Mock draft: Matthews makes sense, but ...

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
12:01
PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- Everything about Todd McShay's selection of Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews for the St. Louis Rams in his initial 2014 mock draft Insider makes sense. But that doesn't make it a slam dunk.

Premier tackles can be hard to find, and although the Rams have their left tackle in Jake Long under contract for the next three years, the addition of a player such as Matthews would give Long a solid partner for the time being while also providing the Rams a long-term solution on the left side.

[+] EnlargeJake Matthews
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsTexas A&M tackle Jake Matthews meets one of the Rams' needs and would be a smart first-round pick.
Joe Barksdale has played well at right tackle since stepping in for Rodger Saffold in Week 3, but it remains to be seen whether he's done enough to earn the job on a full-time basis. There are worse things than having a proven and reliable player like Barksdale as the third tackle moving forward.

In early projections, Matthews is regarded as the best tackle in the draft and a plug-and-play starter from day one. Given the Rams' primary needs -- offensive line, secondary and wide receiver -- Matthews likely represents the best match of need and value for a potential No. 2 overall draft choice.

Digging deeper, Matthews makes sense on a level beyond his talent and the Rams' needs. Rams coach Jeff Fisher has a history of passing on offensive linemen with his first-round picks, but if ever a player were to alter that, Matthews could be the one. Matthews is the son of Bruce Matthews, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman who played for Fisher with the Oilers/Titans from 1994 to 2001.

That doesn't guarantee anything, but it stands to reason that those ties could act as a tiebreaker if it comes down to it.

Of course, for all the reasons Matthews to the Rams is logical, there's one big X factor that would stand in the way: a freakish, 6-foot-6, 274-pounder who goes by the name of Jadeveon Clowney. South Carolina's superstar defensive end would be available at No. 2 in McShay's scenario, with Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater going to Houston at No. 1. Having Clowney on the board would present the Rams with a pair of options even more intriguing than Matthews.

The first would be to actually draft Clowney. While the Rams are loaded at defensive end, Fisher abides by the idea that you can never have too many pass-rushers. A line featuring the likes of Robert Quinn, Chris Long, William Hayes and Clowney would be an absolute nightmare for opponents. Would it be a long shot? Maybe, but never say never when it comes to Fisher and premium pass-rushers, especially a difference-maker the caliber of Clowney.

The other, more likely, option would be the Rams using Clowney as trade bait to bring back another haul of draft picks and move down in the draft. Fisher and general manager Les Snead have not been shy about pulling the trigger on trades in their two drafts together. Heck, they own this pick because of the deal that sent the No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft to Washington.

It's unlikely the Rams would get a return on par with what they got for that selection, but the market for Clowney or even the next-best quarterback likely would land them some more quality draft spots while not forcing them to move down too far.

In what amounts to the Rams' ideal world, they could make such a trade and still land a player such as Matthews or Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. Either way, last year's trade with the Redskins figures to be the gift that keeps on giving in St. Louis.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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