Now that the NFL football season is over many of us have turned our attention to the off season, especially the draft in April. The focus of attention on the upcoming draft is in answering the question: What will the Rams do with/who will the Rams select with those two first round picks?
To-date many opinions, strategies, mock drafts etc. have been put forth in attempting to answer that question. Trade up, trade down, stand pat with the picks. Targeting specific players. Targeting specific areas of need. Focusing on offense over defense. Targeting the BPA that fills a need. Trying to figure out what Fisher and Snead will do based on their past drafting tendencies. Figuring out what our Big Board will look like. Determining our most critical needs. Evaluating the composition of the upcoming draft. In reality, it is virtually impossible to predict what the Rams will do in April. It is a big guessing game (albeit one that is a lot of fun to play). When all of the above-mentioned factors/variables/unknowns are taken into account, we are left with just as many questions as answers.
None of that will stop me from creating mock drafts, etc. and trying to figure it all out before April. Nothing would make me feel happier than being correct in my assertions; at the very least I am going to have a lot of fun doing it.
In this post I am going to look at the first round from a different perspective. I love going to the horse races and I love to play poker. Both involve looking at the odds to help in predicting how a race or a poker hand will unfold. Why not use that perspective (looking at the odds) to gain insight into what the Rams may do/who they may pick in the first round in April?
In order to determine the odds of what the Rams will do/who they may pick in the first round I began by looking at the general, overall picture of what could happen. The Rams won't likely be drafting a CB, RB, QB, MLB or pure C in the first round. The following positions are considered to be positions of need for the Rams: S, OLB, DL depth, OG, OT, a pass catching TE and WR. Each of these positions could be possible targets in the first round. In addition, the Rams could either trade up or trade down in the first round (or out of the first round) with one or both picks.
Once the big picture possibilities are determined and assessed the next step is to ascribe odds to each of the possibilities that can occur. I used a number of criteria in determining the odds for each possibility occurring:
1/ The positions of the two first round picks (Number 16 and 22)
2/ The team needs, in order of need
3/ The values associated with each position
4/ The composition of this years draft, the likely availability of certain players at the pick positions, scarcity of a particular position in the first round and the depth in the draft at each position of need
5/ The main draft strategy of taking the BPA that fills a need, makes sense and takes into account positional values ie. what Fisher's board might look like
6/ Whether the possibility/feasibility exists for trading up or down in the first round.
This post makes no attempt to pick particular players in the first round; hence, it is not a mock draft. Of course the odds I have created are purely subjective and are one persons opinion: mine. These odds will change many times before the draft. The combine and other player evaluations will have an affect on player rankings. What the Rams have accomplished in free agency, roster cuts and in restructuring of contracts (if any) in the interim will also have an impact on the odds.
Trading Up - 50-1
RB - 35-1
RT - 20-1
TE - 18-1
LT - 17-1
LB - 15-1
G - 11-1
S - 10-1
WR - 8-1
Trading Down - 7-1
DL - 6-1
Rationale in determining the odds
QB/C/CB - We have Sam Bradford and a strong CB group. No true Center is worthy of first round status.
Trading up - It is difficult to envision the Rams giving up draft picks in any draft given their philosophy. Especially this one, where the first round is not top heavy with talent.
RB - Only two RB's in this draft could be (borderline) first round picks: Giovani Bernard and Eddie Lacy. Is the value there to draft one at 22? The need is not really there at this point. These odds will likely change if the Rams do not retain Steven Jackson.
LT - There is a need for the Rams at the tackle position. Scarcity and availability play a big role in these odds. Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel are likely top ten picks. The only other possibility is Lane Johnson, in a first round where the demand for him exceeds the supply.
TE - There are only two TE's of first round caliber in this draft: Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz. Both are considered to be mid to late first round talents (although one or both could fall to the second round). It is debatable as to whether the Rams have a need here this early in the draft. It would not be considered an urgent need. Scarcity and draft position are problematic when contemplating taking either of the two of them.
RT - Many no longer distinguish between right and left tackle in their thoughts regarding tackles. I have already covered the left tackles. There is only one RT, D.J. Fluker, who has the potential to be drafted in the first round. He is not a sure-fire first round prospect. Although the Rams have an urgent need here, scarcity reduces the chances of the Rams drafting one. Demand for OLine help in the first is also an issue.
LB - Not a huge need going into the draft due to scheme and the existence of JL55 and Dunbar. There are some possibilities here in the first round. The odds are better because a Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo or Jarvis Jones could fall to 16 (although this is not likely to happen). Kevin Minter and Alec Ogletree are also possibilities in the latter half of the first round.
G - One of the Rams more pressing needs, the odds decrease due to scarcity and availability. There is a good possibility that Chance Warmack will be drafted before 16. Jonathan Cooper is the only other sure-fire first round possibility, but may not be a good scheme fit for the Rams.
Safety - One of the three biggest needs for the Rams, given the cap situation with Quintin Mikell and the need for replacing Craig Dahl. Making the odds higher is the uncertainty regarding who among the safeties is a first round lock. Kenny Vaccaro fits that description; however, do Eric Reid, Jonathan Cyprien, Matt Elam etc. belong in the first round? Is Vaccaro a good value for the Rams at 16? There is too much uncertainty here and it is reflected in the odds.
WR - There is no denying the need the Rams have at this position. Quick, Givens and Pettis are the only three WR's under contract presently. There are as many as five or six WR's with first round draft potential: Keenan Allen, Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter, Terrance Williams and DeAndre Hopkins. They could all fall within the range of the Rams two first round picks. Jeff Fisher mentioned today that it is a great draft for wide receiver. That just made the odds better in favour of drafting a WR in the first round.
Trading down - Given the number of trades in the first round last year, it is likely that the same will occur this year. The Rams traded down twice in last years draft in the first round. I expect many first round trades this year as well. The fact that the Rams have two first round picks increases the odds of them trading down at least one of them. They, like many teams, recognize that the draft is deep but not top heavy with talent. Many teams will be looking to trade down. I expect the Rams to be one of them.
DL - With all of the Rams more urgent needs, it may seem odd to some that I give the best odds to the DL for possible picks in the first round. The reasons are three-fold: No position in the draft is stronger than the DL in the first round. As many as 11-12 DL could be chosen in the first round. It will be hard for the Rams not to run into one that looks like the BPA at 16 and/or 22. At present, the Rams, beyond the starting four, are very thin on the DL because of pending free agency (especially William Hayes). It is no secret that Jeff Fisher values defensive line play (perhaps more so than any other unit) and that he prefers to have a strong, versatile rotation in place. All of these reasons point straight in the direction of the Rams drafting a DL in the first round.
Again, these odds are one persons opinion. They will change over the next two months as we move through the player evaluation process, free agency and other roster dealings. These odds are based on where our roster stands at this moment in time, without any of our own free agents included on the roster.
What do the odds tell us right now??? The odds are that we will draft a DL and WR in the first round, with the odds next favouring the drafting of a G and/or S in the first round. The odds also tell us that we will likely trade down one of the two first round draft picks. In case you are wondering about my personal bias in who we will pick in the first round, please consider this: my latest mock has WR and S in the first round. Secretly I wish we could draft at least one OL in the first round along with a wide receiver. Just don't be too surprised if you hear names like Datone Jones, Alex Okafor, Sheldon Richardson or Sharrif Floyd called when the Rams pick in the first round this year.Here is a good example of how the odds can change overnight. On February 16, 2013 it was posted on Mock The Draft that LB Alec Ogletree was charged with a DUI. His draft stock will likely plummet into the second round now. The odds just went up that we won't be drafting a LB in the first round.
Thanks for reading! Your support is much appreciated. Your comments and opinions are always welcome. Please make suggestions as to how you would change the odds if you feel I am off base with mine.