This has been a rough morning for St. Louis sports fans. After news broke that Albert Pujols will sign with the Anaheim Angels, a later report from Rob Rang at CBS revealed that USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil will return to school for his senior season, meaning he is out of the running for the St. Louis Rams in the 2012 NFL Draft.
St. Louis' inspired play under head coach Steve Spagnuolo this season will likely earn the Rams the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the fourth time in five years that the Rams will be picking in the top two spots. Kalil would most certainly have been in consideration for that pick. Matt Barkley's blind side protector is considered one of the best players in the draft, a blue chip talent and one of the top tackles in the draft since Jake Long in 2008.
Offensive tackle wasn't supposed to be a need for the Rams in 2012. They drafted Jason Smith second overall in 2009 to be a cornerstone for their offensive line. Last year, General Manager Billy Devaney eschewed trade offers for the first pick of the second round in order to draft Rodger Saffold who earned the left tackle job as a rookie.
Smith is on injured reserve, shut down for the second time in his career with a serious concussion. His future was in doubt before that, as three years in he never developed the consistency and in-the-trenches mentality required of an NFL offensive lineman. Saffold had a good debut season, but struggled with consistency this year. He was playing better before a torn pectoral, which happened while he was lifting weights, shut him down for the season.
Drafting Kalil would allowed the Rams to move Saffold to the right side or somewhere else, and take the next steps with Jason Smith and his massive contract.
Now, the team can consider other players, such as wide receiver Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State or cornerback Morris Claiborne from LSU, with the second pick. Trading down might be the best option, and the available quarterbacks and rookie wage scale might be all it takes to make trading more viable. Rams COO Kevin Demoff told TST in a recent interview that he believed more teams would be willing to trade into the top ten picks of the draft thanks to the new salary scale.
The 2012 NFL Draft just got more interesting. Stay tuned.