Well, it's time to kick off v. 2.0 of the Being Billy Devaney series leading up to the Draft in late April.....April 22, 23, and 24, to be exact. For anyone who discovered TST recently (well, since the season started, I suppose), the BBD series is a positional breakdown of the Rams that focuses on what we have, what's available in free agency, and what's out there ready to be drafted.
Now, I have to admit, starting with the CBs is not necessarily where BBD feels the biggest need lies for our team. In all honesty, I too am getting a little DT'd and QB'd out lately and when I read the calls from the readers for "something....anything else", I've bumped up my personnel deadline for kicking off the series.
So, here we go. Let's take a look at the CBs.
Ron Bartell - 6'1" 206 - Signed through 2012 - Well, Bartell is still considered the top Cornerback on the Rams. Personally, I'm not 100% sure that's a good thing. Can he play? Yup. Is he good? Yup. Am I comfortable knowing he's the best we have? Um........not really. He's definitely got good attributes. He's got good size and he's quick and fast enough to keep up with and cover the better WRs in the league. But too often he's exposed (he's also mistake prone from time-to-time) by not having any support on the other side to speak of. Thankfully, we've got some pretty good Safeties, but ultimately, we're going to need some major help on the other side of the field. Preferably, he'd be a really good #2 CB.
Quincy Butler - 6'1" 188 - Exclusive Rights Free Agent - After Bartell, it's difficult to pinpoint the next best CB. It's probably not Butler (although, I suppose it could be...) but I figured I'd start with him anyway. After not playing much at all in his first two seasons in the NFL, Butler saw action in 14 games this year for the Rams recording 25 tackles and 5 pass deflections. The fact Butler saw the field as much as he did is a testament to the health of the CB corps. Butler can play a little and has decent size. His salary and ERFA status makes him someone you should expect to see with the Rams next year. Good or bad.
Bradley Fletcher - 6'0" 198 - Signed through 2012 - Or is it Fletcher Bradley? I can never keep those guys straight. Anyway..... I think most of us were pleasantly surprised with what we saw from Fletcher this year in the 7 games he played before being felled by the ol' injury bug that seemed to plague this team. Fletch recorded 23 tackles and 1 pass deflection in his time, but really impressed with how quickly he seemed to take over as the #2 CB. He's said to be ready by training camp, but in all honesty....we'll see. He suffered a torn ACL and LCL. More than a few question if he'll even be effective upon return let alone be ready by training camp. Too bad. He at least seemed to be completely competent at the position and was definitely someone who never really made me pull my hair out like Bartell does at least once a game.
Justin King - 5'11" 188 - Signed through 2010 - King is another of the guys who I think most of us wished didn't play in15 games. Not that he was completely horrible or anything, but I think most of us would just have preferred having someone a little better logging that much time. King has always had upside (hellooooooo Hubie Brown!!!!) but he's never really taken advantage of all the opportunities he's been given. He'll be a Ram for sure next year, but I can't believe Spags is geeked to have him play in 15 games next year.
Jonathan Wade - 5'10" 188 - Restricted Free Agent - Wade has played in a lot of games for the Rams over the past 3 seasons (16, 16, and 14) but he's not a much better option than King at this point. I'd like him to be bigger, but that's impossible. He seems to be a hard worker but at some point, hard work doesn't get it done. Two INTs in 3 seasons (46 games), simply is not good enough. Although, I'd expect to see him next season since he's a RFA. I suppose any additions to the CB corps will pit King vs. Wade in a survival match.
Danny Gorrer - 6'0" 185 - Honestly, I'm not 100% sure if Gorrer is under contract. The Rams picked him up off the Saints practice squad on November 3 but, nevertheless, he's under team control so I'd start figuring on seeing Gorrer in training camp, at the very least. And why not? He's bigger than both King and Wade, and is younger. Plus, in the three games he played for the Rams this year, he recorded 5 tackles and 1 pass deflection (big game against Arizona....4 tackles and the deflection...). Personally, I'd be perfectly content keeping Gorrer over either King or Wade. At this point, I know what I have in those two and if the only knock against Gorrer is that he couldn't break into the New Orleans Saints defensive backfield, then I'd like to see if he fits in ours.
Well, that's it really for what we have. You could always throw Eric Bassey and Cord Parks into that mix, but do you really want to? Seriously? There has to be some sort of upgrade available somewhere right???? I mean, we have bodies. And young ones to boot. We have a good CB in Bartell and potentially a pretty good one in Fletcher if he turns out to be okay form the knee injury. But after that, I simply am not thrilled by Q. Butler, Wade, and King. I'm intrigued by Gorrer and if Mr. Devaney showed us anything this season is that he kind of has a penchant for finding gems on practice squads. Anyway, let's see if there's anything available on the FA market.
Btw, I'm going to try to focus on the Unrestricted Free Agents. I highly doubt any of us wants to start giving up draft picks to sign a RFA Cornerback. Doesn't make much sense to me.
Leigh Bodden - New England Patriots - 6'1" 193 - 28 years old - If the Rams want to really make a difference with their defensive backfield in this un-capped offseason, then they need to make Leigh Bodden their number 1 priority. All he did this year was lead the Pats in pass breakups (17) and was 2nd in INTS (5). He'll command a lot of money from whatever team he signs with. He prefers to re-sign with the Pats, but is more than willing to test the market as the top CB. The only concern is he has really had an up-and-down career. He basically signed a 1 year deal in NE to "prove" he was awesome. He did it, but has never really put up consecutive seasons near this good.
Dunta Robinson - Houston Texans - 5'10" 184 - 27 y.o. - It's almost assumed the Texans will Franchise Robinson. If they don't, plan on a bidding war for the Corner. He had a bit of a down year (pick-wise) and has had his fair shar of injuries in his career, but being only 27 and Un-Restricted, he'll be a hot commodity. Personally, I don't see how the Texans let him get away. It'd be like the Rams letting Bartell walk. They simply don't have much other than Robinson so he's a priority. I think the Rams would be better suited looking elsewhere for help.
Rod Hood - Tennessee Titans - 5'11" 198 - 28 y.o. - Now we're starting to get into the area where we're looking at non-number 1 CBs. Is Hood better than anything we have not named Bartell? Uhhh...yeah, probably. Is it worth it to give him a contract? Probably not. Hood's bounced around the league in his 5 seasons and only really put up one really good year (2007 w/ Arizona).
Nate Jones - Miami Dolphins - 5'10" 185 - 28 y.o. - Pretty much just a nickel back (but I guess we probably could use an upgrade there...), so I'm not sure how much he'll command on the market. This wacky un-capped year is going to inflate the value of guys like Jones. He's decent and actually had a respectable year for the Dolphins this year and would definitely be an upgrade for the Rams but I fear he'll sign for more money than he's worth and personally, I don't think that would be a good move for the Rams to be making at this point.
Pacman Jones - Dallas Cowboys - 5'10" 185 - 25 y.o. - Just kidding.....
Well, that's about it for the free agents. There are some depth guys available but unless the Rams want to really make a difference and go out for Bodden, then this isn't really the place we should be looking. Well, then again, even if we do draft a CB, I'd almost still like to have someone else added to the squad. I simply don't have any faith in Wade and King anymore. Then again, they're both probably just as good as anyone below Nate Jones on the FA list, so spending the cash on an "addition" not named Leigh Bodden is a waste of time.
Wonder how Fletcher Bradley is doing?????
By the way, this whole no-CBA is killing me. Because of the re-classification of the RFA status, names like Tramon Williams (GB), Richard Marshall (CAR), Carlos Rogers (WAS), Ellis Hobbs (PHI), Brent Grimes, and Will Blackmon (GB) are all pretty much taken off the list. I'm not necessarily endorsing any of these guys (although I'd add any one fo them to our team in a heartbeat), I just want to point out that without these guys the price for everyone who's Un-Restricted is going to go straight up. This is a strange offseason and some guys who really don't deserve it are going to cash in.
So, since we can almost guarantee we draft a CB at some point in the draft, we should probably cover that a little. By the way, is there any point in looking at what's available in the 1st round? If the Rams take a CB in the 1st, you might hear 3k's screams all the way from the Middle East. So, with that being said, let's look a little further down the draft.
Unfortunately, or fortunately (probably), this draft isn't heavy on top end CB talent but it's stocked full of very good corners who project into the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Hopefully, this keeps teams from making weird runs on the position and with the Rams drafting at the top of each round, they'll have a good shot at getting someone they think could possibly go a round earlier.
Anyway, lets take a look at what might be available. (Btw, I'm going to skip over a couple of names. Like I said above, we better not be taking a CB in the 1st or 2nd round. So, with that said, don't expect to see Joe Haden (Florida), Donovan Warren (Michigan), and probably Kyle Wilson (Boise St.). Those guys more than likely won't be available in the 3rd round)
Devin McCourtey - Rutgers - 5'11" 186 - McCourty might not be available by the time the Rams pick with the 1st pick in the 3rd round especially with his Senior Bowl performance. If he is around, he'd be a heck of a grab. He's good in man coverage and he can support the run. Chances are, he won't be available.
Perrish Cox - Oklahoma State - 5'11" 189 - His suspension for the Cotton Bowl may push him down into Ram territory, but probably not. He's got good size and very good speed. He played against the top WRs in the Big 12 and did very well (4 INTs and 15 deflections). He's also attractive as a return man. More than likely won't be available for the Rams in the 3rd.
Brandon Ghee - Wake Forest - 6'0" 189 - Once again, we might be looking at a CB who has impressed too much to last until the 3rd rd. He actually has a shot at being an upper 2nd rounder (maybe higher depending on circumstances). He's got very good size and very good speed, but has been criticized for giving too much cushion (i.e., easy big plays) on receivers.
Dominique Franks - Oklahoma - 6'0" 192 - Another guy who has great size and very good speed. That's all fine and dandy, but he also called Tim Tebow "over-rated" back when he was a sophomore and, personally, I gotta like that kind of moxy. Plus.....he's right. Nevertheless, I think this is someone the Rams could realistically target at the front end of the 3rd round.
Patrick Robinson - Florida State - 5'11" 192 - And now we might be getting into the area where guys are more projects, or have obvious weaknesses. Robinson, once again, has good size and good speed. He probably gave up too many big plays this past season at Florida State, but he also made his fair share of big plays. He only started 5 games, but picked off 6 passes and 6 passes deflected. He was also involved in the Florida State cheating scandal, so there might be some concerns there. Nevertheless, he's a bit of a risk taker. Could he be reigned in a bit? Maybe, but doing so might take away his effectiveness...then again, you might harness it and really find something.
Kareem Jackson - Alabama - 5'11" 192 - I think these guys are all physical clones of one another.... Anyway, here we have, physically, the same guy we've seen in the rest of the list. He's a little slower than his "competition" in the draft, but he's great against the run although he did break up a ton of passes last season. He also started all 3 of his seasons at Alabama. That's good. If Jackson improves upon his 40-time at the combine, he could really improve his draft stock but as of right now, he would probably be available for the Rams in the 3rd.
Jerome Murphy - South Florida - 6'1" 185 - Very big. Has good speed. Played for a very athletic South Florida team and racked up a ton of stats (77 tackles, 3 INTs, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovery, and 8 breakups). Definitely someone I'd like to see in a Rams uni. Personally, I think he's still getting better. Would be a great CB to match up physically with Fitzgerald and Bolden.
Javier Arenas - Alabama - 5'9" 198 - Probably more slated to become a return man. Had a very good senior season at Alabama alongside Jackson, but his size and speed might be too much of a hindrance to be a good corner. His strengths lie in his ability to be a very effective blitzer, but I just don't think the Rams have the quality depth to spend on this type of "luxury". Plus, we have a return man, so I'll probably pass on Arenas.
Amari Spievey - Iowa - 6'0" 190 - Very good size but not very impressive speed (especially for the amount of good corners who will find themselves in the 3rd round). In looking at his numbers, he had a very pedestrian Senior season at Iowa, but in all fairness, teams simply didn't throw to him. He definitely has talent, and could really improve himself with a good showing at the Combine, but right now there are CBs who match up well with him physically but are much more attractive.
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah - IUPUI - 6'1" 205 - Akwasi means "Born on a Sunday". Really, does it get any better than that? Is often looked at as a returner because of his great numbers (29.7 ave on kicks, 12.5 ave on punts with 5 tds), but looking at his size and speed, he'd have to be a very tempting player for any NFL team. However, a torn labrum prevented him from impressing scouts at the Senior Bowl. This is good if you're the Rams and you might want to take the guy from the small school in the 4th round. Although, if he preforms well at the Combine (he is invited), then he has the physical ability to vault himself into the 2nd round (or the number 8 overall pick if Al Davis is awake).
Rafael Priest - TCU - 5'10" 163 - A very good cover corner who QBs avoided all year. What I don't like is his size. Good speed but way too small for me to want to spend a draft pick on him.
Patrick Stoudamire - Western Illinois - 5'11" 200 - Here's a guy the Rams could target late in the draft. Personally, I love guys from Western Illinois. Not sure why. But they always seem to produce pretty good NFLers from time to time. Plus, WIU usually plays the top competition in D-1AA (or whatever they call it now) but the competition isn't near what he'll see in the NFL. Nevertheless, he's got very good size, and runs very well straight-line and in cuts. He's got a ton of talent but is going to fall to the 3rd day. Could very well be a gem waiting to be mined.
After Stoudamire, you're probably going to still find many CBs that are very intriguing. Alterraun Verner (UCLA), Syd'Quan Thompson (California) and LeRoy Vann (Florida A&T) are all guys who are attractive but have a similar concern (size). Personally, I have an affinity towards CBs who are at the very least 5'10" due to the ever increasing size of wide receivers so I'm always going to favor someone taller over someone who's a little shorter but has great skills. Anyway, there's 12 Cornerbacks who (for the most part) could be available to the Rams in Rounds 3 and 4 (with a few you could easily grab at the top of the 5th). Like any? I do. But let's reflect a little on the entire picture.
We have a very good #2 in Bartell and I really like the potential of Gorrer. Fletcher impressed but the knee injury may severely effect not only his return time-table, but also his overall ability. Is he the same CB? Only time will tell. We definitely need a better option than Bartell since, in my opinion, he's much better off as a compliment than the feature. Then we definitely need to add another "potential" player since I've lost almost all faith in King and Wade.
In a perfect world, I'd go hard and heavy after Leigh Bodden and then target a Dominique Franks in the 3rd or, if you don't want to go CB that high, Jerome Murphy and/or Patrick Stoudamire later on (Stoudamire could possibly be had at the front end of the 6th). This would give the Rams a starting tandem of Leigh Bodden and Ron Bartell with Bradley Fletcher hopefully as the nickel, if not you still have Quincy Butler. You'd probably hold on to one of Wade and King (really, I couldn't care less which one you kept), then have Gorrer and your draft pick to fill out the position (I actually prefer Murphy).
That's a heck of a Defensive Backfield when put together with Atogwe and Butler. Improve that D-Line a little (1st overall???) and add a LB and you all of a sudden have yourself a very legit defense.
So, what say you?