Monday, April 25, 2011
Blogger mock: J.J. Watt to the Rams
By Mike Sando
Von Miller, Robert Quinn, J.J. Watt and Mark Ingram landed in the NFC West thanks to my shrewd maneuvering in ESPN.com's Blog Network mock draft for 2011.
I'm breaking out my selections on a team-by-team basis, with explanations that hopefully will invite your points and counterpoints. Running back Mark Ingram unexpectedly landed with Seattle at No. 25.
Let's continue in reverse order, with the St. Louis Rams at No. 14.
The selection: J.J. Watt, DL, Wisconsin
Off the board: Quarterbacks Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Andy Dalton; defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Aldon Smith; cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara; outside linebackers Von Miller and Robert Quinn; receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones; and offensive lineman Tyron Smith.
The thinking: The more I consider rampant comparisons between Watt and Adam Carriker, the less solid this selection seems to be on the surface. Carriker found himself caught between positions and ultimately caught between coaching staffs after the Rams made him the 13th choice of the 2007 draft. He played 31 of 32 games, starting 25, in his only two seasons with the Rams. He also needed shoulder surgery last offseason, complicating efforts to earn a spot in the Rams' rotation. Carriker's versatility was seen as an asset when he was coming out of college. The Rams' experience with him changes the outlook for Watt. It's fair to wonder whether Watt would fit well enough into any one position to maximize his value. Could he play primarily inside, adding to the rotation at defensive tackle? Would he possess the quickness and pass-rush ability to play enough on the perimeter? Would he even remotely fit the physical mold of the defensive linemen Steve Spagnuolo's teams have drafted early in the past -- guys such as Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson, Jerome McDougle, Corey Simon, Jay Alford and Derrick Burgess? Those are valid questions. Watt could fit more naturally in a 3-4 scheme. The way this mock draft unfolded, however, Watt projected as a good value selection at a position where the Rams are seeking young reinforcements. The top two receivers weren't available. This was too early, it seemed, to fill needs at outside linebacker. Drafting for the offensive line seemed like a luxury for a team already set at both tackle spots. It's arguably a year early to spend such a high selection on a running back, although Ingram was available when I made this selection. Watt became the choice by default -- a big, versatile defensive lineman adding depth where coach Spagnuolo values it the most.
Odds of this happening: Outside shot. I spent the last paragraph all but apologizing for the selection. I do think there's a good chance the Rams will select a defensive lineman, however.