Ok, let's just jump right into the draft, and since we're jumping in, I'm using my soapbox as a diving board.
The offensive line was, once again, offensive. There are lots of reasons for the second half meltdowns we've seen this season, and let's face it, top tier receivers missing passes rank among the ugliest displays in a parade of ugly this Sunday. But the thing that stands out most was the line's inability to deal handle pressure when the Packers defense really started to apply it in the second half.
The real dog of the bunch is Alex Barron though. To an extent replacements get some degree of forgiveness; they're replacements after all and getting manhandled by a powerful DE, blowing an assignment or getting a false start in an offense they really don't know all that well is to be expected from time to time. Barron, on the other hand, made two false starts, if false starts were touch downs though... Nevertheless, it proves once and for all that Barron will never be more than a middling quality right tackle. As far as replacing Pace, as was once the plan, obviously that's not an option after watching his play at LT this season.
I'd really like to see the Rams go for an elite lineman in the draft this spring, but that raises a couple questions. If they draft an OT, does Barron move to a backup role? That's fine with me, but that might make for some bad medicine in the locker room and open up the possibility of questionable play on the field when Barron does play, an unfounded possibility I realize. Trading him would allow the Rams to get some value back for their investment, either a second day draft pick or solid role player to fill a need somewhere else on next season's team; of course, I realize there's a certain irony trading away an offensive linemen after using anything with a pulse that weighs around 300 lbs this season. Keeping him as depth and judging how that works out is probably the best route...if they draft a tackle.
Of course, they could forgo the OT in the first round and look for an interior lineman later on the first day or even a diamond in the rough tackle. With a top three pick, which is likely, Arkansas' McFadden would be available, at a premium rate that would give the Rams two large RB salaries under the cap. (Would you rather have McFadden or Steven Jackson over the long haul?) In that scenario, trading down in the first round and getting another late round pick would be a decent option.
Mock drafts are starting to pop up all over the internet, and in searching for a few random samples the other day, I came across this article. The author runs down some of the key offensive tackles that figure into the 2008 draft, even noting a few underclassmen. What I found interesting though was his opinion that taking a OL high in the draft can be risky. Maybe he had just watched Alex Barron add another false start penalty to his resume. He also argues that an OT isn't an impact player; he must not have read "The Blind Side." I have to respectfully disagree after watching the Rams line get shoved around like a junior high kid in a pink shirt. Imagine how different this offense might have been this season with a healthy Pace in the lineup, or any top-flight OT protecting Bulger for that matter. At the very least, we might not have a $65 million QB with broken ribs on post-concussion syndrome watch.
I still like Michigan's Jake Long, but admittedly I know little about college football. This mock draft has the Rams taking him with the fifth pick (they'll be higher than that barring a couple miracles) and notes that he can make an instant impact, which is what the Rams need on the o-line and to give fans a reason to start buying tickets again.
It's a Thursday game this week, which means that few of us will get to see it since it's on the NFL Network. Back later today with more on the Steelers.