Draft Week is Upon Us…A Rams View

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Well Christmas is here once again for NFL fans, the 2014 NFL Draft is upon us. Three months of speculation, constant arguing, and philosophical debates will come to an end later this week with three days of drafting and calling out names of future superstars. While the true grades on draft classes is never really known until years later everyone loves to give their opinions on what they would do if they were the G.M. of an NFL team….and I am no different. So for this week’s post I will talk a little about the NFL Draft as a whole but focus mainly on what I hope and what I think the Rams (my hometown team) will do.

First let me say that as a die-hard NFL fan this is hard for to admit but this is overkill. The draft being pushed back so late has just added more talk about nothing. I think the draft cycle of players rising and falling has gone full-circle about five times. (Side note: It is always funny how players can go from first round talent to third round talent without playing a game; i.e. Teddy Bridgewater). My guess is that you were simply wrong with talent evaluation in the first place.

This draft definitely appears to have the depth that we have heard all of the analysts say it has. As with any draft there are different levels however; your superstars, pro-bowlers, starters and then players. For me I think the top level consists of five players this year: Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson, and Sammy Watkins. I think these five players are guys that go in and make an immediate difference on their teams. There are other players I like in the draft, such as Mike Evans, but feel they are the next level down.

This year’s hot topic, Johnny Manziel, is one even for me to read. I do think his play and style would fit in the NFL, he simply is a play-maker. I think he has a strong enough arm as well. However what I am most worried about, and this is with any QB that plays in such a system, is his ability to read defenses and make throws against NFL coverages. He always wants to go for the big-play and often times had to because his team’s defense was so porous. But it is hard to see if he can make those seam throws in the pocket on his own rather than scrambling for five seconds and then making the deep throw. And no I do not believe the Rams are taking Manziel. I mean really people are you that gullible? The Rams for two years now have stated Bradford is their man. The Rams should have cut Bradford earlier this year to save money if he wasn’t. And has anyone seen the Rams offense? Does it look like one that Manziel fits in well with? Please stop it NFL draft people. This is all in hope someone (Browns? Cowboys?) will trade up for Manziel.

Now on to the Rams. The Rams are in their third year of the Jeff Fisher and Les Snead regime. This is the year they targeted from the beginning as the year the Rams truly compete. While the Rams have done a good job in the first two years of the regime this is an all-important draft class. That is because the Rams are in the final year of their picks from the RG3 trade and need to make an impact with it. The Rams did a good job of rebuilding and turning over a horrid roster from they first arrived. But this year the Rams need to select impact players and not just players that will improve their depth. For that reason I do not see the Rams trading down from that #2 spot, unless Clowney falls. Although I wouldn’t mind the Rams trading down if they can stay in the first six and grab one of the aforementioned top five players.

For my thoughts on the Rams selections I will give who I would take if I were in charge and then give who I think the Rams will actually select. I am making this difference because obviously I have a different view on some players and schemes than what Fisher and Snead do.

My Rams selection for #2 overall pick: Sitting here at this spot I would love for the Rams to take Sammy Watkins. Yes, I know the Rams have invested heavily on wide receivers in the past two years. But that is their own fault. I was shocked when they moved up to take Tavon Austin last year and even said I would not have selected him that high. But I do like the selection overall because he can be a special player, if used correctly in the right system. I typically would not even select a wide receiver this high. And last year gave my reasons.

Let’s talk about this year’s draft class of WR’s. (sic 2013) There are plenty of skilled players no doubt. However I do not feel that any of them are true #1 WR’s. Are any as skilled as AJ Green or Calvin Johnson? Or are they just highlighted this year because of the crop? I feel it is the latter. A bunch of players that could be low end go to WR’s. Since 2007 there have been 21 wide receivers drafted in the first round. Of those just six have been to the Pro Bowl. That list includes the aforementioned AJ Green and Calvin Johnson as well as Percy Harvin, Julio Jones, Demariyus Thomas and Dwayne Bowe. And lets be honest even those last two are only Pro Bowlers because of one Peyton Manning and a fluke year by Bowe.”

Unless a WR is a game changer, such as Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green or Julio Jones, you can always find one later. However I think that Watkins is in that class of players mentioned. He has been compared to Jones and Green and that is exactly what the Rams have needed since the disbandment of the Greatest Show on Turf.

What I think the Rams do with #2 pick: While I would take an immediate impact player (Watkins), I do not think the Rams go this route. As mentioned before they have invested heavily in the position the last two years. And while this is not in particular a reason to avoid picking a talented player I think there are other reasons they will avoid taking him. The Rams offensive scheme is not conducive to needing a wide receiver to succeed. The Rams tried to spread things out early last year before turning to Fisher’s power running game. Was this because of a change in offensive scheme or because of Sam Bradford’s injury? When we hear this selection we will get that answer. I feel the Rams go with an offensive lineman here. It appears they like Robinson, the large athletic specimen from Auburn that ran over Mizzou defenders like they were gnats on a car wind-shield. This pick makes sense because Jake Long is hurt and Rodger Saffold has an injury history. But ideally with those two healthy and the addition of a top talented offensive lineman give the Rams a formidable offensive line.

Note: As much as I believe in typically not drafting wide receivers high in the draft, I feel the same about offensive linemen. However as I stated there are exceptions to the rule with WR’s the same is with offensive line. However if I were the Rams and decided offensive line was the way to go, I would actually select Jake Matthews. I think Matthews is more well-rounded and immediately read to start on the line. I’m sorry anytime a scout says well he needs to improve his pass blocking skills, that worries me. The first goal of any offensive lineman is to protect the quarterback and with the league going to a passing heavy game that becomes even more important. So while Robinson may be bigger and have more of that famed word “upside”; the Rams need a player that they can count on right now and not one that peaks in three years. Matthews would be my choice.

P.S. Note: I find it interesting that the debate for Rams appears to be between wide receiver and offensive line, two positions that Fisher has not typically drafted early on.

My selection for the Rams, #13 overall pick: Choosing this player gets tricky. This draft has any number of ways it can go so it is hard to imagine what players will be here. Many of the pundits have the Rams going secondary here. And I think that is the safe position to bet on being here. The only question will be is it Ha-Ha Clinton Dix or Calvin Pryor. My choice is Dix, the safety from Alabama. Dix combines the best of both, able to cover (something the Rams have been lacking at safety for a long time…I still have nightmares of watching Craig Dahl try and cover people) and not afraid to step up and be physical.

What I think the Rams do with #13 pick: One of the two top safeties in Dix or Pryor should be here at this point and I would expect the Rams to choose one of them. It would be interesting to see if the Rams take Matthews or Robinson with the #2 pick and if Mike Evans remains at #13, if the Rams would pick him here. Evans would be the player that they hope Brian Quick would be.

My Wish List: Every year I give a group of players that I say I would be happy if the Rams get in the first two rounds. So therefore if the Rams were to get three of any of these players I would be happy. These are players I am completely sold on and are not just the top rated players but rather players I feel will be there for picks in first and second round. Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M offensive lineman Jake Matthews, Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, Virginia offensive lineman Morgan Moses, Stanford offensive lineman David Yankey, USC safety Dion Bailey, BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

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