Rams Draft Overview #1

Rams Draft Overview #1

Even though "March Madness" is still yet to be concluded, it is indeed April, when for NFL fanatics, the entire focus becomes the draft, now just weeks away. The best available free agents are gone, either moving to new teams, or re-signing with their old clubs, leaving only a handful of disgruntled stars seeking trades with little success, or bodies no one wants at any price.

NFL player personnel people are focusing all their energy on the draft, and how the available talent pool will drain from their draft board. They'll all say publicly they will take the "best player available" as they always do, but the guys drafting for their organizations will be looking at the best way to make that first rounder an athlete who fits an urgent need.

Before draft day, there could be some movement among the players seeking to find a change of scenery, but clubs won't trade high picks for Donovan Darius, Travis Henry, Charles Woodson, or other top veterans until they have a clear picture of the draft. Like we insane draftniks, the guys doing the real thing will be doing numerous mock drafts, to see how the first three rounds at least will play out, and how that effects depletion of depth at certain positions they most need to fill.

In many ways, the first round selection is made with an eye to what talent will remain in round two and even three. With teams needing immediate help from rookies these days, it's important to add more than just a first round stud. The Rams, with four first day picks, will hope to add two or three solid future starters, and four guys who will contribute right away. That requires foresight in making each pick with an eye on the ones that will follow.

Though many writers have been doing mocks for weeks, doing them without the end of free agency, the combine results, personal workouts, and salary cap cuts is a fruitless effort. Even a pundit's own later drafts make their first efforts look clueless. One on CBSsports.com has the Rams picking defensive end Bill Swancutt of Oregon at #19. Swancutt had a good Senior Bowl, but he's projected as at best a third round pick, and more likely a day two selection.

Once April is upon us, things can at least get clear enough to make a pretty good prognostication about the draft, though there will be trades down to the wire that will change what people project on their mock drafts. There will also be false rumors, with some real ones mixed in, that emanate from comments made by NFL GMs and coaches as draft day nears. That's a huge part of the gamesmanship that teams will play from here on in. Nothing that is leaked to the press should be believed. For these guys, every day this month is April fools day.

We must rely on our own analysis of the 32 NFL clubs, and that of those who cover them most closely, and figure they will draft wisely to fill their top needs with the best available player on draft day. That's what Mike Martz and Charley Armey are doing, as they try to figure who might tale whom, and what teams might look to make draft pick deals to move up or down on or before draft day. It's all part of the preparation that must be done before that hectic, fast moving weekend that makes or breaks an NFL team's future, as well as the future of those men doing the drafting.

With Leonard Little now out of the fire, as well as the signing of veteran Jay Williams, the Rams need at defensive end drops from dire to the need for youthful backup help only. There would have been solid talent in round one at the position, but maybe not as good as other positions the Rams have to fill. Now, barring a huge surprise, the Rams look to be adding a safety or offensive tackle at pick 19, with a corner or tight end an outside shot.

When examining the draft pool, it appears that the top three safeties, Georgia junior Thomas Davis, Oklahoma junior Brodney Pool, and Nebraska junior Josh Bullock will all go before the Rams pick in round two, as will Michigan's Marlin Jackson and Vince Fuller or Clemson, possibly the next two safety prospects on the board. It's not a strong year for that position at all, though the top three are worthy of top 40 status.

The Rams no doubt covet the explosive Davis, who would play strong safety as a pro, but both the Saints and Bengals are also said to possibly have him targeted, and both those clubs have picks just before the Rams. Even if Davis is gone, Pool,. a ball hawking free safety who also plays the run well, might be a great addition. Some like him better than Davis, who some feel might fit better as a linebacker in the NFL, and he fits the Rams needs a lot better. Bullock isn't as big as the other two top safeties, but he also is very good in coverage. However, he could be a bit of a reach at #19.

If the Rams find some guys they feel can start at safety in the NFL who will be there after round one, they may go another way with the top pick. However, the drop in talent at offensive tackle from round one to the end of round two and into round three is far less than that at safety. Only two tackles, Khalif Barnes of Washington and Oklahoma right tackle Jammal Brown, appear to be available at #19, and neither is a sure thing as an NFL blocker, especially right away.

The fact that the Rams run such a complicated offense makes it almost impossible for any rookie to crack the starting lineup anyway. That makes the addition of tackle and interior line talent more for years down the line, and makes selecting one first less likely for the Rams. That second rounder and the early third round pick acquired from Miami for Lamar Gordon are still high enough to add tackles such as Fresno State's Logan Mankins, Florida State's Ray Willis, Adam Terry of Syracuse, or Eastern Washington's Michael Roos, all who have what looks to be NFL starting caliber abilities.

If there is a longshot for Rams fans to consider in round one, look no further than Virginia tight end Heath Miller. If Miller somehow gets past the Bengals and Jaguars, who have big needs at TE, the Rams would have to consider a huge upgrade for them at that position, one at which that they are ranked at the very bottom in a tight end crazed NFL. Miller is a big target with great hands that can run, and is an adequate and willing blocker, who could well be the "best player available" at pick 19.

The team could still fill it's safety and O-line needs with the rest of the first day picks, so looking hard at the only tight end worthy of a top pick is not a reach at all.

This is a good draft for cornerbacks as well, but the top three, Virginia Tech junior Adam "Pac Man" Jones, Florida State's Antrel Rolle, and Auburn's Carlos Rogers will all be gone by the mid point of round one. Two other first round talents, Nebraska Junior Fabian Washington, the fastest corner in this draft, and Clemson's Justin Miller, a big corner, may or may not be available at #19. Either would definitely upgrade the Rams nickel coverage right away.

The Rams will no doubt look to add a running back, developmental quarterback, defensive end, run stopping defensive tackle, and a couple interior offensive linemen in this draft as well, with most of those players coming on day two, when the Rams have seven picks. The first day should be focussed on safeties, offensive tackles, linebackers, and possibly that big, fast tight end the Rams are lacking in the red zone.

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