- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Les Snead wasn't even a month into his new job as the St. Louis Rams general manager when he made the move that, for better or worse, will define his tenure.
Hired on Feb. 14, 2012, Snead and coach Jeff Fisher worked to orchestrate a trade that sent the No. 2 overall pick in that draft to the Washington Redskins for a haul of draft choices that included first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. The deal was finalized and announced March 13.
Two years later, the final piece of that puzzle will fall into place during Thursday night's first round of the NFL draft. In the past two drafts, Snead, Fisher and the Rams have made a habit of using their additional capital to manipulate the draft with more trades, moving up and down the board regularly.
Stockpiling picks the past two years was logical for a team that had one of the worst rosters in the league when Snead and Fisher were brought on board. While the jury remains out on how most of those players will develop, the Rams have seen better results on the field even if it means being mired in mediocrity rather than muck.
To take the next step, the Rams should consider making the transition from quantity to quality.
So far, the results of the trade with Washington have been mixed. After moving to the Redskins' spot at No. 6 in 2012, the Rams traded down again, this time with Dallas to No. 14 and selected defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
Using the second-round choice the team acquired from Washington, St. Louis selected cornerback Janoris Jenkins and followed by trading the choice from the Cowboys to Chicago to move back five spots in the second and add a fifth-round pick. The Rams used those picks on running back Isaiah Pead and guard Rokevious Watkins.
Brockers is off to a promising start and is a candidate for a breakout third season. Jenkins flashed major playmaking potential as a rookie but took a step back in 2013, Pead has been relegated to a special teams role and Watkins lasted only one injury-plagued season on the roster.
Last year's draft saw the Rams trade Washington's pick, No. 22 overall, and a seventh-rounder to Atlanta for the 30th pick plus third and sixth-round selections. From there, the Rams used No. 30 on linebacker Alec Ogletree, the third-round pick on receiver Stedman Bailey and the sixth-round choice as part of a deal to move up for running back Zac Stacy.
Early returns on those moves are decidedly positive with Ogletree improving as the year went on, Stacy emerging as the starting back and Bailey flashing starter potential near the end of the season.
All told, the Rams' current return on the initial trade with Washington and the many ensuing moves appear to be mostly good, solid additions. Which is precisely the point; the Rams have plenty of good and solid on the roster. Good and solid has translated to 7-9 and 7-8-1.
What they need is transformative.
Defensive end Robert Quinn is the only every-down player on the roster who currently qualifies in that blue-chip category. Sure, others could ascend to that level, as Quinn did in 2013, but the need for more remains.
Looking around the brutal NFC West, a team such as Seattle can boast seven or eight legitimate All-Pro caliber starters. San Francisco and Arizona are not far behind.
That's not to say Snead should switch his cellphone to airplane mode should teams come calling for the No. 2 pick in this year's draft.
While each team views the draft class differently, the Rams probably would be happy to come out of the draft with any one of six elite talents, a group that includes South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack and Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.
Should any trade offers come their way, it would be risky for the Rams to move any lower than No. 6, where previous trade partner Atlanta currently sits. But in a year when there's no franchise quarterback teams are eager to trade up for, would it be worthwhile for the Rams to trade with a team such as the Falcons knowing they might have to settle for the player they rank sixth in that group?
Why not, barring a Godfather offer from another team, stay at No. 2 and walk away with the player you believe has the best chance to be a true difference-maker and potential Hall of Famer?
With all of the extra premium picks, the Rams have been an April power broker the past two years and will be again this May. Now is the time to cash in those chips to become one in January.