Intrigue appears to rule each day this NFL off season. Can anyone remember a time, in NFL history, when free agency was so filled with wild speculation? First, their was the St. Louis Rams hitting peaks and valleys with their new defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, being discovered as Bounty-Man; followed closely by teams coveting their #2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Williams has been lost for at least the 2012 season, and the #2 overall pick was spun into future draft pick gold.
Next up was the Peyton Manning moment in time. Did I say moment? Yikes! If it had lasted any longer, I would have begun to hope for the return of "Farve-watch". When Manning FINALLY reached his decision, I thought I'd see Papal white smoke wafting in the air, and hear faint echoes of the Hallelujah Chorus. Then a new chapter opened, when newly unwanted quarterbacks - who didn't know they were unwanted - began to appear. The collateral damage from the "Peyton finds a Place" saga will cause ripple effects across the 2012 NFL season in one form or another.
It is human nature to move on; casting away what yesterday was, for the new of today. What's happening now is an abortive form of the circle of life. With Manning being the future of the Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow has been cast as a Colorado "mania" aberration that subsequently moved to New York City. Not to be out done, the NFL Draft has swung back into view...
Let the wild and woolly rumors begin! Hints of a trade here, and college prospects desired - then not - there, the fur is about to start flying once again folks.
The Minnesota Vikings - with the #3 overall pick - hinted they are not all that set on picking Matt Kalil, the elite offensive tackle prospect out of USC. Posturing? Could very well be... Their team has a plethora of needs, and they've lost a few key components in free agency to add even more to their position shopping list. I'm not buying it! The Vikings offensive line will resemble the Rams lline of 2011 if something isn't done. Christian Ponder will stop breathing, let alone developing, if they don't draft Kalil if he's available.
Draft boards everywhere were thrown into disarray when Philadephia and Buffalo filled needs that the NFL Draft was supposed to address. The Bills broke the piggy bank open when they signed Houston's Mario Williams. The Eagles benefited from some kind of weird largess on Houston's part, when they acquired DeMeco Ryans for next to nothing. Suddenly, draft picks that looked fixed, became in doubt. The Eagles were supposed to draft inside linebacker Luke Kuechly out of Boston College. Buffalo had their eye on one of the few defensive ends available in the coming draft (Courtney Upshaw?). Now those players appear to be dropping down the draft list to other teams in need of players at those positions, while the Eagles and Bills appear to be focusing on players other teams had their eyes on?
The St. Louis Rams are in a bizarre position. Picking at the #6 position, they appear to covet Justin Blackmon? Yet one of the teams they snubbed in the trade for their #2 pick looks like they too could want Blackmon. What makes this truly interesting is that there are five players that, by popular opinion anyway, own the top five spots in Mock drafts. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kaili, Morris Claibormne and Justin Blackmon have owned the top five Mock draft slots more or less. Trent Richardson has risen from time to time into the top five, but for the most part, the five mentioned are the "Top 5". The interesting thing is that the highest rated player, the one that is quite simply the only "guaranteed starter" by the sports media to be a "sure thing", is rarely mentioned. David DeCastro is considered by many to be the best offensive guard to come along in the last 10 years. His position isn't sexy enough to earn "Top 5" praise, but I think on draft day, he may just garner a "Top 6" pick.
DeCastro has all the "measurables" you could ever want. He's big, smart, strong and quick on his feet. His biggest asset for marketing his skills are his game tapes. I've looked at eight or ten game films, focusing on his play at Stanford, and I can't find ANY instance where he didn't absolutely own his defensive opponent. I did see his teammate, Jonathan Martin - who has received tons of press as a top offensive tackle - get absolutely worked on several occasions.
I bring up DeCastro, because the St. Louis Rams are in a position to take a player who gives them a win, right out the gate, from the 2012 Draft class. He won't help sell tickets for the Rams. YouTube won't feature people "DeCastro-ing" (which is taking an entire pizza and shoving in your mouth in one go). But if they are looking to break a so-so trend of Top picks that haven't lived up to their draft position, DeCastro is the guy to take at #6.
The call for "playmakers" - wide receivers like Justin Blackmon or Kendall Wright - is both rational and hedonistic on the part of Rams fans. Free agency didn't bring St. Louis any real offensive line relief, so it's hard to think quarterback Sam Bradford will have the time to pass, or do much more than run for his life in 2012 unless the problem is addressed through the draft. Steven Jackson could seriously benefit from improved interior line play too. While the need for a true offensive left tackle is high on the Rams list, the only player close to a "sure thing" is Matt Kalil, and he'll more than likely be gone by the time the St. Louis make their choice. Kalil isn't close to being a guaranteed quality player as Decastro is in my opinion. Finding a dominant left tackle is a gamble at best. The offensive guard from Stanford would be a day one starter for the Rams, and hold that roster spot for at least a decade.
When it comes down to making a draft choice, especially for a team with so many glaring needs, it's hard to reconcile taking a foundational player like Decastro over a potentially exciting player like Blackmon. I was asked in a comment thread recently for my opinion on the Oklahoma State University star receiver by TST's own RG31:
If you had Blackmon on the same team with a Wallace, Green or Fitz, which one would be considered the #2 WR? When all is said and done, I can’t help but think Blackmon is an exceptional #2 WR, a guy who will take a team that has a true #1 WR over the top. I have little doubt Blackmon will live in the tall trees of 1000 yards per season receivers, but is he "The Guy" a team rests it’s passing game on?
I see the #1 WR label as a bit of a stretch for Blackmon, which in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. Give me two Blackmon level WRs, and I wouldn’t care less if we ever had a Megatron.
Relatively speaking, the same kind of situation can't be said of DeCastro. He has true elite status written all over him. To me, it's all about where the Rams want to be - not just in the short term - but five or ten years down the road. Great Rams teams in the past have had one constant - superior offensive lines. Yes, finding at least one quality offensive tackle in this draft should be a priority. In fact, I'd also like to see the Rams take at least two wide receivers in rounds two and three.
When I look at the depth of offensive linemen in this draft, I think it will be remembered as one of the deepest in quite some time. There will be quality tackles and guards to be found into the fourth round. The difference is that there are very few offensive line prospect that garner the "Elite" tag. David Decastro is elite, pure and simple. He'll garner All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, and be that Northern star constant great teams are built on.