There is no faster way to get fans riled up than to start talking about players in the draft. For real fans there is no subject more controversial than who a team should draft, and in what round. The only thing we can all agree on is that none of us all agree. So in an effort to be less than controversial, I have simply put together a small evaluation of some players that Rams fans should keep in mind.
When a team is putting together a draft board– scouts, personnel people, and coaches all have specific players they are infatuated with. Unfortunately, most of the time they don’t all agree on these players either. Maybe a scout likes a player because of his physical talent and his production on the field. A personnel guy might like an athletic or productive player because he is undervalued due to injuries, character concerns, or the school he attended. And a coach might love a guy with a passion for the game and a specific trait that fits his offensive or defensive scheme. In a perfect word there is a marriage between these three elements, and they are able to find a player that meets the needs of all three in every round. It is very difficult to do, and as you might be able to tell, it is not a perfect science.
Below I have compiled a list of players I think the Rams should be infatuated with. I have organized it by round, so that fans can gauge the value I place in each player. This isn’t meant to display players I feel the Rams should draft with their current pick in this round. It is meant to display that these are players that will go in the corresponding rounds, that could be very productive players for the Rams specifically. Some may only be available through trade-down/trade-up scenario’s, so before anyone jumps off their seat to scream, “we can’t draft Richardson with the 2nd overall pick”, go back and read this paragraph again. This isn’t a comprehensive list, it is a selective list of a few of the top talents by round that fit well for the Rams. So without further ado, here are some players that the Rams would be lucky to have…
First Round (top 15 picks):
- Jan 2, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon -US PRESSWIRE
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State- Anyone who watches college football got to see what this man can do to an opposing defense. He simply takes over games. He is extremely physical, can beat DB’s using is first initial steps, and can be extremely effective in the red zone. I see him comparable to Hakeem Nicks, only more athletic. Nicks was drafted late in the first round, but wasn’t the sure-thing that I think people feel Blackmon is. I think you get a sure-fired #1 WR in Justin Blackmon. You can’t compare him to Julio Jones and AJ Green because they aren’t in this draft. Do Jones and Green possess features Blackmon doesn’t, sure. But Balckmon certainly has some personal virtues of his own worth noting. His physicality for example, Blackmon is a much more physical receiver than AJ Green. I think he is worthy of a top 5 pick.
Matt Kalil, OT, USC- The Rams need help on with the offensive line. There’s no way around it, and everyone has Kalil pegged as the #1 OL on the board. But Kalil is more than just a “Jason Smith-esque” top rated lineman. He displayed dominance against top competition in college, and has all the personality traits you look for in a starting tackle. Kalil can probably start day 1 for the Rams, on the right or left, and he has the ability to get bigger, stronger, and better. He has NFL bloodlines, and is probably the closest thing to a sure-fired starting tackle we have seen since Joe Thomas or Jake Long (not to say he is in the same class). He is, and will be, a top 5 pick. I should probably also mention that I firmly believe Roger Saffold can be a great starting LT in the NFL. So to me Kalil could also end up on the right-side if the team believes Roger is best kept at a position he has experience with.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama- Richardson is one of only a few running-backs in a long while that is truly worthy of a top 15 overall pick. He is the walking definition of a feature back, and best of all, he is ascending. While the Rams don’t need a feature back today, they may need one soon. Richardson offers an amazing skill set that will translate well to the NFL, he is without a doubt a future pro-bowler. He is more athletic than Ingram, and will likely display this at the combine. He could come in at any point in the game for Jackson and contribute. We need to run the ball a lot this year, and that will mean way more than 30 touches for the RB’s (considering Schotty like to check down to his backs), and Jackson refuses to take more than 3o touches a game. Both coaches prefer two back-systems, why not have two elite backs?
Devon Still, DT, Penn State- Let’s face it the Rams might not have anyone at DT, outside of Bannon, that will make the team next year. Still is a force to be reckoned with. I’ve never seen anyone consistently dominate guys the way he did this year. He has a great motor, and can play the run and rush the passer. Watching film on him is like watching a highlight reel. This guy is a phenomenal pass rusher at DT, but has great size, and can stand guys up to eat up blocker against the run too. He would be a great addition and a first year starter. He fits things Williams and Fisher both like in DT’s. Williams likes big fella’s and Fisher likes athletic pass rushers. Still is a sold top 15 pick that would fit the Rams very well.
First Round (15-32 picks):
- Oct. 1, 2011; Tempe, AZ, USA; Oregon State Beavers Vontaze Burfict -US PRESSWIRE
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford- One of the most dominant college guards in the past decade. A guy who may sneak into the top 15, but if not, could be a steal in these later picks. He is day 1 starter that is extremely physical and nasty. He runs guys off the ball, and is exactly the kind of guy that can provide a strong push in the run game. If the Rams have a dominant guard, like DeCastro, this allows Jackson to get an initial 2-3 yards untouched. Jacksons momentum creates such a problem for the defense that he becomes nearly unstoppable, and an elite guard can be the catalyst for this effect. Top level guards are what Steven needs to breakout in our new offense.
Micheal Floyd, WR, Notre Dame- You want production? Micheal Floyd has produced for the last 3 years. You want talent and ability? Micheal Floyd might be a better athlete than Blackmon, and certainly has better size (not to infer he is a better prospect). You want scheme-specific qualities? Floyd is both an elite deep threat and a top-tier red-zone target. He has some character concerns and other issues, but this a new age. Fisher once drafted Pacman Jones, so I don’t see Floyds character being a hold-up if he can produce on the field. Floyd can produce on the field, and will, for the team that drafts him. Expect him to rise significantly following the combine.
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State- No, I’m not trying to replace James Laurinaitus, I’m trying to give him an elite partner. Burfict could be for James Laurinaitus what Lance Briggs is to Brian Urlacher. Burfict is a first class specimen– top ten elite talent, don’t let anyone tell you different. He is hot-headed, known for “going rogue”, overly passionate, and a premier athletic talent. He is exactly what Williams and Fisher are looking for. Fisher looks for damaged guys that are passionate about the game and fiery off the field. Fisher is also the kind of coach that can get the most out of a talent like Burfict. Williams loves athletic monsters at linebacker, and likes taking good MLB’s and putting them on the strong-side (he failed doing this last year with Martez Wilson; however). Watching film of Burfict should make Rams fans salivate, he would be an excellent fit in our new system.
Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State- Mike Adams reminds me of the kind of guy that seems to always end up on a team like the Steelers or Ravens, teams that just get richer and richer. He is an opposing force at 6’8 330, and is probably best fitted for RT, mostly because he’s a little slow. With that in mind, he is physically strong and imposes his will on the DL. I’ve seen him dominate guys that will start in the NFL already, and I expect he is the kind of guy that starts day 1, and has a job for a very long time. I think he could slip to the second or late first, and that is a great value for a top-tier starting bookend that can blow guys off the line.
Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State: I mentioned the benefits of having a strong, powerfully built guard above when I was talking about DeCastro, and the same applies here. This guy is best suited at OG, and at the Senior Bowl several scouts agreed that he is a dominant player if he is allowed to play in a phone booth (tight spaces, not on the outside). We need this dominate force at guard that blows guys up in the run game, this what Schotty is looking for. He could start day 1 and develop into a pro-bowl caliber guard. He is very slow, mostly because he is very big, so that is the drawback. I think a great starting guard in the second round is a good value. I like Kelechi for the Rams because I believe he has both a high floor and ceiling.
Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia: Someone told me last week that Brandon Boykin is the next Deon Sanders, and I had to laugh, but the truth is he’s very good. He is a small cornerback, so immediately I always take pause. Tye Hill still stings sharp, and no one is interested in another small CB who isn’t physical enough to play in the NFL. Brandon Boykin is more physical than most of the other corners in this draft. He is very physically built (chiseled as they say), and certainly plays the part. He has great press coverage and fantastic closing speed. If he makes it out of the first round the Rams could be in position to nab a speedy dime and nickel corner who would excel blitzing out of Williams system. For those who are not sold yet– he would immediately replace Justin King, and he returns kicks!
Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska: I can hear everyone now, “No, he will be another Adam Carricker…”, but these two guys are very different. Crick was a first round guy that had too much film and scouts started to find little flaws in his game. He’s also had some injuries this last year that affected his play. If you watch his last 3 years of film as a collective you can see there is a very good DT here. He is not a nose tackle, he’s the supplementary guy that can rush the passer, and hold lineman up while LB’s make plays. I think he has greater potential and better ability than FA Jason Jones, and would also be cheaper. He would be on my radar as a guy I could start for a long time if I could continue to develop him. He fits Fisher to a “T”, but I’m not sure about Williams. This is the biggest risk on my board because I don’t know how well he fits Williams, “Giant Meatball” tackle philosophy. His film really jumps out to me, and I think he will be the JJ Watt of this class (yes, I’m aware Watt plays DE in a 3-4).
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers: Here is a great talent that has been somewhat hidden over in New Jersey at Rutgers, and that is ultimately why he is here in the third round. This is a great WR class. There are so many good guys that will slip into the first and second rounds (Criner, Adams, Wright, Quick, Jeffery, Toon, McNutt), and it is likely that several will be here in the third. I believe Sanu will be one of them, and I think he will have an advocate inside the Rams Park in our new quaterbacks coach, Cignetti, who was the OC at Rutgers last year. He is being compared to Victor Cruz and Mike Williams (Tampa Bay), and would be a welcome addition to our “D+” receiving core. He will be an NFL starter.
Josh Kaddu, OLB, Oregon: A great talent for a position on the weakside at linebacker. A guy who plays at a very-quick and at a ferocious speed all the time. He is a very special athlete that will excel at the combine. He can be very fast off the edge, or burst off into coverage to stay tight on the new-breed TE’s in the league. He will have trouble in the run sometimes because he is only about 235lbs with a frame that is maxed out; however, he can make plays in space and would be a great fit for what Williams does. He showed at the Senior Bowl that he can play in the NFL. he would also be a great contributor on special teams.
Micheal Brewster, C, Ohio State: The Senior Bowl didn’t help Micheal’s stock any, he struggled a bit at times, but lucky for him I still believe he is a top 3 center in this class. I also believe he is a more-than-capable starting NFL lineman. He can push our veteran in this role for starting time this year. We need that competition here to prove we are putting the best guys on the field, and eventually I think Brewster will be that guy for a team in the NFL.
Fifth Round (Rams currently do not own picks here, I know)
- Jan 21, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, Akiem Hicks Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE
Akiem Hicks, DT, University of Regina: Had Akiem Hicks been followed by the letters L.S.U. for the past few years we would likely be talking about him as a first round pick. Unfortunately for him he was declared ineligible before ever playing a game, and was banished to play Canadian college football. Hicks dominated in the Canadian ranks despite being triple-teamed on a regular basis. The bad news is he has never played against anyone who was anywhere close to a NFL-caliber lineman. He is 6’4 343lbs, and is very fit for his size. Hicks is a very strong athlete, and could be the next Albert Haynesworth with the right coaching ( I sincerely believe that), but he is very raw right now. It’s as if he has been uncoached in his technique the past few years. He will take a little time. Fisher loves these guys with a chip on their shoulder, and Williams will love his size. St. Louis is ideal for him, and I’d love to reap the benefits of a player like this towards the end of this year into next year.
Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: A nice sized, physical, press corner who can play the slot at the NFL level. He is a guy that can play in any system, and supposedly is very passionate about the game of football. His technique is a little raw, which is fine considering we now have an excellent coaching staff. A guy that can become a play-maker in the secondary at a 6th round value is a good deal. I see guy with a higher ceiling than many are projecting. I think he could be a Cortland Finnegan in the making.
Dionte Paige-Moss, DE, UNC: Robert Quinn, Quinton Coples, Julius Peppers– let’s face it the University of North Carolina basically exudes elite DE’s. In Moss’s case he never quite put it all together before an ACL put him out for the year. People had him pegged for a breakout in 2011 that would put him in the first round. This is a high-risk, high-reward pick. Paige could bust hard, but he has elite talent, and if you have a strong trust in your coaching staff you could feel really good about this pick. He is a speedy, long-armed, pass-rushing DE that could rotate in all year. He was a top 5 recruit out of HS and deserves a real shot in the NFL. The great thing about our new coaching staff is that we have the ability to develop these guys.
- Sep 3, 2011; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks safety Jerico Nelson Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE
Jerico Nelson, SS, Arkansas: A physically gifted strong safety that was designed to play in the box. He is very shifty and can disguise his coverage well. With the right coaching he could breakout in a scheme like Williams’. The trick for him will be learning to play smart. He will have to become entrenched in our defense so that he can make plays in the run, pass, and while rushing the passer. The physical ability is there, it’s just a matter of coaching him so that he is in the right place to make a play. This is something he struggled with on the limited tape I saw. We don’t desperately need a SS– but depth is painfully necessary, as we all know, and he could eventually become a staple like Blaine Bishop was for the Titans.
That concludes a short synopsis of some of the best guys for the Rams in this years draft. Please leave your comments below, I will be interested to hear other fans thoughts. Next week I will post the top players by round that the Rams should stay away from.