"Smiles everyone! Welcome to Fantasy Island." Once upon a time that was the weekly exclamation of Ricardo Montalbán as he prepared his staff and welcomed his guests to the wonderful television paradise known as Fantasy Island, where – for a nominal fee – new arrivals were treated to their most lavish fantasies (not those kinds of fantasies) in this land where anything was possible.
I figured with the 2012 NFL Draft just a scant three days away, why not take a little trip to Fantasy Island and allow ALL of our Rams fantasies to come true. So… smiles everyone!
NOTE: If Steven Jackson is truly on the way out, this fantasy is over.... but please keep reading just for fun.
With very few exceptions, the focus for the Rams’ first pick this off season has been centered on either a #1 WR or a big, run-stuffing DT that will take our defense to a much more respectable (perhaps even feared) level. And of course the RB position. No one discounts our need for another running back to compliment and eventually replace the aging Steven Jackson… (TRich has been the Rams’ projected pick at #6 by many). Additionally no one is denying the fact that we have at least one hole to fill on our offensive line at left guard… and that we need at least one outside linebacker – maybe two. Depth at CB and safety would be nice and an OT at some point in the draft is likely – as well as a punter.
The key for Fisher and Snead in this, their first draft together, is to maximize the value for each of their picks, and to put into place a number of key pieces that will solidify the Rams’ roster for years to come. But they’re not just trying to reload over the next three drafts; they want to win now! Someone stated no too long ago that the Rams are not rebuilding, they are building. And the truth about building is (especially since we’re on Fantasy Island) you can build anything to masterful completion if you have the know-how and all the right pieces. Building a football team starts with four pillars… JUST KIDDING! Fisher and Snead apparently have the know-how, they just need the pieces.
I’m certain that the Rams have created their master draft board for selecting the BPA at each pick and someone’s name has to be first on that board (None of us truly knows who that player is). But in addition to the top player on their board, there are also probably ten specific players who comprise the Rams’ overall top 10; they’ve done their due diligence. They also more than likely have the DTs listed one through twenty-something and their wide-outs are on their own page listed one through thirty-something. The same holds true for CBs and OLBs and all the other positions – even punter. They are ranked according to the Rams’ collective opinions.
When the Rams are on the clock at #6, the easiest thing to do at that point would be to select the top guy on their list, but I am confident that they won’t. They are going to seriously weigh all of their available options.
If TRich is sitting there for example, they may like him a lot, but they already have Steven Jackson. The question facing the Rams’ brass at that moment will be: Is selecting TRich the best way to build this team to win right now? Answer: Probably not. He’s a tremendous player and probably measurably better than the #2 RB in the draft, but selecting him is a move made to help this team win in a year or two. Would Fisher and Snead prefer TRich and no one else, or a different really good RB and a really good starting DT? If they pass on TRich and trade down, they can have two players instead of one (maybe more).
Same thing is true with Fletcher Cox at #6. I agree that Cox is a beast and I’d love to have him, but not at #6. I’d rather trade down and take any of my other six or seven legit DTs somewhere later in the first or second round. Because on my board, the difference between Cox, Worthy, Poe, Thompson, Reyes, Brockers, Still, Ta’amu, etc. is debatable and we could argue all day about it… but when it comes down to it, any of the above would be a great addition to the Rams front four. If I could get DT Thompson and RB Doug Martin and two additional second or third round picks, I’d jump all over it – and I think Fisher and Snead would too. They could trade down to 27 with New England for example, take Thompson at 27, take Martin at 33, or vice-versa and get the Patriots’ two second rounders as well. Sound crazy? Don’t forget, this is Fantasy Island!
What if Claiborne is sitting there at #6? He’s awesome, but he’s not twice as good as the next three or four DBs in the draft. Plus, the Rams already have Bradley Fletcher and Courtland Finnegan. In this scenario, the Rams could trade the pick and select Jenkins or Gilmore later in the first round and use the additional second round picks on another important player or two.
How about Kaliil? He’s a stud! I think the Rams need a LT; I think they will draft one somewhere, but Kalil’s not an enormous improvement over the next three or four tackles… He’s not even an enormous improvement over Saffold. He might be better. You can even argue that he is WAY better, but we don’t really know that he’ll be better in the NFL – yet! The Rams could trade their top pick and get an OT later in the draft, plus an additional high draft pick or two. And it seems that’s what Fisher prefers.
And then there’s Blackmon. I think he is the best receiver in the draft. Not by a lot, but better. I think he and Floyd are a step or two better than the next few guys. Randle, Hill, Jeffery, Wright, Sanu, etc. You could argue which is better or boldly proclaim that so and so is going to suck as an NFL receiver, but it’s just speculation by football fans. Any of the receivers I’ve mentioned, along with the next 15 guys on the list may turn out to be great receivers in the NFL. All I’m saying is that Blackmon isn’t WAY better than anybody else on the list. He was awesome in college. He might become a Pro Bowl WR, but if I could have Blackmon only or trade down and get Randle and a stud DT or Jeffery and an offensive guard and another running back, I’d definitely pass on Blackmon, he’s just not worth a #6 overall. The value just isn't there.
Here’s my bottom line: There’s no one that the Rams really need who is measurably better than the other players available at his respective position (except for TRich, but that’s not a strong position of need for the Rams right now), and in every other situation, I think the Rams’ brain trust would rather trade the #6 pick for two or three players in the top two rounds (maybe early third).
When I look at the bottom half of the first round, almost every player projected to be taken there is more than likely on the Rams’ Draft Board. And when I look at the second round, I think there’s fifteen to twenty players the Rams would love to have. There is even a pretty good handful of players in the third round who will probably be difference makers in this draft.
Therefore, I believe the Rams will trade down – perhaps more than once – and they will select probably six or seven players in the first three rounds who will come in and make a huge and immediate impact. This draft is loaded – and at least on my Fantasy Island, the Rams can turn it all around right now - this weekend!
Let’s say with their 4th rounder, their 6th rounder and their two sevens, they select an OT, a CB, a safety and a punter… that leaves DT, RB 2-WR, 2-OLB, OG, with their seven Fantasy Island picks in the first three rounds (after trading out of #6 and maybe trading more than once with their early two’s).
Could you handle a haul like this in rounds 1-3?
Note: In parentheses after the player is the round in which Walter Football projects they will be drafted.
RB – Doug Martin, Boise St. (2)
WR – Chris Givens, Wake Forest (2-4)
DT – Brandon Thomson, Clemson (2)
OLB – LeVonte David, Nebraska (1-2)
WR – Brian Quick, Appalachian St. (3-4)
OLB – Nigel Bradham , Florida State (3-4)
OG – Kevin Zeitler – Wisconsin (2)
You can protest that there is no way one team gets all of those players – and I’m sure many of you will – but the fact is, the Rams already have four picks in rounds 1-3, and they have two very, very valuable picks. #6 and #33. It’s not out of the question to pick up three more picks by trading down. Plus, this is Fantasy Island… Smiles everyone!