Dissecting the Rams Draft Deal Discussion

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click to enlarge The scene outside Rams Park, as protesters march against the injustice of giving $45 million to a completely unproven commodity.
The scene outside Rams Park, as protesters march against the injustice of giving $45 million to a completely unproven commodity.
Less than a week from the NFL draft, there's been plenty to talk about lately, particularly the revelations coming from the Cleveland Browns' front office regarding talks they've had regarding a potential deal with our very own Rams to move up to #1 in the draft. Which, of course, were then heavily doused with cold water by Mike Holmgren, Cleveland's emperor of football stuff. (That's an official title, by the way.) Nonetheless, speculation will continue to circulate heavily between now and Thursday night, when the draft officially get underway. 

So what are the Rams going to do with that first pick? Two words: not much. 

I don't mean not much as in, "They're going to make a huge mistake, draft a quarterback, and continue right on down the road to ruin, aka the Los Angeles Expressway." I also don't mean not much as in, "They're going to make a huge mistake and take the big defensive guy, who despite being a heck of a player also just happens to play a non-franchise sort of position. The Rams will keep losing, and keep right on down the road to ruin, aka the Los Angeles Expressway." 

No, I don't mean either of those things because I honestly have no idea if either of those things will be a good idea or a bad idea. I have my own opinions, of course, but there's no way of knowing how any draft pick will work out for a couple years, really. No, by not much I mean the Rams are going to pick at #1, they're going to take a player, probably a guy who went to college somewhere, and who plays a position on the football field. By not much I mean that while trading out of the top slot would be an absolute dream scenario for the Rams, there is realistically almost no chance of it happening. 

This whole #1 overall pick thing for the Rams is turning into a brutal Catch-22, to be honest. There's no consensus top pick, none of the teams close enough to the top to realistically be considered trading partners seem to want to move up that badly. 

The best player in the 2010 draft is almost surely Ndamakong Suh, the defensive lineman out of Nebraska. The problem with drafting a D-line guy first overall is that you don't build championship clubs around a defensive tackle. It just doesn't work that way. The Lions at #2? Oh, hell yes, they can draft Suh. They've already got their franchise centerpiece. Took him first overall last year, quarterback by the name of Matthew Stafford. The Rams, though? Not so much. 

The top quarterback in the draft, Sam Bradford, is a guy who missed almost his entire junior season (his most recent season, by the way), and has had two shoulder surgeries. He's never  worked in a pro-style offense, taking most of his college snaps out of the shotgun. He also had the benefit of an all-world offensive line during his Heisman-winning sophomore season, something he most definitely won't have in St. Louis. (At least not immediately, anyhow.) So why take him? Because, well, he just might be that good. 

Jimmy Clausen is the other top QB in the draft, but the general consensus puts him clearly behind Bradford in terms of accuracy and long-term upside. (For my part, I think Clausen actually has the better arm, but his numbers just don't stack up to Bradford's.) Clausen did work from under center extensively in his college days, which is a point in his favour, but he just recently had surgery as well, albeit far less frightening ankle surgery. He looked good in his Pro Day workout, with Steve Spagnuolo having the standard, painfully vague praise you get from head coaches prior to the draft. 

Colt McCoy? Did you say Colt McCoy? No. Just no. Sorry, not interested in Alex Smith 2: Revenge of the System QB. I don't care what Trent Dilfer might try to tell you, Colt McCoy is not a franchise quarterback. Hell, I might actually prefer to draft Dilfer first overall. Wait, no. That's not fair. Dilfer sucked too. Sorry, Colt. That was just mean. 

So here's the dilemma for the Rams: they can't take the best player available, because they need a guy to build around, and D-tackles just don't usually fill that requirement. There are two quarterbacks available, both with health concerns, one who was brilliant in college but had to have his shoulder rebuilt and one who wasn't nearly as good in college but plenty of people say will be the better player at the next level. Getting the choice right between the two QBs is probably a 50-50 shot at best. Hell, quarterbacks at the top of a draft are 50-50 bets anyway, so getting this right may actually be worse odds than that. 

The best thing for the Rams would be for the Browns to throw half a dozen picks at them to move up to number one. Unfortunately, as Holmgren said, the Browns would have to seriously mortgage the farm to do so, and I just don't see them going that route. It would probably take the Browns' first, second, and all three third-round picks to get close to the proper value, and even that might not be enough to get them there. (Alternately, they could include next year's first instead of this year's thirds, but if I'm Cleveland I'm even more hesitant to write that blank check.) If I'm Billy Devaney, and that deal is offered, I don't hesitate. I might wet myself while screaming yes into the phone, but I don't hesitate. 

So who do the Rams draft? I have no idea. Hopefully there are people in the Rams' front office who make much, much more money than I do currently making that decision. No matter who they end up taking, though, I think my statement earlier stands. When it comes to the really exciting stuff, the wheeling-and-dealing stuff, I think it's pretty clear what the Rams are going to be able to do. 

Not much. 
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