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Three tackles for the first round

Since the Rams players are on vacation, decompressing a bit from a weighty 0-8 season, we fans probably need to think rosier thoughts for at least a few days during the bye week.

And what rosier subject for fans of an 0-8 team than the 2008 draft? Sports Illustrated has a nice slide show/visual presentation of the top ten offensive and defensive prospects for the 2008 draft. Besides a nice photo of the players in action, it's a useful list because it includes underclassmen. Two underclassmen of note are offensive tackles, something I'm more convinced everyday that the Rams should target in the first round.

At #10 is Oklahoma tackle Phil Loadholt. Of note, the guy's a first year starter who enrolled in January. It speaks well of him that he's already on someone's top ten list. He's described as "as large and athletic as any of the top tackles in [the 2008] draft." I suspect with the season OU is having, he'll start to get even more attention.

The next tackle on the list, at #7, is Michael Oher of Mississippi. Per the piece at SI, he has "a great combination of size and athleticism," which I would think any tackle on someone's top ten offensive prospects would have to possess, and he "offers terrific upside at the...left tackle position."

Michigan's Jake Long, rapidly becoming my favorite choice for the Rams first round pick, ranks 2nd on the list. Per the report, he's "improved his game," an impressive feat for a guy who would have likely been a top five pick last year, and will likely be picked among the top three in '08.

It's become apparent this season that Alex Barron just doesn't have what it takes to be Orlando Pace's eventual replacement. The kid had talent, but like so many other talented guys who make it to the NFL, he failed to do much with it. That's what makes Long so particularly appealing. He was one of the best tackles in the NCAA last season, but improved his play for his senior year campaign. Wow. This is a guy who could step in and instantly make an impact for the Rams in his rookie season, and would still get a one or two year apprenticeship with perennial Pro Bowler Pace.

On the defensive side of things, Virginia DE Chris Long offers an attractive alternative to drafting an OL in the first round. Still, I just can't justify picking anyone other than Jake Long after watching the first eight games of this season, unless some strange twist of fate makes head coaches available in the draft.