I like bridges.
They're simple in purpose - get people from side A to side B. They're one of the few things specifically designed to traverse, which is a weird existence.
Before the suspension bridge came in and gave us the giant cables of the Golden Gate Bridge or the Verrazano, bridges were pretty straightforward thanks to the Romans. Build an arch, or a couple if side B is really far away from side A, and put a road on them (no, those long jungle bridges of some wooden planks and rope don't count but they do make for some good movies scenes). Or go all out and build a Pont du Gard.
The Romans elevated the architecture of the bridge thanks to one simple component - the keystone.
The keystone is the final piece, the one rock at the very top that provides balance to the arch as a whole allowing it hold weight against itself. Strangely, the keystone incurs the least stress of any of the pieces that curve in to create the arch.
Ironically enough for the 2013 NFL Draft, it's the city known for an arch that holds the keystone of the first round.
We all know the Rams are holding two first rounds picks at 16 and 22 with the opportunity to bring in some young talent in the hopes of boosting the team into late playoff contention this season. But it's worth pointing out that in some ways, the Rams are the keystone of tomorrow night's first round. They hold the weight of the round by sitting in a position that could dictate what nearly every other team is provided throughout the evening and into round 2.
There are only three options for a given draft pick (except for the first and last picks of the draft): trade up, sit fast, trade down. For the Rams, those three options have added weight due to owning two picks and the location of those picks, one being square in the middle. Here's how the Rams can determine the direction of the first round:
Even if you're personally certain that Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel is the first overall pick to the Chiefs, there's no certainty to this draft after that. Everything's a mess of possibilities, especially at 5 where Detroit doesn't have a clear cut option meaning they could be the first team to trade their pick on Thursday. Oakland's a strong trade contender with the third pick as well, but obviously it would take a bit more capital to get into the top three. San Diego could well be a team moving up to ensure they get a shot at one of the top tackles after Joeckel. So while the top eight picks are already a mess, it could be St. Louis that really sends this draft into a tailspin.
With Miami at 12 and Carolina at 14, you're looking at two teams that will likely take two players off the Rams' board that are being seriously considered by the front office. How seriously? A trade may tell us just that.
Take recent mocks from Josh Norris and Gil Brandt - in both mocks, both West Virginia WR Tavon Austin and Texas S Kenny Vaccaro are gone by 16. If the Rams value either highly enough, I could see them moving up to ensure they get whichever is highest on their board. They have the capital. If they have the commitment to either of those prospects, they can control the draft order as they see fit.
Hold tight at 16 & 22
Perhaps there isn't a prospect they value enough to sacrifice draft capital for. Maybe they're content with the depth of the first round and beyond to the point where they feel like they can fill needs with quality talent without having to move. The Rams, both because of the fact they have two picks but unlike Minnesota who has two at 23 and 25, control the flow of this first round.
If Austin or Vaccaro fall, they're in position to take either of those prospects. Even still, they may opt to select someone else at WR or S or go deeper down the need chart toward a BPA pick. They're in control. Not to put too much on Les Snead's plate today, but he could force the hand of a couple teams in the latter half of the 1st round (and even those without a 1st round pick).
I've seen mocks with safeties going to Dallas (18), Minnesota (23, 25), Green Bay (26) and New England (29). If the Rams take a WR at 16 and Vaccaro is already gone, what are the chances FIU S Jonathan Cyprien is the pick at 22? How badly would any of those teams want Cyprien or Florida S Matt Elam or LSU S Eric Reid? I certainly think it's plausible that the Rams could push a team to have to move up either in front of the Rams at 22 or directly with the Rams to get their guy. The opposite is certainly true as well - if the Rams take Vaccaro and target a WR at 22 (assuming Austin is gone), how many teams would sell hard for Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson? I wouldn't be surprised if it's more than a few.
Always a popular option for any team that didn't make the playoffs, trading down almost always comes with more picks which means more opportunities to improve last year's team. Given how hard it is to execute successful drafts, that doesn't end up being the case too often, but it improves your chances nonetheless. The Rams' 2012 class was a prime example. While RB Isaiah Pead and WR Brian Quick have yet to see their NFL careers take off, Les Snead and Jeff Fisher proved they were capable of finding talents throughout the draft, not just early as was the case with their predecessors.
And as often as we've heard about the Deep Draft of 2013™, it's a certainty that teams will feel they can get starting talent well into the 3rd round at certain positions. Adding to your stable of picks in day two has to be a prime option for any GM this year. For the Rams, that means allowing a team to come to the fore at 16 or allowing a playoff team to improve their situation.
Of course the ball's in St. Louis' court here, as it was last year when they held the second and seventh picks. The Rams likely have enough highly rated prospects at value for the 16th pick that they don't feel like they have to move. And not being QB-needy (nonono...save that argument for the season, kids), they're in a luxury position of having the draft come to them this year. Wide receiver, safety...arguably the Rams' two biggest need matching arguably the two deepest classes. The Rams could allow someone else to shake up the draft by sliding to the back of the room, biding their time.
Remember, the keystone doesn't bear the pressure.