As the prospect evaluations and free agency rumors drone on, my draft strategy has been forced to evolve. I've been on almost every bandwagon at this point, starting with the Sammy Watkins way back in December. After that I flipped over to Greg Robinson, then back to Watkins, then back to Robinson, then back to Watkins, hell, I even preferred Clowney for a VERY short period of time. For the most part my perception of the prospects isn't what has changed, it's my perception of Ram's needs and value later in the draft that has. At this point I've developed a flexible plan centered around a few tenets.
Tenet #1. I don't want a receiver, unless Watkins falls after a trade back.
BLASPHEMOUS! But wait, there's some method to my madness. Watkins is the clear cut best receiver in the class but I don't feel that he's better than A.J. Green or Julio Jones when they came out. Both were more polished route runner's with better hands and experience in more pro style offenses. Watkins, on the other hand, is enticing in his explosiveness, playmaking ability and versatility. He's what we already have in Tavon Austin, just in a larger package.
I'm also a big believer in the idea that we just have to allow our current receiving core to mature. I'll happily bet on the emergence of Brian Quick and/or Chris Givens next year as a legitimate #1 (Quick more likely Givens). I think that we already have a legit #2 receiver in Stedman Bailey.
Tenet #2. One possible 1st round lineman, and one only.
Rodger Saffold's wacky round-about return to St. Louis makes the offensive line situation look a lot less bleak. If Jake Long isn't ready to go early in the season I'm cool with letting Saffold hold down the fort. With that being said, I don't want a tackle in the first round UNLESS Greg Robinson falls to us in a trade down. Listen, he's not Jason Smith and he never will be. Because he's being thrown into a situation with a great line coach and no immediate pressure to be a franchise left tackle, he doesn't have the same bust factor. No other tackle offers the upside and immediate versatility that Robinson offers in this draft. If Paul Boudreau can turn has-beens and never-weres into viable lineman, I want to see what he can do with a prime piece of real estate like Robinson.
Tenet #3. Give Gregg Williams some toys to play with.
Gregg Williams is about to take our defense to the next level with his aggressive, take-no-prisoners gameplans. Traditionally he runs out of a 3-3-5 base and brings the heat from multiple places, including outside linebacker and nickel corner. I'd like to add a strongside linebacker and legit nickel corner in this draft.
With that in mind, Khalil Mack is a clear cut front-runner on my Ram's Big Board. He can blitz, stop the run, and cover like no other linebacker in the class. If taken, he'd be an immediate playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. What does that mean for my big board? It means my preference at the top of the draft goes like this:
1.) Khalil Mack
2.) Greg Robinson
3.) Sammy Watkins
As for nickel corner, I'd ideally like to add Lamarcus Joyner at the top of the second round. That'd be ideal.
Tenet #4. Take a corner in the second round.
The hypes been building around this receiver class, built to me it plays second fiddle to this cornerback class. There are six high-caliber corners in this class, them being Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard, Jason Verrett, Lamarcus Joyner, Bradley Roby and Kyle Fuller (in no particular order). After releasing Cortland Finnegan, one of these six needs to be added PRONTO.
The two that stand out above the rest to me are Justin Gilbert and Lamarcus Joyner. Gilbert has the makings of a #1 shutdown corner and he's a kick returner to boot. As stated above, I like Joyner as an edition to this defense based on his capability in the slot, safety versatility, and run support/blizting ability.
Tenet #5. Be careful with your Safeties.
It's no secret that we need a free safety in St. Louis as soon as possible. The two clear cut 1st rounders thus far have been Calvin Pryor and HaHa Clinton-Dix. I've been on the Pryor bandwagon HARD for the last month/two months but I'm beginning to fall off. He's got me convinced that he's a better SS option than FS. HaHa on the other hand, is a pure FS prospect.
If we can add someone like Clemons (or someone like him) in free agency, I'd pass on both first round safeties and opt for someone like Deone Bucannon, Ed Reynolds, or Dion Bailey in the 3rd round.
Some assorted small rules:
- Garropolo before Mettenberger, Mettenberger before McCarron.
- Beef up the interior of the line in rounds 4-7.
- Bring in a running back like James White, Andre Williams, Jeremy Hill or De'Anthony Thomas on day 3 to compete for a roster spot with Pead and Richardson.