Friday, February 28, 2014
Finding the Rams' perfect pair
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- If the No. 13 overall slot itself in this year's NFL draft was a person, it would undoubtedly have its feelings hurt by now.
The St. Louis Rams hold that pick in the 2014 draft, but based on discussions here and elsewhere, you probably wouldn't know it. That's because the Rams also hold the 13th pick's younger, more attractive cousin, the No. 2 overall pick.
To this point, most of the discussion centered on the latter of the Rams' two first-round picks has been as some sort of an add on to what the Rams will do with the second pick. Something to the effect of "if the Rams draft X position at No. 2 (or in a trade down), they can draft Y position at No. 13."
The 13th pick has really done nothing but add to the proliferation of run-on sentences found in cyberspace.
It's only natural to focus on the higher of the two picks. It's the one that is easier to peg, comes with the most recognizable names and there are less moving parts. Attempting to predict what might happen in the middle of the round is far more difficult as the picture gets fuzzier the further down the draft order you go.
Really, though, any discussion involving the Rams taking a certain player at No. 2 and then another particular player at 13 is a setup for disappointment.
When it comes to the Rams' draft needs, the most commonly cited are offensive line, wide receiver and secondary. In an ideal world, the Rams could get a top tackle at No. 2 and top receiver at 13 or vice versa.
There are two popular combinations that are often thrown out: Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins paired with Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan or Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson (or Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews) paired with Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.
Either combination would undoubtedly be a boon for the Rams, especially if they could trade down and add picks before drafting the first piece of those puzzles. The reality is that both are unlikely.
In conversations with scouts and personnel types at the NFL scouting combine, there seemed to be something of a consensus on the top 10-12 players that will come off the board in May. By no means is there a definitive list or, especially, an order to that group. But here are the names that many believe will be the first group of players taken:
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Robinson, Matthews, Watkins, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Lewan, Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Evans.
If that group comes off in some order, the Rams wouldn't be able to land two of them. Likewise, according to Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest big board, that group plus North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron forms the top dozen talents in the draft.
Of course, anything is possible when it comes to the NFL draft and things can change, but it's probably best to assume that the draft won't work out exactly how one might hope. It never does.