Scouting reports and pre-draft crushes: Mike Iupati

It must be the start of the offseason, as Brett Favre is already talking about retiring again. But more importantly, this is Senior Bowl week, and the tubes of the interwebs are glowing white-hot with information overload as all kinds of scouts, bloggers, and collegiate cognoscenti descend on Mobile, Alabama. And after only one day of weigh-ins, measurements, and practices, I have already developed a budding player crush: Mike Iupati, a guard from Idaho.

Now, crushes aren’t supposed to make sense. You don’t base major life decisions on a crush. And the agony of the Rams’ offseason is that they have so many holes it will be that much more important to have a firm strategy guiding their selections. It is that much more important not to get distracted by silly crushes.

But, it’s the fourth week of January. We all have crushes at this point — most are focused on the Rams’ presumptive #1 pick, Ndamukong Suh. But plenty others are fixated on Jimmy Clausen or Gerald McCoy or just on trading the pick. I’m not here to throw stones… yet. So indulge me while I think about the possibilities of having a guy like Iupati drop to the Rams in the top of the 2nd.

The Hype

It started this morning on a live tweet by @DraftBreakdown, from the weighing-and-measuring ceremonies. (Hat tip to @Daniel_Doelling for the recommended follow.)

DraftBreakdown Iupati has 35 inch arms!

That’s a freakish, Jevon Kearse-like measurement. He’s got nice size: 6’5″+, 325 lbs on the scales today. And while playing in the pass-happy WAC, he didn’t allow a single sack this season. And he followed up his first impression with a nice day of practice against some high competition.

MoveTheSticks Idaho OG Mike Iupati and Penn St DE Jared Odrick had several good battles today. Both probably go in late 1st.
MoveTheSticks Its always good to let the week play itself out but through 1 practice, I would say Idaho OG Mike Iupati was best in show.

Here’s a nice video combining highlights with commentary and analysis:

Strategic Fit

If you were building a draft strategy on “assembling physical monsters,” Iupati would fit in right alongside Suh as the Rams beefed up massively on both lines. Moreover, this move would allow the Rams to reshuffle their starting O-line accordingly:

  • LT: Dump (or trade) Alex Barron. Start Jason Smith.
  • LG: Start Jacob Bell. (Continuity, plus was much improved last season.)
  • C: Start Jason Brown. Duh.
  • RG: Start Mike Iupati.
  • RT: Start Adam Goldberg, who handled himself very well at many positions, but excelled here.

The pluses of this arrangement are multiple: You have a nice alternation where developing players are bracketed by veteran players; you regain some run-blocking ferocity that the Rams lost when they released Incognito; you give Jason Smith a real chance to justify his 1st-round selection; and you still maintain useful depth in John Greco, Mark Setterstrom, and Phil Trautwein. None of these should be starting, but they have another year to develop technically into sound backups.

Plus, did I mention that we get to dump Alex Barron? The same Alex Barron who is a stone’s throw from dead last in ProFootballFocus’ player ratings for all offensive tackles? This is a player who didn’t improve one iota. A failed gamble. A loss that deserves cutting. And not exactly a guy who will be missed in the clubhouse. I’ll lay a stack of money down that Incognito had more friends in the locker room than Barron.

Arguments Against

Jim Thomas, for one, does not believe the Rams will aggressively pursue help on the offensive line early in the draft. And VanRam over at the Turf Show Times is making the argument that the Rams’ safest course of action given the alarming lack of free agent options in an uncapped year and the other draft needs of the team, will be to re-sign Barron.

The Rams and their fans may have to settle for some old familiar faces at a few positions. That means bringing back some players who would be gone under normal circumstances. The best example of this that I can think of is Alex Barron. Yes, I’ve lead the change to have this guy cut, but it wouldn’t be smart to create a need where you don’t have one.

Five things for the Rams to think about in a capless 2010

And one other argument against — this strategy represents two high-impact picks that would not be used on skill players. The Rams need at least two offensive playmakers — at QB and WR — in this offseason. And another slow-burning pre-draft crush potentially at the high-second-round level is Missouri wideout Danario Alexander…