By Jim Thomas
Sunday, Apr. 23 2006

The Rams brought in Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler for a pre-draft visit two weeks
ago. On Sunday, they dispatched offensive coordinator Greg Olson and
quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier to Houston to meet and have dinner with Vince
Young of Texas.

And even though there were plenty of other Southern Cal players working out
besides Matt Leinart, head coach Scott Linehan went to Los Angeles at the
beginning of April for the Trojans' pro day.

The Rams aren't serious about taking a QB if one of the Big 3 slipped to No. 11
in the first round - are they?

"Very serious," Linehan said Sunday. "You look at that group that's there. ...
I think it's obvious, there's three right there that are worthy of picking.

"Because it's still about the player. Whether you like it or not, or it makes
sense on paper and all that, it's hard to get your hands on players that can be
great in this business. And if we feel strongly enough about one of those
(quarterbacks) and he's there - for whatever reason he falls - then I think
there's a big possibility we'll take one of them. And I'm not just saying that
to throw out a smokescreen."

It may not get to that anyway. In almost every mock draft, Young and Leinart
are gone before the Rams pick in the first round. In a few mocks, Cutler has
been available.

Linehan has made no secret of his admiration for Young, calling him a "phenom,"
and "one of the most exciting players to come out in recent memory."

It is unclear if Linehan feels that strongly about Leinart or Cutler. But as
unlikely as it seems for Young to be on the board at No. 11, if he's still
there, the Rams probably take him.

Keep in mind, none of this quarterback speculation appears to be a reflection
of how Linehan feels about Marc Bulger. In fact, Linehan came away from his
first minicamp as Rams head coach giving Bulger high marks.

"He's everything we thought he was, but probably quite a bit more when it comes
to a lot of the intangibles," Linehan said. "The thing you don't notice on film
is how cool the guy is. ... He's really got a calm personality.

"And that's maybe one of the best - if not the best trait - you can have in a
quarterback. He's obviously got to make plays. But there's no anxiety out there
when Marc's in that huddle. That's a big thing."

With the draft now less than a week away, Linehan didn't have the time to make
the trip himself to Houston to visit Young. The Rams do the final stacking of
their draft board today and Tuesday, and Linehan will be heavily involved in
that process.

As to who the Rams will pick at No. 11, Linehan didn't have the answer on

"I don't know who that's going to be," Linehan said. "I honestly don't. There's
about 18,000 scenarios that could happen."

But once again, Linehan said the Rams will stress value over need, particularly
early in the draft.

"There are very few exceptions where you say that this is one (highest-rated)
player we can't draft," Linehan said. "We can't draft this guy because it's not
going to help our team now; it's not an optimal position to develop that guy."

Whether it's trading up or down, Linehan said the Rams will explore all
possibilities to improve the team. But with no extra picks until the seventh
round - where the team has two compensatory selections - the Rams don't really
have the means to move up.

Trading down for an extra pick or two assumes there's a player someone else
just has to have at No. 11. The only situation that might lend itself to
trading down is if one of the three quarterbacks is still on the board.

"Those possibilities usually never come up till just about the time you're
about ready to make your pick," Linehan said. "Because nobody's showing their
hand right now."

As for trading up, Linehan concedes there's some difference-makers at the top
of the board, but adds: "This isn't fantasy football. It's still about making a
good decision. We all want to have the Reggie Bushes of the world on our
football team, but it's reality."