The reason the St. Louis Rams are picking at the top of the draft, after picking second overall the two years prior, is that the team is still suffering the effects of the disastrous Jay Zygmunt era. Years of bad drafts failed to produce the young talent needed to sustain a competitive team, leaving the burden to the fading stars of yesterday. Three wins, two wins and a single win season last year, the team has no other choice but to rebuild.
Billy Devaney and a brand new front office started that rebuilding effort in earnest last season, adding two essential chips to the offensive line, the rotting foundation of a team in decline. This year's draft is the next step in that process, and maybe the most important step they'll take moving forward as a franchise. The 2010 draft will have much more to say about the future of the Rams than even Stan Kroenke, Shahid Khan or Chip Rosenbloom.
Enter Sam Bradford. To use the old cliche, this is a quarterback's league, more so now than ever. If your team doesn't have a solution under center, they will not be a competitive team. Teams rebuilding have to have that essential building block in place in order to at least move forward with the nucleus of a competitive team in place. Sam Bradford is the Rams best option for filling that need. There are other possibilities, but Bradford gives the Rams one of the top young quarterbacks who would be the centerpiece of the team for years to come, a decade if not more. He's no sure thing - no player is - but the Rams have few other options to be the cornerstone of a rebuilt team.
The talk floating around now has the Rams top pick up for trade. Naturally, Billy Devaney would be wise to listen to all options for the team's pick, and if a lucrative enough offer comes along, they can seriously consider pulling the trigger. However, the right offer must include enough draft picks to allow the Rams to find needed players - and they need a lot of players - to continue the rebuilding process, to form the nucleus of a competitive team for at least the next five years.
So we come to the rumor du jour, the next stage of evolution in the talk of Cleveland trading up for the first overall pick. Would the Rams be willing to trade the first overall pick on the cheap?
Let's hope not. There's probably some middle ground, i.e. where a team doesn't fork over their entire draft, but swapping first round picks with a team and getting an extra third rounder is not enough. The worst part about the rumor du jour is that line about the Rams wanting to compete now, which probably ought to reveal that this one is classic pre-draft subterfuge, grist for the rumor mill and nothing more. In case you haven't noticed, the Rams are a long way from competing now. Sam Bradford isn't going to make the Rams anymore competitive in 2010 than a couple of extra picks in the first three rounds. And the fastest way for a front office to get their ticket punched for a one-way trip out of town is to surrender a bright future for a best-case scenario of eight wins next season...and that's generous.
Ignore this rumor ladies and gentlemen. The first pick may be had for the right price, but it won't be had at a discount for some wrongheaded near-sighted vision of Golden Horns in the Super Bowl next year.