The Rams need a new quarterback.
Now, before you get all upset, thinking I'm getting ready to bust on Marc Bulger, I promise that's not what this is about. There will be plenty of time for that the rest of the season, when Bulger is throwing picks or holding onto the ball too long and taking a loss of seventeen yards.
In fact, I'll go so far as to say this about Marc Bulger: he's actually been pretty good lately. He was pretty good against Detroit, though Steven Jackson did the heavy lifting. Bulger was actually a little better than pretty good against New Orleans, though he did contribute to the collapse of that last gasp drive the Rams put together at the end of the game. He was pretty good this past Sunday, as well, putting up some fairly solid numbers against Arizona. (Of course, he did also fail when it came to crunch time again, doing absolutely nothing at the end of the game, when the Rams had the chance to tie it up, but we'll just kind of let that go, kay?)
No, I don't mean the Rams need to make a change at quarterback. What I mean is the Rams desperately need to figure out who their next quarterback is going to be, and that means the draft. You look at the Rams, and they aren't a good team yet, by any means, but you can see the outline of what a good Rams team might look like. What they need now is to find the guy who will pull all that together.
If the Rams want to get back to here, they're going to need to find someone special to call the plays.
What do I mean by the outline of what a good Rams team might look like, you ask? What I mean is this: the Rams are still thin on talent at a fair number of spots. However, there are a few players present right now who look likely to be cornerstone players for quite a while, and that's why I say the outline is there.
James Laurinaitis has to be tops among them, the sort of middle linebacker who could anchor the Rams' defense for the next decade. He's tough, smart, and he makes both the plays he should make and the occasional play he shouldn't. The wide receiver corps is both young and incredibly inexperienced, but there also just happens to be a ton of talent there. Donnie Avery looks to have turned around his early-season struggles, Brandon Gibson looks like he might just be the real thing, and while Danny Amendola may not have the best hands in the world or a ton of discipline in his routes just yet, he does have off-the-charts speed and elusiveness. I think he looks a bit like a slot receiver in the making, sort of a Wes Welker type weapon. Add in the fact Laurent Robinson was the Rams' most productive receiver early in the year before he got hurt, and the Rams appear to have a very talented group of players at wideout. There's always the chance any or all of those players might fail to continue developing, but the talent is undeniable.
Jason Smith may not be lighting the world on fire in his rookie campaign, but he looks like a productive player for years to come, with plenty of upside remaining. Oshiomogho Atogwe is one of the better safeties in the game, a takeaway just waiting to happen. I haven't even mentioned Steven Jackson yet; I think he pretty much goes without saying. There are probably still a couple high-quality seasons in him, at least. The Rams may not have a foundation yet, but they have the beginnings of a foundation.
Now next on the shopping list of players to find has to be the quarterback position. Even if Marc Bulger were still playing at the level he did earlier in his career, the fact is Bulger isn't getting any younger. He's taken an awful lot of abuse in his career thanks to both Mike Martz' slow-developing play madness and an offensive line which has had roughly the consistency and stopping power of swiss cheese the past few years. The Rams are trying to build something special, and getting a special quarterback is probably going to be their next big need.
So here's a quick rundown (hey, that's the name of the blog, isn't it?), of a few of the top quarterback prospects for the 2010 draft. Of course, it's always possible the Rams will try to grab a guy later in the draft, a la Tom Brady, or even try to develop a guy like Keith Null, who they took in the sixth round last year. Nonetheless, if the Rams want to get their next big quarterback, chances are they're going to need to use a pick somewhere near the top of the draft to get him. Luckily, seeing as how the Rams are almost guaranteed at this point to pick somewhere in the top five, the top guys should be available.
Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
The Good: Clausen is the best pro-style quarterback in the draft, and there really isn't a ton of competition. He has the size (6'3", 215), arm strength, and football IQ to be an elite NFL quarterback. Clausen has outstanding throwing mechanics, with a remarkably quick and powerful release.
Clausen has been on the map since his teenage years, and has lived up to most of the hype. He also plays under center in a pro-set offense, so there won't be a huge learning curve for him to adjust to the professional game. He's also spent the better part of his career in a West Coast-style offense, which just happens to be the offense Pat Schurmur and the Rams run.
The Bad: Clausen isn't always the easiest individual to get along with, as he has been described as "abrasive" at times. His footwork has been sloppy in the past, but that has improved as time has gone on. Went to Notre Dame. (I can't stand Notre Dame.)
The Bottom Line: If Jimmy Clausen is available when the Rams go on the board in 2010, I think there's every likelihood they take him. He has all the tools necessary to play the quarterback position at an elite level, and shouldn't have nearly the learning curve of many of the spread QBs we've seen come out of the draft in recent years.