A report today suggests that the St. Louis Rams could pull a huge surprise come draft day and make a reach for Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Without question the Rams needs reliable, talented playmakers on offense. Reaching for Rudolph, even if they somehow managed to trade down in the first round, seems like a stretch given the current configuration of their roster.
The report comes from Rob Rang at CBSSports.com. Here's the money quote:
There are some rumblings throughout the league that if the team isn't able to get a speedster to take advantage of Sam Bradford's arm, the Rams might reach a bit to draft Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph, who could become the security blanket in the middle many teams like to provide their young, developing signal-callers.
Parsing it out with a little knowledge of the Rams it doesn't make a lot of sense because the Rams already have an ample supply of players with reliable enough hands and the ability to play in the middle. In fact, that's all they had last year. Danny Amendola is that guy, and Brandon Gibson looks like a reliable option who is good enough to play in the middle of the field. There's also TE Michael Hoomanawanui who showed solid hands last year, but has questions about his ability to stay healthy.
Rudolph is a more natural receiver who runs routes well, including routes off the receivers' route tree, and can work the outside. Though he didn't nail down the fastest forty time, he is fast enough to make plays. He's more Julio Jones, both in terms of his polish and overall package, than many of the other receivers in the draft. For the Rams, the key is to think of him less as a tight end and more as a receiver.
Picking Rudolph with the 14th pick would be a stretch. They'd have to trade down to make it work, and he's unlike to slip out of the first round, though getting picked high in the second is a distinct possibility. If they did, they could still grab a defensive tackle in the second round and some combination of a guard, running back, outside linebacker or safety in the next three rounds.
But I keep coming back to past conversations about the running backs. If the Rams find the right guy - be it a player that frees up Steven Jackson to do more work as a receiver or a speedy outside threat - it would add a dimension to their offense, making Jackson's role harder for opponents to defend and creating a different kind of field for the current crop of wide receivers.
Don't rule out the old smoke screen either.