As the NFL Draft becomes a year round affair, it’s never too early to talk who might be receiving a congratulatory shake from the ‘Stache come late April to inform them they’ll be donning the Ram horns.
Presuming the Rams finish the season around 5-10-1 and the Redskins finish around 6-10, St. Louis will have two picks between the fifth and 11th spots based on historical precedent of the last two drafts, leaving them with the potential to grab two elite players.
It also leaves GM Les Snead with some serious bargaining potential as the new CBA rules have now been in place for a full draft and his first shot at the April selection event showed he wasn’t afraid to move around.
In that vein, here are five potential options and scenarios the Rams could pursue while reaping the first round benefits of the RGIII trade.
First option (the predictable one)
|First pick: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan||Second pick: WR Keenan Allen, California|
Each of these scenarios assumes Texas A&M Luke Joeckel, whose status is rising faster than a post-40 yard dash Julio Jones, is gone by the time the Rams are on the clock. Lewan, from my native Arizona, isn’t quite as polished as former Wolverine Jake Long, but has the size and skills to develop into a Pro Bowler at LT. He has a nasty streak in the run game and is also solid in pass protection, improving as the year has went along. He fits the mold of former Fisher offensive lineman, like Michael Roos, and would also give the Rams options to move Rodger Saffold back to RT and form a formidable group with Lewan, Rob Turner, Scott Wells, Harvey Dahl and Saffold left-to-right.
Allen is the most polished of a weak receiver class and fills an immediate need for the Rams. He has the size (6-foot 3-inches, 205 pounds) and the skills (speed, balance and catching) the Rams are looking for, but may be a bit of a reach in the area of the Rams second selection, especially if Brian Quick makes significant strides in the last few weeks of the season. Could be a necessity pick, however, if the Rams choose to let Danny Amendola walk.
Second option (the slight shocker):
|First pick: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan||Second pick: MLB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame|
Te’o seems like a shock to some people because the Rams already locked up James Laurinaitis to a long-term deal worth significant cash, but hear me out.
Te’o is the kind of transcendent middle linebacker talent that hasn’t come around since Patrick Willis. He is an incredible tackler, has range and coverage ability in the passing game, is intelligent and has shown amazing character for the Irish. His selection would take the burden of covering athletic tight ends away from Laurinatis and allow JL55 to make more instinctual plays in the backfield. With the new CBA making committing high picks to positions like MLB more feasible and the potential of having Te’o, Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar behind a fearsome defensive line, this scenario is a definite possibility.
Third option (the 49ers scenario):
|First pick: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan||Second pick: OG Chance Warmack, Alabama|
Pundits scratched their heads when NFC West division rival San Francisco used two first round picks to take tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati in 2010, but the strategy has paid off in a big way. The 49ers have one of, if not the best offensive line in the NFL that steamrolls defensive lineman for Frank Gore every week and keeps Alex Smith upright more often than not.
Enter Warmack, who is considered the best guard prospect in this draft and reminds scouts of David DeCastro, who showed flashes for the Steelers before getting hurt in the preseason. Warmack would immediately replace a problem area for St. Louis and provide an ability to eliminate bull rushers and most importantly, keep Sam Bradford off the turf. Some may have pause taking a guard so high in the draft, but the new CBA rules make it possible and even probable. Imagine a starting line up of Lewan, Warmack, Scott Wells, Harvey Dahl and Rodger Saffold left-to-right. It would give the Rams a line to challenge the 49ers for the best in the division and possibly the NFL.
Fourth option (the trade down):
|First pick: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan||Second pick, after trading down: TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (or WR Tavon Austin or FS Eric Reid)|
Les Snead showed he isn’t afraid to move around in the draft in the best interest of building a team by trading down for the Griffin picks as well as down again to take Michael Brockers. A trade into the 20’s with a team that wants a shot at a top-heavy class of pass rushers would net the Rams an extra second or third round pick, plus a shot at one of these three guys.
Austin doesn’t have the size of Allen, but would replace Amendola in the slot if the Rams let him walk and add an element of speed and playmaking akin to Desean Jackson, Percy Harvin and Kendall Wright. Eifert could compliment Lance Kendricks and has some of the strongest hands in college football, giving Bradford another safety blanket in the passing game. Reid is the best safety prospect in this draft and would be the centerfielder and ball hawk at safety the Rams are severely lacking with Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell. Overall, a trade down gives St. Louis and Snead plenty of options to upgrade the roster.
Fifth option (the damn the torpedoes option):
|First pick: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan||Second pick: Trade for Mike Wallace|
Most of the complaints I see with the Rams drafting a receiver is the time it takes for pass catchers to develop in the NFL. So, why not go out and grab a proven one like the speedster Wallace? Wallace is a premier deep threat in the NFL and is having contractual problems with the Steelers, making the marriage a possibility. Imagine Wallace complementing the current cast of Rams receivers and finally filling a desperate need since Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt left town.
However, this is a long shot because Wallace will want so much money and Snead doesn’t seem the type of GM who would trade away draft pick assets for veteran players, at least not at this juncture of the Rams roster overhaul.
As you can tell, I think it’s imperative for the Rams to take an offensive tackle no matter what with one of the first round picks, whether it be Joeckel or Lewan. The other pick leaves a bevy of options for a creative GM in Snead to continue bringing talent to St. Louis. I’m impartial to the second through fourth options, but we’re still far away from the draft and a lot can change between now and April. Regardless of the outcome though, it’s just nice to see the Rams have some options when the draft rolls around.