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Sunday, April 6, 2014
How far is too far for trade down by Rams?

By Nick Wagoner

One of the few draft-related topics the St. Louis Rams have been openly willing to discuss in the run-up to May's NFL draft has been their willingness to trade the No. 2 overall selection.

That pick is the final piece of the haul the team received from the Washington Redskins in 2012, and the Rams would undoubtedly like that deal to continue perpetuating itself as long as possible.

But the Rams also need to add some difference makers if they want to keep up in the arms race that is the NFC West. So while a trade down would allow them to add more good players with later picks, it also could prevent them from getting an elite talent if they move down too far.

Which begs the question, if the Rams do find a trade partner, how far can they move while still maintaining the chance at a top talent?

Of course, the quality and rankings of the talent is purely in the eye of the beholder so while one team may see five players separated from the group, another team might see seven, including some that aren't in the other team's top five.

In the 2014 draft, there does seem to be at least a little bit of a consensus forming on who the top players are, though there's room for differences of opinion behind South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is widely regarded as the No. 1 overall player.

According to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., if the Rams want to walk out of the first night of the draft with an elite talent, they'll need to ensure that any move down still garners one of seven players. Those seven players are Clowney, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans and Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.

"That’s your super seven," Kiper said. "After that, I don’t see anybody that belongs in that group right now. I don’t think any of the quarterbacks do and I don’t see any other players jumped up that far. So that’s your sensational seven, if you want to say that. Then you’re getting into the range where the eighth guy could be the 18th guy on some boards. To me, the seven are the consensus seven."

Now, just because those are Kiper's seven players doesn't mean the Rams view it that way. There could be more, there could be less. But given their apparent willingness to move down, it's reasonable to conclude that they have a number of players they view as worthy of taking in the top 10 or so of the draft. They've showed at least some level of interest in all seven of the players Kiper mentions.

Beyond that, the Rams have made it clear they have no intention of taking a quarterback in the first round. Which is what makes how other teams view the top quarterbacks the overriding X factor in trying to assess how far the Rams could comfortably trade down to secure one of the top talents.

It'd be easy to say there are seven players you covet and follow with the logic that you can't move any lower than No. 7 to get one. But quarterbacks perpetually complicate projecting the draft. No other position gets over drafted more as teams desperately seek franchise signal-callers at the expense of someone who might be a more sure thing at a less important position.

Of teams picking in the top 10, Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Minnesota and possibly Tampa Bay could use help at quarterback. So it's possible the Rams could move down a little past that seventh spot.

Still, finding a trade partner, especially if Clowney is off the board, might prove difficult because of that lack of excitement about this year's quarterback prospects. And it's not out of line to say that just because the Rams could move down doesn't mean they should. If indeed there's a super seven, the Rams might be better off taking their pick of the litter than rolling the dice on the player at the bottom of that group.