Over at NFL.com, Vic Carucci runs down the top 5 DTs in this year's draft. Not surprisingly, Branch and Okoye are Nos. 1 and 2. Despite Carucci's ranking, lots of mock drafts and football pundits are switching the two, downgrading Branch after poor offseason workouts and vice versa for Okoye. Many still have the two as top 10 picks, putting them outside of the Rams' first round reach with their 13th overall pick.
Still, it's not impossible to imagine one of the two being available when the Rams' name is called. I'm not holding my breath, but it's definitely possible. Per Carucci's assesment, Okoye "clogs the middle well" which is exactly what the Rams need in a defensive tackle.
DeMarcus "Tank" Tyler, Carucci's #3, isn't 13th pick material, unless Linehan et al see something we don't. He should be gone early in the second round, but if he's not, he'd be a steal for the Rams and their 52nd overall pick (20th in the second round).
Justin Harrell could easily fall to the Rams in the second round, and would be a great pick, a steal. A bicep injury hurt his senior year campaign and has probably kept him from being a 1st rounder. He might not be the best playmaking DT in the draft, but he's certianly has what many of us in this little community feel the Rams need.
Most of this we already know from reading the thirteen million draft sites around the internet, btu Carucci's top 5 gets interesting by who he slots in at number 5, Cal's Brandon Mebane.
Quinn Pitcock, from Ohio State could easily be included in anyone's arbitrary top five DT list, and is on a number of them that I've seen. Mebane's set to thrive as a pass rusher who can "hold his own" against the run, while Pitcock is sort of the bizzaro opposite, a great gap plugger but lacking the mobility to be a playmaking DT. Then there's also Kareem Brown from Miami, who at 6'5" 315 lbs blends a little from the pass rushing side of things with a little from the run stopping side of things. Turk McBride from Tennesse is another DT that many consider to be among the top 5 or 10 available. His size, 6'2" 277 lbs, doesn't suit the Rams' needs for a big guy to act as a bulwalk on the line and tie up or move aside blockers.
The point I'm finally getting at here, besides my own wondering if the NFL folks slightly favor the 3-4 AFC powerhouses who also have some great marketing value (my tinfoil hat's on as I type), is that the Rams should have some good options available to fit their need for a run stopping, powerhouse DT in the second round. They could in fact even grab two pretty decent DTs in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. The new draftees may need a year or two in the league to learn the ropes and match their potential, as many have noted, but I think they could be an effective part of a rotation, particularly a big guy to clog the lanes on rushing downs, in their rookie season. It's looking more and more like that scenario is exactly what the Rams are banking on to bolster their D-line, too. April's just a few days away, and while most St. Louisians are going to turn their attention to the Cardinals, I'd advise football fans not to tune out what could be a really interesting month for the 2007 Rams.