“Cut to the Chase” NFL Draft 2014: The Rams’ can’t-lose quandary
The draft is three days away and the St. Louis Rams are on the doorstep of completing one of the biggest swoops in NFL trade history. The 2012 NFL Draft was a franchise-changing draft for both the Washington Redskins and the Rams. Robert Griffin III, the outcome of the number two overall pick in ‘12 was dealt in a blockbuster to the Rams for a bevy of draft picks that will conclude in New York on Thursday. On top of this year’s number two pick, the Rams have already nailed down a first-round pick in ‘12 (which they traded down to select Michael Brockers), a second-round pick in ‘13 (Janoris Jenkins), and a first-round pick in ‘13 that they liquidated to select linebacker Alec Ogletree, wideout burner Stedman Bailey, and their current unquestionable starting running back Zac Stacy. The Rams may not have translated these incoming assets to wins, but leave no doubt that they are the runaway winners after landing five starters (and possibly another on Thursday) in exchange for the oft-injured star Griffin.
One giant glaring variable in the equation is Houston’s choice at number one. The Texans have almost completely committed to taking South Carolina’s all-world DE Jadaveon Clowney but have not counted out Central Florida’s QB Blake Bortles. Should the Texans take Bortles, it will end all discussion for the Rams, who will scoop Clowney immediately. This is looking like less and less of a possibility by the day.
To be clear, having the number two pick in a fairly deep draft like Thursday’s is a great thing. The issue is what to do with that power that was held by the Redskins two years ago. The Rams are not particularly terrible at any one position, but could use a number one wide receiver that newly acquired Kenny Britt and speedster Tavon Austin can grow and work in tandem with. Enter Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. Watkins projects out as the clear number one receiver and will be available after the Texans select either Jadaveon Clowney or Blake Bortles. The question is how close do the Rams rate Watkins and Evans, if they go WR here. Can they find a trade partner that is willing to overpay to take Watkins here? Someone like Oakland, San Francisco or Kansas City would be best bets.
St. Louis’ final option if Clowney is taken and they can’t find a trade partner will be to take either Watkins or Buffalo combo defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Mack is widely regarded as one of this year’s can’t-miss picks and will undoubtedly go in the top five, as will Watkins. Mack would fit in nicely among the Rams’ installed 4-3 system OLBs like the aforementioned Ogletree and Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
Looking ahead to their second pick of the first round, the Rams should be filling the worst part of their defense with Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Dix will probably be the first secondary player off the board to the Rams unless St. Louis gambles with LSU WR Odell Beckham or somehow Mike Evans drops to 13. Louisville’s Calvin Pryor would be a decision if Dix is taken and head coach Jeff Fisher insists on upgrading his secondary.
This year the Rams, unlike their recent seasons, cannot lose when it comes to this pick. Already garnering enough quality players to justify the RGIII move, St. Louis is playing with house money. With Sam Bradford seemingly cemented at QB for another season, that position seems to be the only direction not possible at number two on Thursday. Looking at GM Les Snead’s resume of transactions, no one should be surprised if a trade is made.