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Friday, March 21, 2014
Changing draft dynamics around the Rams?

By Nick Wagoner

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It's widely assumed the St. Louis Rams would like to trade down from their No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Whether that is the right move is debatable, but much of that discussion will hinge directly on what type of offers the Rams can get and which teams might be willing to make a bold move up for a player.

As is often the case, however, what happens in free agency can drastically alter what teams want to do in the draft. It remains to be seen how some of the moves made by teams surrounding the Rams' No. 2 pick will change plans, but let's take a look at some of the moves and what it could mean come May.

The move:The Houston Texans sign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

What it could mean to the Rams: There is little chance that the Texans adding Fitzpatrick will change the way Houston views its need for quarterback help in the draft or even the possibility of using that top pick on a quarterback. Fitzpatrick is almost certainly going to serve as the backup to any signal caller the team drafts. I still expect Houston to go with a quarterback, like Central Florida's Blake Bortles, or South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first choice.

The move: The Texans are expected to trade quarterback Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders for a late-round draft pick.

What it could mean to the Rams: It's always difficult to peg what the Raiders are thinking, but it's entirely possible they view Schaub as the starter heading into 2014. That won't preclude them from taking a quarterback with the fifth overall pick, but it might lessen their urgency to move up for a quarterback. For the Rams, the ideal scenario would have three quarterbacks going off the board in the top five picks so if they moved back to No. 6 or so they would have more options they like available. If Oakland passes on a quarterback, the chance of one of two of the top three QBs falling increases.

The moves: The Raiders sign OTs Austin Howard, Kevin Boothe and Donald Penn

What it could mean to the Rams: This could be the best news for the Rams. After things fell apart with Rodger Saffold, it looked like the Raiders might find themselves in a desperate spot for an offensive tackle. Many pundits believe the Rams' most logical trade partner for the Rams is Atlanta at No. 6. But if the Raiders needed a tackle, it could make moving all the way to No. 6 less appealing. With two tackles in the shopping cart and a youngster in Menelik Watson developing, Oakland's need at tackle isn't as pressing. That makes it entirely possible that a move to No. 6 could still leave the Rams with their choice of the top offensive tackles if that's the direction they prefer. Of course, if Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is the target, it's hard not to think he's a strong possibility for the Raiders now. As always, though, it's important to remember the Raiders are unpredictable.

The moves: The Jacksonville Jaguars re-sign QB Chad Henne and trade QB Blaine Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers

What it could mean to the Rams: The Jaguars haven't completely tipped their hand on their plans for the No. 3 overall pick, but have dropped the occasional hint that quarterback might not be at the top of their list. Re-signing Henne at least gives Jacksonville a veteran it can trust who knows the offense, but he's not the long-term solution. The question is whether the Jaguars would forego the chance at an elite defender like Khalil Mack or Clowney, or even a top receiver such as Watkins, to take a quarterback. Coach Gus Bradley is a defensive guy by nature, and he's built up his defense with former Seahawks pupils. Adding a player like Mack to play the "Leo" position in his defense might be too tempting to pass up. Jacksonville seems least likely to make a move up one spot in a trade, but the good news for the Rams is their needs and Jacksonville's are quite different.

The moves: The Cleveland Browns release quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell

What it could mean to the Rams: Neither move was unexpected but the Browns are now awfully thin at the game's most important position. For now, Brian Hoyer is the only quarterback on the roster with the capability to be a starter and he's coming back from injury. Cleveland might be OK allowing Hoyer to start the season but it's far-fetched to think the Browns won't add a quarterback at some point in the draft. There's been speculation the Browns might wait until pick No. 26 rather than No. 4 to add someone like Derek Carr but what if Houston passes on Bortles? If that happens and the Texans do take Clowney, the Browns and Jaguars would seem to be contenders to take Bortles. That might mean Cleveland would be tempted to trade with the Rams to jump Jacksonville. For the Rams, that's probably the ideal situation because they wouldn't have to move too far and still pick up picks. The growing sentiment that Bortles is the best quarterback in the draft would benefit the Rams if he's still there after Houston picks.