Where's the sizzle in NFL Draft?

13 hours ago • By Jim Thomas jthomas@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8197

All around the NFL, scouting and personnel departments are climbing into their bunkers. Visibility is limited because the smokescreens have started.

Yes, the draft is just around the corner — less than four weeks away. And if anyone tells you they know what will unfold on April 25-27, they’re lying.

“I think this is the most unpredictable draft that I’ve ever witnessed,” says Gil Brandt, as sharp as ever dissecting the draft for NFL.com. “The player that you get at 10 is the same player that you’re gonna get at 16, at 18, at 30. This is a great draft for guys that are picking from 10 to 50.”

“Without question,” says Russ Lande, a former Rams scout who has added a new title to his varied résumé — director of college scouting for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. “The fact that there’s a lot of very good players but no real elite guy that’s above everybody else means it’s an unpredictable draft.”

There’s no sizzle at the top, in large part because of a lack of skill-position players with star quality.

“All the quarterbacks have questions, even though I like Ryan Nassib (of Syracuse) as the top guy,” said Lande, who continues to analyze the draft for several media outlets despite his new job. “Every one of them seems to be debated.

“The only receiver everyone thinks will be a top-10 pick is the kid from Cal (Keenan Allen) and that’s only if he works out and proves he’s healthy on April 9. And there are no running backs. So when you have no ‘skill’ guys, everybody’s just jumping around getting their favorite d-lineman or offensive tackle.”

Actually, some think the only top-10 wide receiver is Cordarrelle Patterson, of Tennessee. And some “experts” think there won’t be a wide receiver taken in the top 10 this year.

From a Rams perspective, with the No. 16 and No. 22 picks in the first round, they’re hoping that as many quarterbacks as possible — and no wide receivers — go in the top 15. If Brandt’s read is correct, and the place to be in this draft is picks 10 through 50, then the Rams are in a good spot.

Besides their first-rounders, the second of which came via the Robert Griffin III trade with Washington, the Rams also have No. 46 overall – in the second round.

With only eight picks total, the Rams are unlikely to trade up because they still need bodies as they continue their roster upgrade. Trading down is another matter but barring that, they have no choice but to let the first round come to them.

Obviously, who gets taken in the first 15 picks will have a lot to do with what the Rams do at No. 16. Who will be left? The Rams would like nothing better than for Nassib and fellow quarterbacks Geno Smith of West Virginia and Matt Barkley of Southern California to go in the top 15.

But even at the top of the draft, nothing is set in concrete. For example, would Jacksonville take a quarterback at No. 2 just two years after selecting QB Blaine Gabbert (of Missouri and Parkway West High) at No. 10?

“I don’t know what Jacksonville’s gonna do,” Brandt said. “I find it hard to believe they’re playing charades with quarterbacks when they’re flying all around the country. The owner’s son (Tony Khan) was out there and the whole staff was out at USC (for Barkley’s pro day). The owner (Shahid Khan) and his son and the whole staff were at West Virginia (for Smith’s pro day).”

And what about Kansas City at No. 1 overall?

“I was sure that Kansas City’s gonna take Luke Joeckel (the offensive tackle from Texas A&M),” Brandt said.

But then Kansas City had a private workout with Smith, the West Virginia quarterback.

The status of three defensive players could have a trickle-down effect on the Rams as well: defensive tackle Star Lotulelei of Utah, and Georgia linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alex Ogletree. As tempting as Jones or Ogletree might be for the Rams, they need offense so they’re probably better off if the trio goes in the top 15 and gives them the pick of the litter at wide receiver, running back or even defensive line.

Will Lotulelei’s stock drop because of a heart condition?

“With Star, from what I was told, the second doctor cleared him,” Lande said. “I’m sure any team that’s interested is gonna give him their own physical. If they clear him, he’s gonna be a top-10 pick because he to me is the best defensive tackle in the draft by far.”

Jones, meanwhile, has stenosis (or a narrowing) of the spine, which could concern some teams. In addition, he was far from stellar at his pro day, running a 4.92 in the 40, a time more suited to defensive end than linebacker.

“Not only are there medical questions (with Jones), there are people who question him as a player,” Lande said. “I do. I don’t think he’s an elite player. ”

As for Ogletree, he has the double whammy of being suspended for four games at the start of the 2012 season — reportedly for violating Georgia’s team substance abuse policy — and then being arrested for driving under the influence just before the NFL Scouting Combine.

“He’s not a bad kid,” Lande said. “What he is more than anything is sort of a shy kid who follows. He doesn’t know about good crowd-bad crowd. He just sort of, he hangs with his buddies, and when they do stupid things he’s right in the middle of it.”