The position is
deep in this draft, but muddled.)
Crabtree developed a couple of problems at Indy. First, he measured out two
inches shorter than he is listed -– 6-foot-1 instead of 6-3. This is a notable
difference, given the NFL’s hunger for big receiving targets.
Also, doctors diagnosed Crabtree with a stress fracture in his foot. He
described it as an “old injury” that doesn’t pain him, but it will nonetheless
require surgery. He is putting off the procedure until after he works out for
scouts at Texas Tech next month.
The sort of surgery Crabtree needs usually works without complications. Still,
teams must be very careful at the top of the draft.
Maclin didn’t run as fast as expected, failing to crack 4.4 seconds in the
40-yard dash. Then he suffered what appeared to be a minor knee injury, which
cut short his bid to dazzle scouts at the combine.
Now, as Jim Thomas notes elsewhere on the site, top linebacker prospect Aaron
Curry could become a bigger consideration for the Rams. He insists he could
play middle linebacker in a 4-3 alignment and inside linebacker in a 3-4 look.
Scouts generally agree, so he could be a nice fit for the Rams. Incumbent Will
Witherspoon would be more effective playing outside, and the free-agent class
of middle linebackers looks pretty thin.
Curry said and did all the right things at Indy. He presented himself well,
both on and off the practice field. He appeared ready to help right away.
Right now, Curry stock is trading high in Ram Nation. But what will next week
Stay tuned . . .
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