Reading this piece from Doug Farrar on the impact the WR Julio Jones could have with Atlanta set my mind to wandering. I don't usually like to trade in hindsight, but since Jones had for long been linked to the St. Louis Rams by draft prognosticators, it was hard not to think about the path not taken.
Obviously, the decision was made for the Rams in regards to Jones. For all that talk about trading up to the ninth or tenth spot, it wouldn't have been enough in the end. It's okay. Don't get me wrong, this isn't meant as an argument against the Robert Quinn pick, one that's hard not to love. I'm just trading in some offseason supposition.
Had Jones been available, the Rams would have most certainly picked him. It would likely have dramatically altered the rest of the draft. Maybe. In the second round, Devaney et al might have stuck to the original board, and the pick would have probably been DT Terrell McClain.
Would McDaniels have still been planning for a two TE offense with a weapon like Jones on board? If so, he could have filled his wish later in the draft, probably with D.J. Williams or another option in the fourth round.
Devaney might still have walked away from the draft with two receivers. A taller, tougher, better route running possession receiver would have still been a need even with a Jones pick in the first round. Where that would have happened just depends.
With Jones in a Rams uniform, how would that shaped the offense for the 2011 season? That's a tougher question to answer, much less suppose, since we still don't know what the Rams offense will look like knowing the players that really are vying for a spot. Obviously, defenses would have to key on Jones and Steven Jackson. Whichever receivers remained on board would have likely had a more open field to work with. Like I said above, upgrading the possession receiver would still have been a priority.
An improved offense would have given the defense some more breathing room on Sundays, balancing out some of that unit's shortcomings. Adding another pass rusher, certainly an outside pass rusher, would have been unlikely.
Taking another look at the Rams' draft, the one that did happen, Devaney deserves some credit for addressing big needs on both sides of the ball. Adding Quinn to the defense instantly improves the entire unit, giving it a more lethal pass rush that will lift the back seven. With the offense, the focus is more on the system than the talent itself, other than Sam Bradford. But that's not a bad thing, for now, either. Even as a rookie Bradford's immense talent made the players around him better. Adding some receivers and tight ends that can do the little things like get separation consistently, catch the ball, etc. to a well-crafted playbook upgrades the offense over last year's unit.
How the final product looks on the field, and after, maybe, adding some ranch hands via free agency, remains to be seen. But the path taken looks like a good one.