Hope you enjoyed your Presidents' Day weekend. Now it's over. Now we have work to do. The Combine gets underway on Saturday, when drills start for offensive linemen, tight ends, and specialists. Of course, the Combine yak yak starts much sooner as players begin reporting to the annual event this week. So, besides the most obvious picks the Rams will consider drafting with the second overall pick, what are some players worth watching this weekend?
We've talked lots about the Rams' needs on defense lately, so we'll start the unofficial TST Combine preview with a run down of players on the other side of the ball, players the Rams need to address a couple of key areas of need on offense: offensive line, number two running back, and, to a lesser extent, QB.
Let's start with the OL, tackle specifically. The top four names at OT - Oher, Andre and Jason Smith, and Monroe - have been pretty well covered. Those guys will be looking to establish a clearer order among them, giving the rest of us an idea of who, if any, is the better fit for the Rams at OT...if they choose to go that route with their second number two pick in two years. In his "Being Billy Devaney" series, Tackle Box covered the OTs that might fall to the Rams should they opt to take one later in the draft. Two OT names on that list are getting some professional pundit attention. In his Combine preview, ESPN's John Clayton says to watch William Beatty of Connecticut and Jamon Meredeth of South Carolina, with good workouts they could become top-10 type players.
Keep an eye on Cal C Alex Mack and Oregon C Max Unger. Both of these guys are great prospects at that all important position, a position the Rams desperately need to address if they have any intention of competing this year. Both of those guys could potential, arguably be drafted with the Rams second round pick, third pick overall in the second round. Check out what Bucky Brooks has to say about both prospects here.
It's easy to overlook the Rams need of a solid #2, really more of a #1b, running back after Steven Jackson's fourth consecutive 1,000 yard rushing season, but Jackson's an investment and loading him up with 330 carries a season is only going to shorten the number of productive years he has for the Rams. He does have an injury history, thanks in part to the Rams woeful line of recent seasons. Besides, the NFL is moving away from the feature back, adopting a 1-2 punch type of system for the ground game. Also, I want to note that I'm mostly against draft RBs in the first round, particularly high in the first round. Why? I think you can get solid performance and better value from RBs taken in the later round or picked up elsewhere, especially if you have a good o-line. Anyway, that's not an issue for the Rams at this point, and finding a complementary running back in later rounds would be perfect for their needs.
Some names to watch:
Shonn Greene, RB Iowa He's a power running back, with just average speed, but the kind of guy that can fight through the tackles and the congested areas at the line of scrimmage to pick up the yards a team needs to move the chains. He's also a good blocker, something the Rams need at RB. He's 5'11" 235 lbs, and is projected to go in the second round.
Javon Ringer, RB, Michigan State A workhorse, Ringer carried 390 times in his senior season. Not a big guy, but a decent all-around type who can catch passes. Could be a good third round pick up.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Liberty Small school haters beware, Jennings made a name for himself rushing for more than 1,500 yards...against other small schools. However, at 6'1" 235 lbs he could be a grinder for a change of pace back with the Rams. Third rounder...or later if the small school label sticks the wrong way.
Jeremiah Johnson, RB, Oregon Besides having a cool-as-hell name (remember the movie?), Johnson ran for 1200+ yards this season after coming back from a knee injury in his junior year. He's small, 5'9" 208 lbs, but could still be a nice change of pace back. Probably a third rounder too.
Quickly, the QBs
I'm not touching on the first and second round names here. Those guys will get plenty of coverage, and the Rams are unlikely to commit to a QB in those rounds given their needs and the hefty financial commitment to Bulger. So some third rounders (or later) make some sense, giving the kid time to develop and not losing much if he doesn't.
I like Rhett Bomar from Sam Houston State as a sleeper. He's got the arm, mostly has the size (a little short), but still has some question marks about his "intangibles" as well as the small school label. Nathan Brown from Central Arkansas could be a good backup from the middle rounds. Is he too short, 6'2", to ever be a true NFL QB? Brian Hoyer from Michigan State and Mike Reilly from Central Washington are worth watching at the Combine too.
With apologies to Brain Leonard, the Rams would be smart to use a late round pick to nab a true blocking FB that could also be a special teams contributor. LSU's Quinn Johnson, at 260+ lbs, would be a real dozer...and not much else, but as a lead blocker from the late rounds he'd be a great get for the Rams. Syracuse's Tony Fiammetta is regarded as a nice blocker too. Georgia's Brannan Southerland is another name to watch.