I wrote an article awhile back that suggested the Rams should trade down both first round picks in the upcoming draft, with one of those picks being traded down out of the first round.
The purpose of the article was to A) Let us all have some fun discussing mock draft possibilities B) Get everyone to think about different strategies and how they may impact on our draft selections.
Aside from the comments (which are always fun, interesting and thought-provoking) the poll I created was very revealing. Opinions/votes were divided almost equally between taking the BPA that fills a need (without a trade down) and aggressively trading down both picks, with one being traded down out of the first round entirely.
In a later post, that pondered the idea of trading a first round pick out of this draft and into the 2014 draft, the poll I created overwhelmingly was in favour of trading at least one of this years first round picks in some manner.
The obvious conclusion that can be drawn from those posts and polls is that both strategies are reasonable, viable and potentially successful ways to pursue the draft in April. However, they also have potential downsides if pursued.
To further complicate matters, the Rams still have many holes to fill going into the next draft. They could pick any two of the following with their 16 and 22 picks, from DT Sheldon Richardson, S's Eric Reid, Matt Elam or Kenny Vaccaro, WR's Keenan Allen or Cordarrelle Patterson, OT Eric Fisher, G's Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper, LB Alec Ogletree or TE Tyler Eifert and few would question the selection/ a valid argument could made for selecting each of them. Many TST'ers believe, as I do, that the draft should focus on the offensive side of the ball, especially the offensive line, in the first round. Luckily for the Rams, they have two first round picks in the upcoming draft. Given their needs, this fact alone opens up all kinds of possibilities and strategies for those first round picks. In addition, this will be a difficult draft to assess (let alone mock) because the draft is deep but does not have an overabundance of top level/can't miss talent.
Best Player Available
Drafting the Best Player Available is a common strategy employed by many teams. When coupled with the notions of "to fill a need" or "that makes sense" it is hard to conceive of any other strategy that could be a better one. The obvious advantage to this strategy is that you are taking the best available player on your board while at the same time filling a need. The notion here is that these picks will be of the highest quality and the most likely to turn into Pro Bowlers. The only disadvantage that I can see is that it can limit flexibility. This strategy discourages trading down and drafting for depth. Overall, though, this strategy is employed by many teams with great success.
Trading Down A First Round Pick
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of trading down in the draft are the New England Patriots. They have made this a big part of their overall draft strategy for many years. Last year they reversed this trend by trading up; this could only be accomplished by having a vast array of picks they had accumulated and could use to trade up. The success of the New England Patriots over a long period of time speaks for itself. There is little doubt that their draft strategies have contributed greatly to their success. The second thing that comes to mind is last years Rams draft, the first for Jeff Fisher and Les Snead. They traded down in the first round in dramatic fashion. First, the big trade from 2 down to 6 (although doing this was a no-brainer). Then they traded the 6 pick down to 14 for an additional second round pick. They then traded down five spots in the second round to gain a fifth round pick. Was all of that trading down successful?? Obviously, the trade from 2 down to 6 reaped big dividends. However, that whole scenario rarely presents itself. Would the Rams be so lucky if they had the second pick in this years draft? Not likely. As for the other two trade downs, it is too early to tell how successful they were. Essentially the Rams traded Morris Claiborne for Michael Brockers, Isaiah Pead and Rokevious Watkins. If Watkins and Pead become solid players and fixtures on the Rams then the trade downs would certainly be considered a success. At any rate, the front office proved that they were more than willing to use trade downs of picks as a draft strategy.
The chief advantage to trading down is accumulating additional picks in a draft. How can this be beneficial to a team? More picks across the draft, especially in the hands of Fisher and Snead, equals more chances to find successful players at good value. In a draft that is deeper than it is top-heavy with talent (like the upcoming one), the disparity in talent levels is not as great between the first and second/third rounds. Additional picks can also be beneficial to a team that has many holes or needs, even allowing them to double down picks in a critical area of need. Football is also the ultimate team game. Not everyone on your team can be a superstar. A great team will have an abundance of second round to middle round picks that are good to very good players. The importance of quality picks outside of the first round cannot be understated. The big disadvantage to trading down is that you will never draft the highest quality/best player at any position. Trading down will invariably dilute the quality of your highest picks in any given draft.
The collective bargaining agreement, the salary cap and the way the Rams are putting this team together for the future certainly favours building the team through the draft as opposed to free agency. The new CBA also puts first round picks at a higher premium, as the first round rookie wage scales are significantly lower than previous CBA's.
What is the best strategy for the Rams to employ in the first round of the upcoming draft??
Do they focus on particular positions of need? BPA that fills a need and makes sense? Trade down one or both picks? BPA for one pick and trade down the other? What they do will no doubt be a product of who is available at 16 and 22, what their big board looks like and what other teams needs are who might like to trade up. The attached poll let's you decide, in advance, what route is best for the Rams to follow. Please vote. Your comments and opinions are welcome, as always.