Handicapping The Rams' First Round Picks: A Gambler's Perspective

USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NFL Draft is just around the corner. The Rams - with the #2 and #13 selections in the first round - will likely have many options to consider come draft-day. Will they trade down: #2, #13, or both? Will they stand pat and take the best player available? Will they trade up from #13? It's time to play the role of oddsmaker!

What will the Rams do/who will they select, with their pair of first round picks in the 2014 NFL Draft? Throughout the off-season, many opinions, strategies, mock drafts, and commentaries have been proffered in attempting to answer that question: Trade up, trade down, or stand pat with the picks. Targeting specific players. Determining what Jeff Fisher and Les Snead will do based on their past draft tendencies. Figuring out what the Rams' board will look like. Establishing the most critical needs. Evaluating the composition of the draft. In reality, it's virtually impossible to predict what the Rams will do in May. It's a big guessing game, albeit one that's a lot of fun to play.

It's time to look at the first round of the draft from a fresh perspective. I enjoy going to the horse races, predicting football game results against the spread, and playing poker. All three involve looking at the odds, which help in predicting how a race, game or poker hand will unfold. Why not use that perspective - examining the odds - to gain insight into what the Rams will do/who they select in the first round in May?

Mock-horse-chips_medium

Considerations In Establishing The Odds

  • Team needs. The Rams' primary needs are: Cornerback, Safety, #1 Wide Receiver, and the Offensive Line. One or more of these needs will likely be addressed in the first round.
  • Where the Rams' two first-round selections fall in the draft order [2 and 13]. The positioning of both picks eliminates many players/positions from consideration, unless the Rams trade down the #13 selection.
  • The composition of the draft, the likely availability of certain players at the pick positions, and the scarcity of players at a particular position in the first round. Supply and demand plays a critical role in establishing odds.
  • The feasibility of trading up/down in the first round. In the last two drafts, the Rams were involved in three trade-downs and one trade-up in the first round.
  • Examining the first two drafts of the Fisher/Snead regime, with respect to tendencies, players and positions selected, and moving up/down the draft order.
The Odds

The accompanying chart presents the odds of the Rams selecting a particular position - and trading up/down - in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft:

Position/Trade Odds
OT 4  1
WR 9  2
Trade Down 5  1
CB 7  1
S 7  1
DE 8  1
OLB 10  1
Trade Up 15  1
DT 20  1
QB 30  1
ILB 40  1
OG 50  1
TE 100  1
C 1000  1
RB 1000  1
Rationale In Establishing The Odds

Running Back/Center - The odds are prohibitively stacked against the Rams selecting a Center or Running Back in the first round. Scarcity is the chief reason for such long odds. There isn't a Center or Running Back worthy of consideration in the top-25 selections.

Tight End/Offensive Guard/Inside Linebacker - Scarcity is the primary reason for such long odds, at all three positions. TE Eric Ebron, ILB C.J. Mosley, and OG Xavier Su'a-Filo are the only sure-fire first round picks at these positions. None of the three will be under consideration for the top half-dozen overall selections. Su'a-Filo would be considered the biggest need for the Rams, though likely a reach at #13.

Quarterback - There have been plenty of rumours circulating in the last month, regarding the Rams' possible interest in selecting a quarterback in the first round. Notwithstanding the rumours, the likelihood of the Rams drafting a QB in the first round is not high. The Rams' front office have clearly indicated their support for Sam Bradford numerous times. They've stated their lack of interest in selecting a QB with the #2 selection, yet have expressed their desire to select a developmental QB at some point in the draft.

Defensive Tackle - Scarcity and need are the predominant factors in assigning odds to the defensive tackle position. Aaron Donald is the only DT the Rams would consider in the top half of the draft. He may not be available for selection at #13, for the New York Giants will have him under serious consideration, one pick before the Rams. DT is not a critical need for the Rams. Donald may not be an ideal fit, as the Rams prefer tall DT's [Carrington 6'5", Brockers 6'5", Langford 6'6", Conrath 6'7"].

Trade Up - The odds against trading up are significantly higher than for trading down. The primary reason for the higher odds is availability. Either of the Rams' first-round picks could come into play in trade-down scenarios. The #13 selection is the only pick realistically available for trading up.

Outside Linebacker - The odds are lengthened by scarcity at this position. Khalil Mack is the only OLB likely to be selected in the top-10. Opinions are divided regarding Anthony Barr's chances of selection in the top-13. OLB would not be considered a huge need for the Rams' defense. Rumours are suggesting the Rams have a strong interest in Mack, although true interest is difficult to gauge. Mack also presents an attractive trade-up target for many teams, similar to Clowney. This position is the most difficult to place odds on.

Defensive End - Many factors come into play in making the odds a little longer for this position. Jadeveon Clowney is the only DE in consideration. I believe there is a good chance the Houston Texans [or another team in a trade] will select Clowney with the #1 overall pick. The Rams have no real "need" for another DE, and will receive offers to trade up if Clowney is not selected first overall. If the Rams don't trade down - and Clowney is available - they could select him as the BPA.

Safety/Cornerback - Two factors lengthen the odds of the Rams selecting these positions in the first round: scarcity and availability. There isn't a safety or cornerback graded in the top-7 of the draft, likely precluding the Rams from considering these positions with their first pick [even after a trade-down]. If Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix and/or Justin Gilbert are selected before their pick at #13, it slightly decreases the odds of the Rams selecting a DB in the first round, although Calvin Pryor, Darqueze Dennard, and Kyle Fuller could all receive consideration.

Trade Down - The odds of trading down have diminished in the last month, as there's been little buzz surrounding the top quarterbacks in the draft. Nonetheless, the Rams have shown an interest in trading down - at least one of their two picks - in this years draft. Having two picks in the top-13 increases the odds of a trade-down, and the Rams' current regime has shown a propensity for moving around the board on draft-day. If the Rams do trade down the #13 pick, it's not expected to be very far down the draft order.

Wide Receiver - The grading of both Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans in the top-ten increases the Rams' odds of selecting a WR in the first round, even if the #2 selection is traded down. If Houston selects a QB at #1, the Rams will have many options available with their own pick: selecting one of the OT's, Clowney, Mack, or Watkins, plus trading down the pick. The availability of Clowney is the most attractive option for teams wishing to trade up.

Offensive Tackle - The odds on the Rams selecting an OT in the first round are mostly based on supply and availability. There are four potential options for the Rams, at various points between the 2nd and 13th selections: Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Zack Martin, and Taylor Lewan. Each could constitute the BPA, depending where the Rams' selections ultimately fall.

2014-nfl-draft_medium

If you were betting on what the Rams will do in the upcoming draft, what positions/trades would you lay your money down on? Given all the possibilities and uncertainty surrounding this draft, no wager would be a safe one. Most of my money would be on a defensive back at #13. Then maybe small wagers on an offensive tackle - and a trade-down - with the first selection. I'm just playing the odds...


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