- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- In what has become an NFL scouting combine tradition, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher was asked again whether he would be willing to draft an offensive lineman in the first round of May’s draft.
Once again, Fisher said the fact that none of his teams have taken a lineman in the first round in his nearly two decades as a head coach is more a matter of happenstance than design.
“I have no reservation whatsoever,” Fisher said. “The only position I would not draft would be a punter or a kicker in the first round.”
As Fisher and general manager Les Snead readily point out, sometimes the stars have to align just right for something to come together in the draft.
"Jeff and I have laughed about that,” Snead said. “He doesn’t have a core philosophy that no (I won’t take one). It’s just over the years, how it evolved.”
If ever there was a year for the streak to end and the questions to stop, this could be the one. And if ever there was a player built to end the run, it’s Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson.
It’s no secret that revamping the offensive line is going to be an offseason priority for the Rams. Fisher and Snead have acknowledged as much given the pending contract situations of starters Rodger Saffold and Chris Williams, the injury to left tackle Jake Long, and the possible salary-cap scenarios involving Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl.
Depending on what happens with Saffold and elsewhere in free agency, the need is clearly there.
The next part of the equation is matching the value with the draft pick.
The Rams have pick Nos. 2 and 13 in the first round, and seven more selections, one each in rounds two through six, and two in the seventh. That number could grow with compensatory picks when they’re divvied up at the owner’s meetings next month.
But as it stands right now, adding Robinson to the stable of Rams offensive linemen is a move that would make a whole lot of sense. Though many discussions about trading the pick will evolve between now and the draft, if the Rams have to do pick at No. 2, so be it.
Multiple NFL scouts said over the weekend that Robinson isn’t too far behind South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the discussion of the draft’s best player. If that’s the case, a trade down with hopes of landing Robinson might be a risky proposition.
In his Saturday workouts, Robinson did nothing to dispel the notion that he could be one of the draft’s best players and a potential top three pick.
Robinson already drew plenty of oohs and aahs from teams for measuring in at 6-foot-5, 332 pounds this week. He added more buzz Friday when he benched 225 pounds 32 times despite his 35-inch arms.
Robinson put icing on the cake with an overwhelming performance on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, highlighted by an official 40-yard dash time of 4.92 seconds.
Perhaps more important than running 40 yards in a straight line, Robinson showed well in mirror and footwork drills. Playing in coach Gus Malzahn's offense, Robinson didn’t get many opportunities to show his pass-blocking skills.
That has made it hard for teams to project how Robinson will fare in that regard.
“Gus’ offense is unique and it’s very, very difficult to defend,” Fisher said. “It creates matchups in one-on-one ... [Robinson] was a big part of it. He was a dominating player in that locker room. I think what teams are going to do now is sort through the offense and see how Greg will adjust in the pro-style offense.”
While other tackles like Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan are considered more polished, Robinson has been hit with the “potential” label, an insinuation that he might not be prepared to make an impact right away like his fellow top tackles.
It’s a reservation Robinson understands.
“That’s in the back of my head, because they say I’m not at full potential right now,” Robinson said. “I still have a lot to go. I started last year was my first season starting. Like the guys they have ahead of me like Jake Matthews, he started since he was a freshman. That’s just something I feel I need to prove. It’s probably in people’s head that I’m not there."
Beyond the impressive college production and workout, Robinson also has his share of close ties to the Rams and their top two decision-makers.
Snead played his college ball at Auburn and keeps a close eye on the Tigers. Former Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter is an operations assistant and scouting assistant.
And, of course, Fisher’s son, Trent, was a teammate of Robinson's at Auburn. Robinson had a formal 15-minute interview with the Rams on Thursday night, and said he got a chance to catch up with the younger Fisher and Trotter as well.
“I haven’t spoken with his dad, but Trent is a good dude, he was a leader on our team,” Robinsons aid. “I looked up to him and I respected him. I actually talked to him yesterday, him and Barrett Trotter. They have been telling me a lot of good things.”
For his part, Jeff Fisher said it’s nice to have close ties to any prospect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an edge over other teams.
“I think it’s important,” Fisher said. “We’re going to try to get as much information as we can. The skill set is there on the game tape. The more information you can get from a character standpoint is beneficial. But in this day and age, with the information that’s available, I don’t think we’ll have an advantage over anybody else.”
Robinson’s run-blocking skills would seem to be a good fit for the Rams' offense, even if he had to go on the Jonathan Ogden plan and play guard for a bit before moving to tackle.
With Robinson's approach to the game, there is little doubt he’ll have trouble winning over Rams offensive line coach Paul Boudreau and the rest of the league's line coaches.
“I wouldn’t say (I play) angry, but I’m not trying to be nice,” Robinson said.