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Friday, May 3, 2013
King's look deep inside Rams' draft room

By Mike Sando

Peter King's report for Sports Illustrated from inside the St. Louis Rams' draft room gives us a much better feel for how the team operates.

King had a back-stage pass to the draft, giving him a clear view of the Rams' thinking, their maneuverings and attempted maneuverings. He shared a few details in a recent online piece, but the full piece appears in the May 6 edition of the magazine.

We learned, among many other things, that the Rams' trade to acquire the eighth overall choice from the Buffalo Bills was worked out days in advance, but never a sure thing until the last minute, and only then when St. Louis upped its offer. Tavon Austin was the player the Rams felt they had to have, so when the division-rival Arizona Cardinals selected guard Jonathan Cooper at No. 7, the Rams' draft room erupted in celebration (the down side: having to face Cooper twice a year in the NFC West).

Alec Ogletree
The Rams were excited that Alec Ogletree was still available late in the first round.
We learned from King that the Rams really did have Alec Ogletree as their No. 1 priority with the second of their two first-round selections. They had serious concerns about Ogletree's off-field issues, and those concerns presumably influenced their decision to trade back to No. 30 instead of selecting Ogletree at No. 22. But the wait to No. 30 sounded excruciating based on the conversations and observations King relayed in his report.

When the Rams traded back, UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones, chosen 26th by Green Bay, and Kentucky guard Larry Warford, chosen 65th by Detroit, were the players St. Louis was considering as fallbacks at No. 30 if Ogletree were not available. That information can be helpful in the future if Jones or Warford becomes available in free agency. We now know those players could have special appeal to the Rams' current leadership.

We also learned from King that the Rams could have traded the 30th pick to Minnesota for the Vikings' second-, third- and fourth-round picks, but general manager Les Snead thought such a move would have sacrificed one of his core principles: going and getting players his team really, really wanted. This philosophy came into play later in the draft when the Rams traded both sixth-round picks to Houston for the fifth-round choice St. Louis used for running back Zac Stacy.

"I think [Stacy] was one of probably the last guys on our board that we were really, really jacked about," Snead would explain to reporters after the draft. "The rest was just going to be people we liked, but not jacked about, so at that point in time we said, 'Hey, let's go get him.' "

Snead would rather have one player he really likes than two players he doesn't feel as strongly about. That thinking makes tremendous sense at the top of the draft, I think. I'm not sure if that's true nearly to the same degree later in the draft, when it's tougher to tell differences between players and the "crapshoot" element comes into play more prevalently.

Ogletree might become an all-world player, and if the Rams think he's going to be special, it's tough to fault them for holding onto the pick. But there are obvious risks associated with drafting Ogletree, whose off-field issues have included failed drug tests in college and a DUI arrest.

The Rams entered the draft with only 52 players on their roster. They are wisely valuing impact players over lesser ones. But they still needed numbers.

There's a decent chance, in theory, that one of the players the Rams would have selected with the 52nd, 83rd or 102nd picks from Minnesota would have outperformed the player chosen 30th. Kevin Meers' Harvard draft value chart says the Rams would have received 85 percent more value than they traded away had they made the trade. Steve Drake's Sports + Numbers chart would have given the Rams a 46 percent value edge. Chase Stuart's Football Perspective chart had the Rams ahead by 69 percent.

Of course, those fancy charts aren't in love with Ogletree. Those charts cannot know whether Ogletree is really a top-10 or top-15 talent from a physical standpoint, as the Rams project. By all appearances, NFL teams aren't yet in love with these types of charts, which value picks based on how players selected in the same slots have performed historically.

The traditional value chart from two decades ago says the 30th overall pick is worth almost exactly what those three picks from the Vikings would be worth.

The Rams might not care all that much. They got their guy and that is what matters to them.