First, let me start by saying that I was originally thrilled about the hiring of Les Snead as our new General Manager. However, his actions last night to get this deal done were both aggressive and decisive, which is exactly what the Rams need in their front office and what they have lacked for so long. Les Snead made a clear message to the 31 other teams in the league that the Rams are no longer content being at the top of the draft and are dedicated to building a winning franchise. For that, I am a believer in Les Snead.
Now that the Rams have executed what can be the greatest trade in franchise history, the Rams have some serious decisions to make. After all, what good is five first round picks in three years if they all wind up being Jason Smith's or Tye Hill's? I think it is important for Rams fans and our front office to stay calm after this big trade and remember that it is important for our team to draft for value rather than for need. While it is far too early to discuss future drafts, it is my strong opinion that our first round pick this year should be used to select one of the top four possible players:
Matt Kahlil (OT USC) - This is the premier offensive lineman in this year's. He has the experience, tenacity, and technique of a franchise left tackle, all traits which Jason Smith lacks. Settling for Riley Reiff would be a mistake and a reach. It is unlikely that this guy gets past the Vikings, but if he falls to the sixth pick I believe the Rams need to pull the trigger.
Morris Claiborne (CB LSU) - There is really no argument amongst scouts and draft analysts that Claiborne is the draft's best defensive player. He is a solid corner who can make a huge impact for the Rams in 2012. It is not even worth comparing him to our starting CB tandem of King and Gordy because he is simply light years ahead of them both. Furthermore, it is my belief that the Rams will release Ron Bartell after his brutal injury last season to free up cap space along with Justin King and Josh Gordy. Whether Fletcher can return after his second ACL tear is a huge question. The biggest thing hurting Claiborne is that he can not escape comparisons to fellow LSU cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Tyron Mathieu, who along with Joe Haden are probably the best college cornerbacks of the past five years. Claiborne is believed to be of high interest to both the Vikings and the Buccaneers.
Justin Blackmon (WR OSU) - Blackmon has been linked to the Rams in every way possible by now. There is no doubt that he would be pleasant addition to the Rams offense in 2012. While he is the year's best receiver prospect, for some reason I just cant see him making the impact that either AJ Green or Julio Jones had in the NFL last year. As hungry as Rams Nation is for a receiver to complement Sam Bradford, Rams management needs to do their due diligence before drafting Blackmon to make sure this pick is the best value they can get with the pick. Ultimately, I believe he would be a good pick for the Rams but they need to compliment him with a strong veteran receiver's presence in free agency. Whether that veteran is Randy Moss, Vincent Jackson, or retaining Brandon Lloyd is up for debate.
Trent Richardson (RB Alabama) - This pick would draw the most criticism from Rams nation of these four. After all, why would the Rams want to waste their first round pick on a running back when they already have Steven Jackson, the team's lord and savior year in and year out? The case is simple: Steven Jackson simply can not and will not produce elite running back numbers for much longer. Even watching him last year, it is clear his game has taken a serious step back from four or five years ago. There is no question that Trent Richardson is the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. This pick would be a huge investment in the Rams future as Richardson could be the next running back to continue our decade-long legacy at this position. Richardson is a playmaker and an all around freak who could make an instant contribution to the Rams. However, at this point I think we should consider Cleveland the favorite to land Richardson.
The Verdict: While last night's trade made a strong message about the future of the franchise, the front office's task is just beginning. These picks can not be wasted on first round busts and reach players as the Rams have done for so many years. The four players mentioned above are the best players available and great teams are built by stocking up on value. Snead and Fisher made it clear that while they are interested in planning for the future, they are dedicated to starting the future sooner than later as they have acquired an additional pick in the second round of this year's draft. Keep in mind that there is some great talent, especially on defense that could be there at the top of the second round, including Zach Brown, Dont'a Hightower, Jared Crick, Jerrell Worthy, Stephen Hill, Kendall Wright, and Cordy Glenn. As for the first round though, here is my personal preference of the players above:
1 - Matt Kahlil - Unlikely, but an easy choice if he falls to us
2 - Trent Richardson - An amazing addition and a dynamic player. See above.
3 - Morris Claiborne - A welcomed upgrade after last year's secondary.
4 - Justin Blackmon - The long awaited receiver Rams fans are craving.
Ok, Rams Nation. Have at it!