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Rams picking Gholston over Jake Long makes sense

I wanted to defend the Gholston pick in the SBN mock draft some more; specifically, why we didn't take Jake Long with the pick. (The Falcons snapped up Jake Long with the third pick.)

Miller liked the pick, but his assessment of the Rams need for an OT will closely mirror any criticism the Rams do encounter from the Jake Long fans if they take a DE with the second pick.

The only beef I have with this pick is that Orlando Pace is on his last legs. Alex Barron has been solid, but he's also a candidate to jump off-sides every play. Barron is a good player, but not an elite left tackle. The jury is out some on Jake Long's potential to play the left side, so I understand passing on him here. I'd like to see the Rams add a left tackle in the next few rounds.

First of all, I think the Rams could, if they want, still take a talented OT in the second round; although, I'd still probably go with Quentin Groves or a solid wide receiver if either option were available.

For the 2008 season, the Rams have Pace and Barron ready to go as their starting tackles. With Pace, after missing the better part of the last two seasons with injuries, health is definitely an issue. He's recovering well from his torn labrum and is expected to be 100% by the time training camp starts later this summer. At 32, he's definitely up there in the years, but, at 32, he should still have some miles left on his tires. Contract-wise, the Rams have two more seasons - '08 and '09 - before cutting him would force a significant cap cost. It really isn't unreasonable to think Pace can play out the majority of games through those two seasons.

Barron, while proving he's not the left tackle of the future, at least played at an adequate level. And, there's a new o-line coach in town, and ruminations indicate that the Rams intend to push Barron this season, deciding once and for all just how much more potential, if any, they can squeeze out of him. Barron's contract runs through 2009. He's just 25 years old, so if he can pushed and coached to the next level, this is a good chance to do it. He knows what's at stake, and strikes me as the type of player who might get some additional motivation from a future contract.

The real issue with the Rams at OT, for this season, is depth. If Barron or Pace go down, particularly Pace, the team's in a bit of a lurch for a tackle. Now, if Pace goes out, it stands to reason that Barron might be slightly improved at LT citing the factors mentioned above: new/better coaching, motivation, and experience in the role. He'll also have an experienced stud next to him at left guard in Jacob Bell, and Bell's presence and leadership on the left side could only help Barron. If either Pace or Barron miss time, finding a decent fill in for the RG position will be key, and is a legitimate worry.

But is drafting a first round OT, with a 6 year deal and more than $30 million in guaranteed money, to play RG for a couple seasons and serve as depth the wisest policy given the other needs this team has? No. Not at all. If the situation were different, if Pace was out or his recovery dubious or if Barron could get the axe from the roster (another move the Rams can't afford due to their need for depth on the o-line), then drafting Long would be a no brainer. Unless Miami drafts him first.

The fact is, we need an impact DE now. And Gholston would give us that player, and with recent upgrades to the d-line, his presence would make that unit a force to be reckoned with. Let's not underestimate the power of a good d-line either. I won't cite the Giants example for the umpteenth time, but a good d-line with a killer pass rush and the ability to stop the run can easily compensate for soft spots elsewhere in the defense, like say, the backfield.

I'm not alone on this either. Check out what Tony Dungy has to say about why the Colts don't spend big money on cornerbacks.

"If you had that choice, you've got to go with the front people because they are harder to find and they have more of an impact on the game."

Now, that's a little bit of apples and oranges since I'm talking about why we should take a DE rather than an OT in the first round, but the point is the impact a d-line can have.

That said, I tend to agree with Matt Miller's take that the Rams should look for an OT in the draft, but I'm thinking more about the third round in a draft deep with tackles. Names like Duane Brown from Va Tech or Jeremy Zuttah from Rutgers would be perfect third round picks: loads of potential in need of some NFL learning time.