Thursday, May 8, 2014
Five draft scenarios for Rams at No. 2
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- We've finally arrived at draft day and the next few hours will provide our final chances at speculating on what could happen instead of evaluating what has happened.
With that in mind, let's make the most of that time and go through five scenarios that could play out for the St. Louis Rams with the No. 2 pick when they come on the clock tonight.
It's been awfully difficult to sift through the smoke in this pre-draft process but these are the five things I believe the Rams will have in consideration for the second pick, put in order of how I think the team will prioritize them.
1. Hope Houston passes on South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney and trade him for a package of premium picks
Let's be realistic about this: general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher love to make big, bold trades that allow them to stockpile picks. Having Clowney on the board is the preferred scenario because he's the one guy that figures to draw the most in return.
Teams like the Atlanta Falcons have already expressed interest in Clowney and the ties between Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Snead could lead to an easy deal developing quickly if Houston surprises and goes for a quarterback or Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.
Fisher said Tuesday the Rams have six to eight players they would be comfortable drafting at No. 2. I believe the number is closer to six than eight but either way, the Rams probably wouldn't move any further down than No. 7 with Tampa Bay and even that would require a strong return.
In their ideal world, the Rams could move back to six or seven and still land one of the top tackles, likely Texas A&M's Jake Matthews or Michigan's Taylor Lewan.
2. Draft Clowney
Like most teams, Clowney almost certainly sits at the top of the Rams' draft board though there's reason to believe not everyone would be on board with making him the pick. Either way, Fisher has repeatedly insisted that you can't have enough pass-rushers and Snead was duly impressed with Clowney's pro day workout.
Defensive end is not a need but the Rams could find ways to get Clowney on the field in Year 1 while developing long term plans to pair him with Robert Quinn and terrorize quarterbacks and tackles around the league. There are questions about Clowney's work ethic and one scout told me that he would need to play for the "right" defensive line coach to maximize his ability. There's no doubt that the Rams' Mike Waufle qualifies, he's as good as there is.
3. Search for a team looking to trade up for a quarterback or anyone else and trade down
This is where things get more realistic. Most likely, Clowney is still going to go No. 1 whether it's to Houston or a team trading up to get him. Assuming Clowney is gone, the Rams won't have the most appealing carrot in the draft to dangle for a trade but there are teams that might be willing to move up for Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson or Mack.
The question would then become whether the Rams can get enough in return to make the move without having to move too far down the list to obtain one of the players Fisher says they're comfortable drafting at No. 2. Just like scenario one, a move down would likely leave the Rams targeting the best of the remaining tackles.
4. Draft Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson
It's entirely possible the Rams will have to do something they seem to dislike: sit in their spot and make a pick. In a deep draft, teams are going to be loathe to give up premium second or third-round picks knowing they can get an elite player. The Rams might be able to take less to do it but they'd have to judge the value of the move.
Which brings us to the endless debate between players like Robinson, Matthews, Watkins, Mack and Lewan. When all is said and done, any of those options would be strong and the Rams probably can't go wrong. But the hunch here is that Robinson's fit into what the Rams want to be offensively combined with the ability of line coach Paul Boudreau's ability to maximize Robinson's tremendous upside would make him the pick.
5. Draft Matthews, Watkins, Mack or Lewan
Should the Rams stay at No. 2 with Clowney already gone, they'll have plenty of options for top players. You can make legitimate arguments for any of the group including Matthews, Watkins, Mack or Lewan.
Watkins has plenty of support from Rams fans and I believe he's the correct pick in this scenario but it seems the Rams are more inclined to bolster the offensive line. We can't rule out Matthews, either, given his connections to Fisher and Day 1 starter polish. Mack could be a sleeper as a movable piece for new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to solidify the front seven. For the record, my guess on the order of preference of these players would look something like Matthews, Watkins, Mack, Lewan.