Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Let's face it, Jeff Fisher and Les Snead are still unknown quantities for Rams fans. While Fisher's NFL curriculum vitae is extensive, the game has changed so much, it's hard to pin down where he wants to go in the 2013 NFL Draft. Les Snead is a similar mystery. His time in Atlanta gave him a great deal of experience, but it's hard to say what players he was responsible for the Falcons' drafting. Put another way, Rams fans might as well throws darts at an Excel Spread sheet filled with the names of top college talent.
It's hard to believe fans see something experienced head coaches don't, and I'd be willing to bet it rarely happens. Just as Rams fans have howled the entire 2012 season for better offensive line talent, I'm sure the coaching staff feels the same way. Where it gets tough is measuring the "possible" difference a college player can make, versus a player they've been coaching for a season or two.
Imagine a coach like Paul Boudreau, as he judges his offensive linemen. He's seen some of his players improve during the 2012 season, so how hard is it for him to move on to a rookie, fresh out of college? Think about the gamble NFL coaches take every time they decide to go with a rookie, let alone using a high draft pick to acquire the player. Yes, it's their job, but that doesn't remove the human factor. They aren't all-knowing, as Rams fans know from past NFL Drafts. Ever wonder how frustrated an NFL coach gets when a high draft pick doesn't impress during their first training camp? Can you imagine the pressure put on them to play a guy like Jason Smith, all the while knowing there probably were better, no-name players standing on the sidelines?
I often wonder about how gut wrenching a failed draft pick is for an NFL coach. Guys like Jeff Fisher don't get to where they are by giving up on a young player, but it happens. I wonder how difficult it was for Fisher to sit Isaiah Pead for Daryl; Richardson? Imagine the same situation for Seattle's Pete Carroll, when he opted for Russell Wilson over big bucks free agent Matt Flynn?
So why am I bringing all this up? It's simple, really. I think Rams fans will be stunned by who Fisher and Snead select in the 2013 NFL Draft. I think who fans believe to be the weakest link on their team, doesn't always mesh with that of an experienced NFL coach and G.M. I also believe Fisher feels an affinity to his group of young players. He knows the business nature of the NFL, but don't be shocked if he sees promise and possibilities, where we see weakness. For instance, the much maligned Craig Dahl fits the hard-hitting player mold Fisher has coveted in the past. If this tendency holds true, how much confidence will Fisher put in his coaching staff to improve Dahl, as opposed to taking a flyer on a relatively unknown rookie safety?
The same can be said of the Rams offensive line. Say what you want about Wayne Hunter, but the player I watched this year - after coming over from the New York Jets - did a remarkable job when he was switched to the left tackle position. Go back and watch Hunter's game film with the Jets, and then take a look at his play for the Rams. He looked like a rejuvenated player in St. Louis.
One thing I've pondered over the last couple days, is that the youngest team in 2012, could wind up being even younger in 2013. No, really! If players like Steven Jackson, Quintin Mikell, Dahl, Hunter, Barry Richardson, and Mario Haggans leave, and are replaced by rookies, the age curve is going to take a Doctor Who-esk turn. It will mean the team lost experience as a whole, which many fans seem to believe is an overrated asset. To me, the presence of veteran players is a key component in the growth for young NFL players. If the youth movement, currently underway at Rams Park, adds another huge batch of wide eyed rookies this year - displacing veterans - I think any thoughts of big win numbers may have to be put on hold until 2014. Veterans help teach young players, and the aforementioned scenario would be akin to someone taking a 101 course in school, and blowing off the application aspects of a the next phase in 102? (see how I wrote something our thousands of college student readers can relate to, without mentioning Madden or Call of Duty? I could've used the Yugo Gambit as an example, but it still confuses me...)
Jeff Fisher has a picture in his mind of the team he wants to field. He knows talent, as well as the NFL game. The Rams' front office is in the process of building a solid scouting department that can deliver the pieces-parts Fisher needs to succeed. We as fans, have no idea what's bouncing around inside Fisher or Snead's heads. While we love to throw conjecture out there for fellow fans to chomp on from time to time, I've come to the conclusion Mock Draft-ing this year is going to be tougher than ever. Do I want the Rams to draft an offensive lineman or two with their first round picks in April? Yes, but I get the feeling my thoughts are just so much twaddle in the broad scheme. Don't be shocked if an outside linebacker or running back get their names called by the Rams at Radio City Music Hall in the first round. Don't be stunned if a wide receiver is chosen too. I've been saying for a while this draft class has a "Best Player Available" ring to it, and I think this thought still holds true. The problem is, we have know idea who Jeff Fisher or Les Snead will judge to be right for the Rams... We won't even be close...