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Rams weighing options for draft ..
BY JIM THOMAS
Thursday, February 23, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS • Will the Rams trade down or stay put? And if they stay at No. 2 overall, will it be wide receiver Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State, offensive tackle Matt Kalil from Southern California, or a wild-card pick?
The draft is still two months away, but the Rams delve into those questions and more this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Even before Les Snead was officially introduced as general manager Feb. 14, he and coach Jeff Fisher had begun talking about the No. 2 pick in the draft.
"We realize there are many options with that pick," Snead said. "We will be well-prepared to take advantage of any option presented, whether it's trading the pick or picking a player at that (No. 2) pick."
Over the next six days, preliminary trade discussions may take place at the combine with quarterback-needy teams about trading down from No. 2. No matter what, the Rams will take a long look at Blackmon and Kalil.
"As far as Blackmon is concerned, I think you have to look at him a little bit like Larry Fitzgerald a few years ago," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said, referring to the Arizona receiver. "Which is, I don't think (Blackmon) is gonna run a great 40. He's gonna run a 4.5 or a 4.52, somewhere in there.
"And I think you have to say that's OK. He's big. He's physical. He's got tremendous body control, and tremendous ball skills. So I don't think you're going to see a guy that wows you with vertical speed, but his body control, hands, ability to catch the football are exceptional."
Early indications are that Blackmon plans to run at the combine, which Mayock views as a no-lose proposition. Even if Blackmon runs a slower-than-expected time in Indy, he'll get another chance at Oklahoma State's pro day March 9.
"If Blackmon comes out there and runs 4.48 (at the combine), he doesn't even have to worry about running at his pro day," Mayock said. "He can just concentrate on running routes and getting ready to catch the football."
Entering the combine, that's seems to be the only question about Blackmon — how fast will he run?
As for Kalil, the Rams, at least on paper, would get a ready-made NFL pass blocker.
"Kalil is a wonderfully gifted left tackle," Mayock said. "He's got great feet. Long arms, and he fits the bill for the athleticism you look for in an All-Pro left tackle. What he doesn't have yet is the core strength that you're going to look for that he'll have two or three years from now. Every once in a while he gets bull-rushed, once in a while at the point of attack he's going to struggle."
But the draft doesn't end with the No. 2 pick, and the Rams have needs almost across the board. Snead, Fisher and executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff have been together for less than two weeks, but Snead and Demoff already have a good idea of the type of player Fisher prefers.
After all, following 16-plus seasons as an NFL head coach, Fisher has a track record.
"He's going to want someone who's physical, who's tough, that plays fast, obviously," Demoff said. "Bigger running backs have been his style; bigger offensive linemen. But I think one of the things, and we talked about this at Jeff's (introductory) press conference, he's been able to adapt and win with a lot of different types of players."
Beyond the talent evaluation, Snead and Fisher both say the two most important aspects of the combine are the medical information and player interviews.
"We will have a game plan for each individual player," Snead said. "When we go in and interview those players as an organization, what do we want to get out of that 15 minutes?"
Like all NFL teams, the Rams are allowed to interview up to 60 players in their team suite. Those interviews can last no longer than 15 minutes. But between now and the time the combine wraps up Tuesday, someone from the Rams' coaching staff, scouting department, or front office will interview just about every one of the more than 300 draft prospects in attendance.
"It's not just the 15-minute 60-(player) max interviews," Fisher said. "What's more important is the opportunity to go spend some time with a player outside of that interview room. They get pretty good at answering questions. That's No. 1, and secondly is the medical information the medical staff gets."
With more than 1,000 agents convening on Indianapolis for the combine, Demoff will begin discussions with many of the agents representing the 20 Rams players scheduled for unrestricted free agency. Demoff spent some time at the Senior Bowl and at the Super Bowl touching base with agents but couldn't say much.
"We thought it was imperative to wait until we had a GM in place and all the coaching staff in place, so they could evaluate the roster," Demoff said. "It doesn't do any good to go out and talk to agents about your returning players before the new GM and your new head coach and the coaching staff have a chance to evaluate them."
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