Trading No. 2 pick gives Rams plenty of options ..
BY JIM THOMAS Sunday, March 11, 2012
If there's strength in numbers, the Rams suddenly have it as a result of trading their No. 2 overall pick to Washington.
The Rams now have three of the top 39 picks in the 2012 draft. Over the next three drafts, they have five first-rounders and nine picks in the first two rounds.
That's a lot of high picks. Now, what do they do with them?
"It's nice to have those picks, but those numbers don't mean a thing if you don't use them wisely," said NFL analyst Dave Razanno, a former scout with the Rams, San Francisco and Arizona.
The Rams' numbers swelled as a result of getting the No. 6 overall pick from Washington, plus the Redskins' second-round pick (No. 39 overall) this year. The Rams' also get Washington's first-round pick in 2013 and 2014 — all in exchange for the Rams' No. 2 this year.
The teams actually reached agreement on the trade Thursday night, according to a Rams official. On Saturday, the Rams and Redskins confirmed the trade in a joint statement — a curious move because the trading period isn't supposed to begin until 3 p.m. Tuesday. Even so, the NFL doesn't have a problem with the early deal, and the trade will become official Tuesday.
It's clear what the Redskins will do with the No. 2 pick: take Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
But what do the Rams do at No. 6?
"They're going to get a good player if they want to pick there, or they could just go back and get more picks," said Matt Littfield, a former NFL scout now with Home - Russ Lande: NFL Player Analyst | Russ Lande: NFL Player Analyst. "But they're in a great spot. They have a lot of flexibility to help themselves, more flexibility than almost anybody in the draft."
But in what's widely considered a 'six-player" draft — meaning six elite prospects — the Rams are now sitting on the edge of that territory. There appears to be no doubt that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck (to Indianapolis) and Griffin will go 1-2.
From a Rams' perspecitve what happens if Southern California offensive tackle Matt Kalil, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon and Louisiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne are the next three picks, in order, to Minnesota, Cleveland and Tampa Bay?
That would leave only Alabama running back Trent Richardson left among the top six. The Rams already have a three-time Pro Bowler in the backfield in Steven Jackson. Granted, Jackson is entering his ninth NFL season and has only two years remaining on his contract. But he shows no signs of slowing down, and expending a No. 6 pick on Richardson could be viewed as a luxury given all the Rams' other needs.
But there are a lot of people around the league who think Richardson, currently rehabbing from knee surgery, is a special talent. Including the Rams. Multiple sources, both inside and outside Rams Park, say the team thinks very highly of Richardson.
It's not a unique viewpoint.
"He's probably going to be the best player on the board at that point," Razanno said. "If you're picking the best available player, it could easily be him. He's a thoroughbred. And he's more of a home-run threat than Jackson."
"I know a lot of people say you don't take a running back in the top 10, but you do if he's a dominant player," said Littlefield, a former scout for the Rams and Kansas City, among others. "Adrian Peterson is a dominant player, and Richardson is, too."
Also take into account the fact that the Rams' new head coach, Jeff Fisher, is regarded as run-oriented. Fisher has never taken an offensive lineman in the first round, but he has taken running backs Eddie George and Chris Johnson in the first with the Tennessee Titans.
Of course, if the Browns take Richardson at No. 4 overall, Blackmon could fall to the Rams at No. 6. But at Blackmon's pro day Friday at Oklahoma State, the Browns seemed very interested in him. And unlike the Rams and Fisher, Cleveland has a pass-oriented head coach in Pat Shurmur.
The Browns, who sent eight members of their organization on a private jet to Stillwater, also seem very interested in Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. It's possible the Browns could use their No. 4 pick for Blackmon and their No. 22 pick for Weeden, a pitch-and-catch combination that would be in total sync the moment they walked into Browns headquarters.
Although they were unwilling to do so at first, the Browns eventually offered that No. 22 pick as part of their unsuccessful trade package to get the Rams' No. 2 overall pick.
If the Rams don't take Richardson at No. 6 in a scenario where Kalil, Blackmon and Claiborne are gone, they have three other options:
• Take somebody else.
• Trade back up, perhaps making use of the extra picks from the Washington trade.
• Trade down, and pick up even more picks.
If the Rams stay at No. 6 and take someone besides Richardson, there are no clear-cut choices. Depending on whom you talk to, or what mock draft you examine, there are a variety of possibilities but no prospect that jumps out.
Maybe it's North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples. Or defensive tackles Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State or Michael Brockers of LSU. Offensive tackles Riley Reiff of Iowa and Jonathan Martin of Stanford, outside linebackers Melvin Ingram of South Carolina and Courtney Ingram of Alabama, or cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama also are possibilities.
Some scouts regard Notre Dame's Michael Floyd as a better wide receiver prospect than Blackmon, but Floyd has had multiple off-the-field issues involving alcohol.
Trading down with a quarterback-needy team could be an option, particularly once Peyton Manning and even Matt Flynn find landing spots. A team may want to move all the way up to No. 6 for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Two possible trading partners under that scenario could be Arizona and Seattle, but do the Rams really want to help a division rival solve its quarterback problem?
No matter what happens, if the Rams stay at No. 6 and don't take a wide receiver, it will put a lot of pressure on the organization to fill a position where they really need two starters. It could come in free agency, but don't expect the Rams to make a huge push for Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd has been openly lobbying for a spot in New England. In addition, the view at Rams Park is that even though Lloyd has talent, he gets next to no yards after the catch.
Obviously, there are no guarantees no matter where the Rams pick or who they pick. But if they trade out of the top six, on paper they're leaving the realm of the potentially great for the land of the potentially good or very good.
And the Rams don't need solid players, they need playmakers and difference-makers.
More often than not, teams win big in the NFL because their top five to seven players are better than everyone else's.