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  1. #1
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    Rams have plenty of choices available to them in NFL draft

    Rams have plenty of choices available to them in NFL draft
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Sunday, Jan. 25 2009

    The underclassmen have declared, and their names thrown into the hopper. The Senior Bowl has come and gone, and the NFL Scouting Combine is next up.

    For now, there is no clear-cut No. 1 in the 2009 NFL draft. But some names are working their way to the head of the class. Names that the Rams must time, test, interview, examine, discuss and otherwise sort through before making the No. 2 overall pick behind Detroit on April 25. It's only a $50 million investment.

    The two months of free agency that precede the draft could change the Rams' needs. But for now, what will it be at No. 2? Offensive tackle? Linebacker? Wide receiver? Or even, quarterback?

    At the moment, players at those positions appear most likely to occupy the top five to 10 spots on draft day.

    With left tackle Orlando Pace's great career winding down and right tackle Alex Barron completing another so-so season, you could make a case that offensive tackle is the Rams' greatest need. General manager Billy Devaney's oft-stated goal is making the Rams bigger, stronger, and more physical on both sides of the ball. What better place to start than the tackle position?

    "It's a big need position," said longtime scout Tom Marino, now an NFL analyst for Scout.com. "It's one of the three, four most critical positions around, that left tackle. And they've got to find one."

    Virginia's Eugene Monroe, Alabama's Andre Smith, and Mississippi's Michael Oher are all potential top 10 picks at the tackle spot. Oher was the only one of the three to participate in the Senior Bowl. Smith wasn't eligible to participate because he came out as an underclassmen.

    "As far as just pure athleticism, Oher's as good as there is in this draft," said an AFC personnel executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "But is he going to be tough enough? Is his heart going to be totally into football?"

    Monroe probably could have benefited from attending the Senior Bowl. He finishes blocks better than Oher, according to the AFC executive, and is more tenacious down field. "But there's still some reservations about his ability to maybe anchor a power rusher, or do those kinds of things," the executive said.

    As for Marino, if he was picking for the Rams and was told to pick a tackle, he'd go with Monroe. "This guy is by far the best of the offensive linemen," Marino said. "He's got great feet. He really understands the game. His pass protection is very good. He's got range. There's nothing I didn't like about him."

    And what of Smith, the 6-foot-4, 340-pound behemoth from Alabama? He was suspended for the Sugar Bowl, reportedly for improper dealings with a sports agent. No one questions his size, strength, and aggressiveness. But some wonder if he's quick enough in pass protection to be an NFL left tackle.

    "When you compare his feet to, say, the kid at Mississippi (Oher) or the kid at Virginia (Monroe) he's a tad below those guys when it comes to foot quickness and that sort of thing," the AFC executive said. "He's a grinder kind of offensive lineman. He's a guy that can lock on you, and he'll go ahead and finish you off."

    Saying that, Smith's skill set might make him better suited to a team with a power-running offense, or as a right tackle. But if that's the case, and Smith is indeed best suited to right tackle, it would not be wise to expend a No. 2 overall pick on that position.

    Similar logic comes into play at linebacker, where Rey Maualuga of Southern California and Aaron Curry of Wake Forest both could be top 10 picks. No one doubts Maualuga's ability to play the run, and provide a physical presence in the middle.

    But there are differing opinions by scouts on whether Maualuga will be good enough in coverage to be an every-down linebacker in the NFL.

    "You might think of him as a run stopper guy, but I thought he showed enough athleticism and everything (at the Senior Bowl) where he could probably be an every down player," said the AFC executive.

    But if you don't think that way, No. 2 overall is too high for a middle linebacker who's a run specialist.

    "Maualuga is pretty much an inside guy,'' said a veteran NFC scout. "And he's not real good in coverage. He's got physical tools, but you can get those guys (later in the draft)."

    Curry has excellent size (6-2, 246) and range. Although he hasn't received the hype of a Maualuga or a James Laurinaitis of Ohio State, many scouts rank him as a better NFL prospect.

    "Curry is real good," Marino said. "I mean, he is really, really good. He's going to play for a long time. To me, when he gets to baggage claim, he starts for them."

    In other words, Curry's an instant starter for whoever drafts him.

    "I love Curry," said the AFC executive. "I would be shocked if he's not one of the better linebackers in the league within a couple years."

    But from a Rams standpoint, because Curry isn't a middle linebacker, would it make sense for them to draft him? Particularly with Will Witherspoon scheduled to make the switch from the middle to weakside linebacker next season.

    Other defensive players that might be top-five or top-10 prospects are Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, Boston College nose tackle B.J. Raji and defensive ends Everette Brown of Florida State and Brian Orakpo of Texas.

    Even with the Rams' obvious needs at offensive tackle, the NFC scout would try to go for defense in the first round if he were calling the shots in St. Louis.

    "Their defense is so far down. I mean they're not even close to being good," the scout said.

    And what about the skill positions?

    At wide receiver, Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree projects as a top-five pick. Missouri's Jeremy Maclin and Florida's Percy Harvin could push their way into the top 15. Some think Maclin could even squeeze into the top 10.

    At quarterback, Matthew Stafford of Georgia and fast-rising Mark Sanchez of Southern Cal both have top 10 potential.

    "A guy like Crabtree would be a sexy pick," said the NFC scout. "He's a big-time down-the-field receiver. He'll come in and be good. He's legit. Just listening to the Rams' scouts, I guarantee you the people there are going to be pushing for Crabtree.

    "Which is the same thing that Matt Millen did for all those years (in Detroit). 'Hey, let's get the receiver.' What happens so many times is you want that big offensive playmaker."


  2. #2
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    Re: Rams have plenty of choices available to them in NFL draft

    I think that we already bypass the need for a defensive #2 pick by gaining Spag as head coach. Essentially, he should boost defensive efficiency exponentially in himself. So, I think we need to fortify our offensive line with Andre Smith. With this, we strengthen the running block, plus the pass protection. So technically, after the second pick in the draft, we could already have improved our team on all fronts. Gaining an amazing blocker, as well as strengthening our defensive unit with motivation and education / experience.

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    Re: Rams have plenty of choices available to them in NFL draft

    Quote Originally Posted by A-Web View Post
    I think that we already bypass the need for a defensive #2 pick by gaining Spag as head coach. Essentially, he should boost defensive efficiency exponentially in himself. So, I think we need to fortify our offensive line with Andre Smith. With this, we strengthen the running block, plus the pass protection. So technically, after the second pick in the draft, we could already have improved our team on all fronts. Gaining an amazing blocker, as well as strengthening our defensive unit with motivation and education / experience.
    I agree, and I think another point that needs to be made is that our defense is pretty young. Carriker, Ryan, Long, Bartell, Atogwe, Adeyanju are still going to get better before they get worse (hopefully). Just another season under the belt of a lot of those guys should make our defense better. And some of our biggest needs on defense (MLB, SS) can be plugged in with players we find late in the draft. We don't need Ray Lewis in the middle, we just need somebody who can tackle.

    Our offense, on the other hand, is aging and we need to get some fresh blood on there so we don't need to overhaul half our offense in 1-2 seasons. I hope we get a LT and center this year. Then in the next 2 years or so we'll still need a QB, RT, at least 1 guard probably, backup RB, 1-2 WRs and a TE.

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    Re: Rams have plenty of choices available to them in NFL draft

    I disagree. Orakpo is a beast and Raji is really impressive. I would have no problem with the Rams taking either of these two.

    The scout is right, this defense is nowhere near DECENT. Not good, DECENT.

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