Football Outsiders has their mock draft up now, and, as usual, they put some real thought into it, factoring in team management precedent as well as how they assess players. They've got the Lions taking OT Jason Smith and the Rams drafting LB Aaron Curry. Something the mock drafters said over there got me thinking about the Rams draft strategy, and the conventional wisdom that says they'll take an OT with the second overall pick. Barely a week ago, I was fixed on the Rams drafting an OT with their second overall pick, but in the last few days, well, I'm just not so sure anymore. Here's what the FO crew said that shed some new light on the debate of who the Rams should pick at #2:
We figure Smith over Eugene Monroe because of their nature; Monroe's more of a finished product, but he's a pass blocker first. The Lions are going to be building around an ability to run the football, for better or worse, and Smith's the better run blocker.
Assume Detroit takes Jason Smith first overall, which may or may not be a sure thing based on reports this week. That essentially mandates that the Rams choose between Monroe or Curry. But the Rams are also building around the running game, and for that, they may already have a LT that fits the need. Alex Barron, despite his trouble with snap counts, has proven to be an effective run blocker (and a decent enough pass protector), giving some credence to the notion of moving him to LT.
As for replacing Barron on the right side, the OTs most apt to be available with the Rams second round pick all seem to be natural fits at RT, or at least guys who would need to start their NFL careers on the right side, including players like Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt or UConn's William Beatty. They could even find a replacement RT in the later rounds among names like Kent State's Augustus Parrish or Oregon's Fenuki Tupou.
This probably isn't going to give the Rams an elite offensive line. However, it gives them a line for 2009 well-suited their new offensive philosophy and an offense that will feature Steven Jackson as its centerpiece. Beyond 2009, ideally, the rookie they draft to fill the RT spot is a guy sitting on some potential and the coaching staff can coax him into the LT role should Barron not work out, or they choose to part ways when his contract ends after next season. Of course, they could also draft an OT next year too to replace Barron...or free agent...whatever, the point is, they've got options.
Long story short, the Rams could have an effective o-line for an offense built around Steven Jackson and the running game - the Jason Brown signing certainly supports that - even if they choose not to draft an OT with their second overall pick. Echoing Taiko's cost/benefit analysis from yesterday, drafting Curry would most likely give the Rams the biggest impact while filling one of the team's biggest needs in the middle of their defense...without having to sacrifice anything by not drafting an OT with that pick.