At the rate the St. Louis Rams are going, an Andrew Luck sweepstakes win looks entirely possible. I've yet to see a 2012 NFL mock draft that has them picking in the top spot, yet. It's a bit too soon to re-open the ESPN-driven debate about drafting Luck and trading Bradford; I, for one, think it's a little too soon to give up on a quarterback with nearly as much potential. Let's see where things stand in week 17. Still, the Rams have no shortage of needs, and almost any player available to them wherever they end up picking in the first round would fill a need.
And who to the Rams pick in this draft, and what kind of commentary are we going to have to add to it? You know how to do it, hit the jump.
Jonathan Martin, OT, Standford
The offensive line that protects Andrew Luck stands out for its own performance. Martin looks like a top five pick, and I expect some debate as to whether he or USC tackle Matt Kahlil is the best in the class.
This raises a big question about Jason Smith's future with the Rams. That future is currently on hold while he deals with his third concussion, a problem in and of itself. When Smith does return, can he finally put things together? With this season in the tank, the Rams should have a few more games to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it really and truly looks like Smith just isn't going to fly in St. Louis.
That really hurts the Rams because it adds to the list of needs on the offensive line for 2012. Jacob Bell is set to be a free agent after this season as a result of restructuring his contract. Center Jason Brown is clearly inadequate. When you look at the Steelers and the Packers, who have both had trouble at offensive tackle, they at least have a strong interior line to compensate. Of course, having those two quarterbacks helps tremendously too.
Ideally, the Rams could trade down in the draft from inside the top five, allowing them to pick up some more early picks. Don't hold your breath though.
Speaking of interior linemen in the 2012 NFL Draft, keep your eye on Stanford guard David DeCastro. He's the top guard in the draft this year, for now. Reuter has him being drafted 16th, by the Browns, but I'll be anxious to see how his draft stock fares in the coming months.
Is the top five too early to draft an interior lineman? It used to be. As Rams COO Kevin Demoff explained the old rationale to us in an interview yesterday with TST. "In previous years, it always weighed in the back of our minds that if you drafted a safety, linebacker, interior offensive lineman or tight end that you would be making them not only the highest paid player at the position but you might be paying them $3m or $4m more than the previous highest paid player," said Demoff.
The new rookie salary system has the potential to change that. For instance, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, the fifth pick in this year's draft, got a four-year, $18.42 million contract. Mere peanuts compared to what team pay established cornerbacks. Translate that to interior offensive linemen, and think about what DeCastro's contract would be compared to, say, Jason Brown's contract.
The question now becomes is there an interior lineman worth the Rams drafting that really has the kind of talent you look for with a high pick.
Speaking of centers, Peter Konz of Wisconsin looks like the top center in this year's draft. Reuter has him going in the 25th spot.