There's a new 2012 NFL Mock Draft out today that has the first curve ball I've seen imagined for the St. Louis Rams. This mock is from Wes Bunting at the National Football Post, a follow up to his coverage of the Senior Bowl last week.
Keeping with what seems to be a common feature lately, Bunting imagines a trade up to the Rams' second spot, this time with the Washington Redskins. That moves St. Louis to the sixth pick in the first round. And who did they draft with that pick that will surprise you?
Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
As bad as the Rams need to add talent on the outside at receiver, they are also in need of some talent inside at DT. Brockers has the talent to develop into an All-Pro caliber lineman for the Rams and they can always add a receiver with their additional picks from the Redskins later in the draft.
The Rams do need a replacement for Fred Robbins. As far as needs go, I wouldn't put defensive line at the top of the list, and I don't know that I would have Brockers on top of my draft board based on the players available, or likely to be available. I'm also not Jeff Fisher, who has shown a decided preference for defensive players in the draft.
Justin Blackmon is off the board in Bunting's mock. If he is still on the board and the Rams have the sixth pick, I'm still not so sure they'll draft him ... not with Jeff Fisher making the call.
When you go back and look at Fisher's draft history in the first and second rounds, it leans heavily toward the defensive side of the ball. Fisher's teams did not pick in the top ten very often. In the three times they did pick in the top ten between 1994-2010, they picked two quarterbacks (Steve McNair, Vince Young) and one defensive back (Pacman Jones).
Fisher has picked receivers in the first round in two drafts; Kenny Britt at #30 in 2009 and Kevin Dyson at #16 in 1998. He could still go with Blackmon, or even another receiver at #6, but the more I look at the prospects, the less likely I think it is.
The candidates I think could get picked if the Rams have the sixth or even the fourth spot include:
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU - Fisher has an eye for defensive backs, and remember that Pacman Jones was the only defensive player he's ever picked in the top ten.
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama - Bunting has Kirkpatrick off the board at #7 in his mock, so the Rams picking him at #6 is not out of the question at all. His weed charge is bogus, but may scare off a few teams. Not Fisher.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama - We're seeing this name more and more in trade scenarios for the Rams. It wouldn't surprise me, given the new regime's stated emphasis on the running game.
Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama - Crazy, right? Not necessarily. Chris Long's contract is up after 2013, and he could cost a bundle to re-sign. Not that they shouldn't try it anyway. They talked to Upshaw at length last week in Mobile, and this is a new group of coaches making decisions about players.
Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa - Remember, Fisher and Schottenheimer have both said that the Rams need to fix things on the offensive line in order to get Bradford reaching his potential. Jason Smith is reportedly on his way out if he won't take a pay cut, and even if he does, he still isn't very good.
Devon Still, DT, Penn State - Brockers has the raw talent, but Still looks like the best overall DT in the draft at this point.
The last time Fisher drafted a defensive tackle in the first round was in 2002, when they picked Albert Haynesworth at #15. Though I want to, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Still or Brockers to the Rams should they trade down.
But what about their need for a receiver? Another player they were seen talking to was Dwight Jones from North Carolina. To me, that doesn't speak so much to Jones' specifically, but to the Rams potential interest in moving up into the bottom of the first round or even with their first pick in the second round to grab a receiver like Jones, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Alshon Jeffery, etc.