NFC West: Alex Lincoln
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The premise: Criminal profilers develop rich character sketches to help identify unknown suspects. Couldn't we use similar tactics, though vastly simplified, to anticipate how NFL teams might view college prospects? With your help, I think we can do some amateur profiling of teams and their general managers.
In focus: Rams general manager Billy Devaney and the linebackers his teams have drafted since 1994.
Would the Rams consider drafting Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry with the second overall choice this year? An offensive tackle appears more likely in that slot, at least in my view, but new coach Steve Spagnuolo also needs to strengthen the Rams' defense.
The chart shows every linebacker Devaney's teams have drafted since 1994, ranked by how early his teams selected the linebackers. Seven of the top 11 were from teams currently affiliated with the SEC and ACC (all conference listing reflect current affiliations).
Devaney's teams selected none of the 14 higher than 47th overall. Going back further, Devaney was with the Chargers in 1990 when they selected Junior Seau with the fifth overall choice. Also going back to 1990, Devaney's teams have selected three linebackers from North Carolina A&T: Michael Hamilton (74th overall in 1997), Kevin Little (131st in 1992) and Toran James (218th in 1997).
Spagnuolo, meanwhile, was with Philadelphia as linebackers coach when the team selected five linebackers, all in 2005 and 2006. One of them, fifth-round choice Trent Cole, became a pass-rushing defensive end. The others: Chris Gocong, Omar Gaither, Matt McCoy and David Bergeron. The Eagles drafted none earlier than 63rd overall (McCoy, 2005). Gocong was the 71st player chosen in 2006. The others were 146th or later.
The Rams waited until the seventh round before selecting a linebacker last year. They will almost surely draft one earlier this year. The team also might need a starting receiver. The defensive line could also use reinforcements even though St. Louis has used high picks for Chris Long and Adam Carriker in recent seasons.
Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. is going to help us fill in the gaps on which college players might fit our profile.
Muench on the Rams and a linebacker: They might fill that in the middle rounds because Spagnuolo can coach them up. We should look for guys who can pressure the QB. That is why they might take an end, because they might want to build their pressure.
The linebacker I was looking at for the Rams was Jason Phillips from TCU. They had a great defense at TCU. He's a middle linebacker, team leader, blue-collar kind of guy. He is not the most athletic guy to match up in coverage, but he is fast, so he can blitz. He has a torn meniscus in his left knee that could scare some teams, but I don't think it's an issue at all. He is so smart that I think he will pick it up anyway.
I think Spagnuolo would love a kid like that. Maybe play him behind Chris Draft for a year, if that. He could play situationally on third down. He is going to spend all that down time [while rehabbing the knee] in his playbook and the film room. The other thing that is interesting about the inside linebacker class, unless they trade out, they don't really have a good option in the first tw