Did you get a lump of coal in your stocking on the first day of free agency? I know many of you are disappointed the Rams did nothing on the first day of free agency. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I for one, don't want to over pay for a free agent. With the exception of the Rams and a few other teams, everybody overpaid yesterday! Can you say buyers remorse?
Great Teams Plug Holes with Free Agency and Draft the Best Available Player in the Draft- Does that's make sense? I know it's tempting to draft for need, but in the long run the draft for need strategy dooms a team to the cellar of it's respective division. Overspending in free agency dooms NFL bottom dwellers and teams like the Dallas Cowboys to claustrophobic salary caps.
Kevin Demoff once said, "If you have 8 million to spend on free agency, it better to spend 7 million on one player and 1 million on the other, then spending 4 million on each." We will keep this mind, yet I'm sure Demoff would ignore his own advice, if it meant he had to stare a pair of 4 million dollar gift horses, in the mouth. There's always exceptions.
Some of the stuff I will discuss may sound obvious. Occam's Razor- states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected.
The simplest explanation is not necessarily correct, yet I shall keep my hypothesis as simple as possible.
Positions in order of Need
1. Free Safety- Gregg Williams loves to coach a very aggressive blitzing, press coverage defense. That means the Rams defense will be exciting to watch next year, as the Rams make big play after big play. On the other hand, our defense will give up some long plays for TD's, because William's defense dares you to go over the top. Williams takes everything away from the offense, except for going long over the top. Therefore Gregg William's defensive philosophy requires a speedy, rangy free safety, with instincts, smart enough to cement the back end, and cover up for coverage mistakes.
As you know free safety Jarius Byrd signed a huge contact yesterday. Will the Rams sign a free agent free safety? The only free agent free safety left out there, whom could fit Gregg Williams defensive philosophy is:
28 year old Chris Clemons. Profootball focus gave Clemons an overall grade of +4.1 on 1158 snaps. Clemons excelled in coverage — his +7.2 grade in that department was ninth among safeties and he allowed just 0.20 yards per coverage snap, best in the league. I would think the odds are 4 to1 the Rams sign Clemons.
Draft Help. Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Calvin Pryor are more likely targets for the Rams. Why? Because the Rams could get one of those two by trading back the 13th pick and still select a free safety gem from picks 16-22. Although Calvin Pryor might not be the Best Available Player at 13, he very might be the Best Available Player at pick 21. By trading the Rams add an extra draft pick. 50% chance Rams draft Clinton-Dix or Pryor. There is a chance Rams draft a FS in second round like FS Jimmy Ward or CB/S Lamarcus Joyner.
What will the Rams not do? The Rams will not wait pass the 3rd round to sign a free safety. Gregg Williams defense won't work without a solid free safety.
2. Guard is our second most pressing need. The top 4 linemen in the draft are all offensive tackles. Truth be told, the Rams are relatively set at OT compared to guard and center. Without a doubt, our two best linemen are Jake Long and Joe Barksdale. Agreed? We all know Greg Robinson can play guard. And what's more, Greg Robinson could be the Best Player Available! For the first time, but not the last time I will say, " GM's look 3-5 years into the future, when drafting players." If we draft an offensive tackle it won't be to replace Jake Long for the first month of the season! Let me get back to guard. OK. Here is a list of the 2013 All Pro guards with their draft round.
I think it's safe to say the Rams wait till the 2nd round, at the earliest, to draft a guard. But Ewe, "We need two guards! And if the Rams draft two guards in rounds 2 thru 4, that's a lot of youth between the tackles!" I agree. and that's why, the Rams will probably sign a starting free agent guard. The chances of signing a free agent guard are 80%! In addition the Rams will draft at least two guards or OT/ G types. Shelley Smith could be that free agent guard. Not very sexy, I know, but it is , what it is.
3. #1 Wide Reciever is our 3rd most pressing need. There are ZERO #1 WR's in Free Agency! There are a bunch of #2's like Eric Decker. The odds of the Rams signing a free agent WR for more than 2 million dollars is ZERO! Les Snead had said, " I believe in our young receivers, they will mature, get better, and contribute." And I believe Les! Yet, I can't see any receiver on the Rams roster becoming a true #1 wide receiver. Tavon Austin will wow us, and Bailey and Quick may eventually become solid #2 type receivers. But right now, we got a roster full of #3 WR's!
And the only place to find a true #1 WR is the draft. Sammy Watkins is the obvious choice, but perchance Snead has spotted more than one possible #1 WR. Will he use the 13th pick on Mike Evans? Will he trade back the 13th pick into the 20's for a possible WR, or maybe Les will draft a WR with our 2nd pick?
Wait a moment Ewe! I though you said, We will use our 13th pick for a free safety. Remember? Odd's of us using our 13th pick on a WR are very low. Around 10%. Unless we sign FS Chris Clemons, then the odds go up. So expect Sneed to draft a WR with our 1st pick ( Sammy Watkins) or with a 2nd round pick at the latest. The odds of Rams drafting WR in first two rounds is 80%. Fisher covets #1 WR's! Remember how bummed out he was when Justin Blackmon passed him by? Sammy Watkins is better than Justin Blackman.
4. Cornerback, or a nickel back is our 4th most pressing need. We don't need a cornerback better than Jenkins and Johnson, although I wouldn't be surprised if the Rams draft a press type CB and move Trumaine Johnson inside to nickel. It would be difficult to find a better CB in free agency, unless a free agent CB has a clause in his contract similar to Finnegan's. If a team signs Cortney Finnegan for a million in 2014, than that deducts a million off our salary cap dead money. ( Ramfan1313 should write an article on this exact subject! He's the only writer here who could possibly illuminate- What it means to sign a top free agents for less, because their last team is paying part of their Rams salary. )
This draft has a bunch of solid cornerbacks, and I expect the Rams to draft a cornerback in rounds 2-4.
5. A Blitzing Outside Linebacker is our 5th greatest need. Gregg Williams loves to blitz with his outside linebackers. I don't know if Olgetree is William's ideal blitzing linebacker. In fact I suspect SS T.J. McDonald is our best blitz option. Youth and speed go together, so I expect the Rams to draft a blitzing outside linebacker in the 2nd or 3rd round. And free agent who can put heavy pressure on the QB and drop back in coverage will be too expensive. Except for Dunbar, I don't expect the Rams to sign a free agent OLB from another team.
6. Offensive Tackle and a Defensive Tackle are tied for our 6th greatest need. We have solid starters as both positions. Yet Jake Long may not be with the Rams in 2 years. And DE's William Hayes and Eugene Sims are forced to rotate inside to DT give Langford and Brockers a breather. After Guard and Dunbar at Outside Linebacker our most probable free agent sign is DT.
And Backup QB- 75% chance of signing backup QB in free agency. I won't talk about QB's since that stirs the pot.
Lets integrate the info.
Great Teams draft Best Available Player. What happens if two players are tied for BAP or your big board? If one of those players fits a need, it's a no brainer to pick the BAP who fits the need. Right?
BAP options at Rams #2 pick- DE Jadeveon Clowney, WR Sammy Watkins, OT Greg Robinson, OT Jake Mathews, and OLB Khalil Mack. ( Remember GM's think years into the future, when they draft) Chris Long or Jake Long may not be with the Rams in two years. So Clowney, Robinson, and Mathews are all possible draft picks.
1. If Rams feel Clowney is by FAR the best player available the Rams will not trade down pick #2. The odds on this happing are 1 in 10.
2. If Rams feel Sammy Watkins is by far the best BPA they will either draft Sammy at 2 or trade back to Jacksonville to pick 3, and select Watkins there. This is more likely because the Jags traded Blaine Gabbert to the 49ers. The Jags are going to draft a QB, because they don't have a QB. So Jags are putting the eggs in the QB basket. We should receive Jags 2nd round pick if Jags want to insure they get THE Quarterback they want. And believe me when I say, The Jags know the name of that QB. 40% chance of trade back to Jags. ( Drafting Sammy Watkins also makes it more likely the Rams trade back #13 pick, because we aren't going to trade up for WR Mike Evans, since this draft if very deep, and we need more picks.)
3. Even if Rams feel Robinson is the BPA they will in all likely hood trade back as far as Oakland at 5. I don't see Jags or Browns selecting Robinson. Odds 1 in 2 we trade back between 5 and the pick in draft.
What happens if Watkins, Mathews, and Watkins are off the Board at 7? We would pick a player like Khalil Mack, or trade back again to 9th to 12 and draft Evans, Aaron Donald, Lewan, or Justin Gilbert. I'm sure Les Snead will gamble more than once that the BAP the Rams want will be there.
The good news, is Snead can fuck up more than once on early trades, as long as he doesn't fuck up with who he picks! For example, if Snead wants Sammy Watkins, and we trade back to Oakland at 5. And Cleveland picks Watkins at 4. Snead can pick Robinson at 5 or trade back to 8 for more picks and draft the best available player there. As long as history confirms Snead's draft pick is the BAP, the Rams win! Right?
4. Since this is deepest draft in years the Rams want extra picks. The Rams BPA could still be there at pick 5-8, so the Rams will trade down. Remember how I kept drafting playesr in rounds 2-4? I drafted more players then the Rams have picks, so the odds of Rams trading back our first pick are 90%. There will be trades!
13th pick If Rams select Sammy Watkins the Rams will attempt to trade back 13th pick and grab one the top free safeties in the first round low 20's. If Rams drafted an OT with first pick, it possible the Rams will trade up 13th pick for an elite top 12 pick. Yet, it's still more likely Rams trade back 13th pick. 20% chance Rams trade up 13th pick for an elite BPA. 15% chance Rams stand pat at 13 and draft Mike Evans, Aaron Donald or Taylor Lewan(BAP). 65% chance Rams trade back 13th pick.
Most Likely scenario- Rams trade back both 1st round picks back. 85% chance either Sammy Watkins, Robinson, or Mathews will be a ram. Either Ha Ha Clinton Dix, Calvin Pryor, or cornerback who can play free safety will be picked by Rams first 2nd round pick. The Rams probably will collect two extra 2nd round picks, for a total of three 2nd round Ram picks!
2nd round- With 3 picks in the 2nd round, the Rams will draft a guard, DB, and possibly an OLB if someone like Ryan Shazier is available, or a WR if Rams haven't drafted a WR yet.
3rd thru 4th round- BPA despite need. Could be any position. If 3 players are tied for BAP at in rounds 3 and 4 Les will pick for need.
5th -7th rounds- are the rounds you draft for pure need/ Look for Rams to draft for depth, find a gem like Stacy (BAP), and draft for need. Don't be surprised if Snead trades up a few late round picks to grab a BAP!
Free Agency - I suspect that the Rams will sign one starter. ( Most probable position guard or FS Chris Clemons. Look for Rams to resign some of their cheaper free agent such as Dunbar, QB Clemons, and Guard Shelley Smith. Be very happy if see sign an average starting guard or FS Chris Clemons) May not sound sexy, but years down the road, signing free agents to fill a hole will pay off more than sexy free agent signing like WR Mike Wallace.