New 3-round mock draft illustrates a problem for the Rams

How big is the void left by OJ Atogwe, and could Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel fill it?

The third round of the draft has been a mixed bag for the Rams so far under Devaney. He has yet to move aggressively up or down, into or out of the round, and their value board seems to settle on slightly flawed players that project to fill a need, more or less.

  • 2008: G – John Greco. Greco is a straight-line blocking force who has seemingly matured into the discussion for the starting guard spot, but for whatever reason struggles to stay on the field. Potentially a very nice value pick, but only if he wins that job.

  • 2009: CB – Bradley Fletcher. Fletcher lost most of his rookie season to the Turf Monster, but has become a starter at cornerback in his second season. A definite win.

  • 2010: CB – Jerome Murphy. Last year saw the Rams reach for cornerback again, choosing the physical safety/CB crossover Jerome Murphy. But outside of a handful of special teams hits, Murph wasn’t able to make a big splash in his rookie season, struggling in coverage when he played, riding the pine when he didn’t. The jury is out, but the Rams may have to change their plan on Murphy if he’s going to realize the draft value of a top-100 pick.

And if 2011 plays out the way it does in the latest mock draft by Erik Galko of Optimum Scouting, the Rams could dip into the defensive backfield ranks for the third year in a row — a move seemingly necessary after we lost the Atogwe sweepstakes.

    14. St. Louis Rams – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
    Ideally they’d like Julio Jones for develop with Sam Bradford as a franchise #1 receiver. However, based on his workout, there seems to be no way that will happen now for the Rams. Still, they can fill another need by adding a dominant pass rusher for this Steve Spagnuolo that values attacking the quarterback with multiple rushers. Quinn is a good value here and can be a dynamic 4-3 rusher in the mold of Justin Tuck and Julius Peppers with time.

    47. St. Louis Rams – Titus Young, WR, Boise State
    -Missed out on a receiver in the 1st, Young is a deep threat that could give Josh McDaniels weapons

    78. St. Louis Rams – DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson
    -Atogwe is gone, and though it’s not a great time to find his replacement, McDaniel has the talent

DeAndre McDaniel didn’t wow at the NFL Combine, but in a weak safety class still projects as top-3 or top-5 at the position. His consensus scouting report casts him as an aggressive and productive tackler, something you’d expect from a converted linebacker, and he flashes a little bit of ball skills as well. However, he has a huge character blemish on his record stemming from an ugly aggravated assault and battery arrest in 2008. Obviously Spagnuolo’s Four Pillars exam would be applied sternly to the player before a pick was made.

Would this pick be a good move or an opportunity missed? That depends on how you think about the value of the pick, and the talent already on the Rams roster.

Of course, the third round is a mixed bag for most teams. There’s a reason that the draft trade value drops off nearly 90% from first round to the third. But one of the constants that has emerged as a “safe” and potentially very rewarding pick for the round is the “change-of-pace” running back. 

The Jets found Shonn Greene in the 3rd round of 2009. The Niners thought they had gold in Glen Coffee, before he decided he’d rather be thumping (bibles) on Sundays than getting thumped. But his couterpart, Frank Gore, was a 3rd round pick in 2005. The Chiefs grabbed Jamaal Charles in 2008 and rode him to the top of the division just two years later. The Falcons added instant danger with Jerious Norwood in 2006, though they seemingly don’t trust him with more than 5 touches per game.

What’s more, Galko sends Oklahoma’s Demarco Murray to the Saints earlier in the round, and projects a very intriguing player — Cal RB Shane Vereen — to the Dolphins with the very next pick in his mock. I asked Erik, “Why not mock Vereen to the Rams?”

Optimum Scouting
@RamsHerd You think a safety on their roster can be a long term starter? Considered a RB there as well

That is a legitimate question. As we posited last week, the top three options on the roster (none of whom are named James Butler) combined to play fewer than 400 snaps in 2010. But is a pure safety playing as a rookie a better option than a converted safety (Murphy) with a year of seasoning under his belt?

Another factor that potentially plays in is that there is a glut of talent lining up for this “third round running back” slot, enough that one or more coveted name will drop in to the fourth round or later. In Galko’s mock, that includes Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers, Nebraska’s Roy Helu Jr, and Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter.

This crop of intriguing talent glut gives Devaney a lot of options with the third round pick, including one dark-horse candidate: trading it to the Redskins.

According to the NFL Draft Value Chart, the difference between the #14 overall pick that the Rams hold and the #10 overall pick that the Redskins are sitting on is exactly 200 “points” — which just happens to be the exact draft value of the Rams’ 3rd round pick. Coincidentally enough, the Redskins do not have a pick in that round, and are a team overstuffed with creaky veterans and ill fits for their defensive scheme. Drafniks around the web, including Mel Kiper himself,  urge Shanahan’s team to “stockpile picks” to more aggressively sow seeds for a rebuild. 

Such a move could also jumpstart the Rams’ next step as a team, from “rebuilding” to “growing,” by landing an impact offensive talent, if one happened to be there….