With the 2014 NFL Draft approaching, the season of love between teams and prospects is upon us. Over the next month, rumors about front offices coveting individual players will start to grow stronger and stronger; some as smoke screens and some as genuine infatuation with a player. For the St. Louis Rams, some of those have already surfaced, with various reports suggesting players like Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack, and Jake Matthews are all high on the Big Board in the Rams’ War Room. However, on Wednesday, there was another “strong” link was made between a team and player that might be of particular interest to the St. Louis Rams…
Storyline to watch: #Lions Vice Chairman Bill Ford Jr was at the facility yesterday and did meet with WR Sammy Watkins. Would take a trade…
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 9, 2014
The Detroit Lions are currently slotted in the No.10 spot, well outside of the expected Top 5 range from the consensus top wide receiver prospect in the 2014 class. Rumors and mock drafts have already linked Watkins to a number of teams picking in that high-end range, including the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, and, of course, the St. Louis Rams.
The reason that the Lions’ interest might mean a great deal to Les Snead and Jeff Fisher is that any realistic move up into the “guaranteed to get your player” range would likely involve the St. Louis Rams moving down.
For one, and potentially of the most importance, the Rams could very well take Sammy Watkins at No.2 themselves, quickly exterminating any hopes that Detroit may have of selecting the Clemson phenom. That point might be particularly useful in “driving up the price” of the a potential team tradee, especially if Jadeveon Clowney is still sitting on the board. A bidding war between Detroit and Atlanta, an anticipated trading partner in the Clowney sweepstakes, could certainly help the Rams. But, we’ll touch more on that in a minute.
Secondly, the St. Louis Rams are, arguably, in a more flexible and “move-abe” position in the upper range of the draft order than both the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders. With a franchise quarterback (at least in the mind of Fisher and Snead), two Top 25 starting offensive tackles, the top performing pass rushing front-four in the NFL, and a myriad of young, highly-drafted receivers, the Rams could certainly “afford” to pass on one of the top prospects at any of those aforementioned positions.
To juxtapose St. Louis’ situation, the Raiders have an immediate need for a starting-caliber offensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker, and, arguably, quarterback. If Oakland were to move down to No.10, they’d likely miss on all of the top prospects at those positions; something their front office and coach staff can ill-afford considering their lackadaisical, oddly-managed free agency. For Cleveland, the situation is a tad more relaxed. However, without any semblance of a starting quarterback on the roster, moving from No.4 to No.10 might be a terrifying proposition, especially given the teams in the Top 10 that could bite on a quarterback. Moreover, with a “luxury” 1st-rounder, courtesy of Trent Richardson, the Browns may not feel as though stockpiling future picks outweighs the guarantee of snagging “their guy” in the Top 4. Thanks, Indianapolis.
Some may argue that the price tag to move from No.10 to No.2 in the order might be too high for the Detroit Lions to feasibly incur, especially considering they “earned” their spot in the Top 10. That very well may be true. Using the relatively short list of trades into the Top 10 since the new CBA was ushered into the league in 2011, one could responsibility approximate that a trade of that magnitude would including, at least, an additional 1st- and 2nd-rounder, on top of the No.10 pick. Then again, the Lions are certainly in “win now” mode, and if the Detroit’ brass feel as those Sammy Watkins is the missing link to the puzzle, future picks might be a mere formality in the negotiations.
However, what if the move up were only from No.10 to No.6?
With the Atlanta Falcons figuring to be the front-funner for a trade with the St. Louis Rams, there is certainly a realistic possibility that Les Snead and Jeff Fisher could find themselves selecting outside of the Top 5 with Sammy Watkins still sitting on the board.At that point, St. Louis would, again, be in a position of power, with the option of either a) trading down to the apparently receiver-hungry Lions or b) simply taking Watkins themselves, at amazing value outside of the Top 5.
If the Rams could squeeze the Lions for their 2nd-rounder to move up four spots, it would be excellent “value trade” on the part of the St. Louis brass. Adding another Top 45 pick to their (at that point) already-impressive bounty could give the Rams plenty of ammunition and flexibility in this loaded class, including a potential move back into the 1st round to take the top guard prospect in the class; Xavier Su’a-Filo. Moreover, the St. Louis Rams would be in an excellent position to draft the their top graded cornerback prospect (Justin Gilbert/Darqueze Dennard) and their top ranked free safety prospect (Haha Clinton-Dix) at the No.10 and No.13 spots, respectively.
Assuming the cards play out in the Rams favor, this type of trade down could send St. Louis into Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft with a new starting nickelback, a starting free safety, and a starting interior lineman. Moreover, they would have bagged a handful of future picks, including a likely 1st-rounder in the 2015 NFL Draft. Hard to imagine a better turnout. Les Snead will be awaiting your phone call, Mr. Ford!