I'm front-paging a comment that Taiko posted this morning because I think it lays out a nice cost-benefit analysis of the three most likely courses the Rams can take with their second overall pick. This is shaping up to be a really interesting draft year, especially for the Rams with the need for elite players at several positions that the team could build around. With that, I turn it over to Taiko...
There are basically three scenarios for the Rams:
1. Take Eugene Monroe (if the Lions take Jason Smith) — lowest risk, lowest reward in terms of putting points on the board, as we are still shy of a lot of skill talent. But you are hoping to return Bulger to form, keep him upright, and pound with the running game, eat up the clock and maybe move that 14 PPG to a league-average 17. There’s also speculation that Monroe is not a top-flight LT, a Walter Jones or Orlando Pace, but he should be solid out of the gate, and should help the Rams keep the other team off the field for a few more minutes per game. This might prevent an opposing FG drive per game. Long term: We still need to replace Bulger with next year’s top pick, and somehow build a quality defensive middle. WRs that fit Shurmur’s scheme can be gotten cheaply through free agency — the Eagles have never prioritized that #1 receiver, outside of the TO experiment. Estimated PPG difference: +6 (3 offensive, 3 defensive)
2. Take Aaron Curry — high risk, high reward in terms of keeping points off the board. Putting Curry in the middle would completely transform the LB crew from a weakness to a strength. We stop opposing runners from getting to and through the second level of our defense. Our biggest problem last season on defense was the inability to stop the run, and inability to force punts from third downs.
Look at this: even though the Rams gave up 8.28 yards per pass attempt (ridiculous!), 31st in the league, they only gave up 217 yards passing per game (19th). Teams could pass all day through the soft Rams middle, but they didn’t because it was even easier running through it: 158 rushing yards per game allowed (31st). And according to Football Outsiders, the Rams’ pass defense did well against 1st and 2nd receivers, but got killed by “other” WRs – slot receivers that have to be picked up by linebackers in coverage. Adding Curry would completely change this, as it slots Witherspoon to his natural position, where he can be freed to read and react, and help with pass rush from time to time. Points per game impact: I’d estimate that this one player takes 7 points off our defensive points allowed. Long term: The Rams still draft an effective tackle this season, replace Holt next season.
3. Take Crabtree — Huge risk, low reward. The Rams now have replaced Torry Holt with a mouthy, ego-driven wide receiver who is going to bark all year long about how he isn’t getting enough passes because (1) Bulger is always on his back, and (2) the Rams are always way behind, allowing defenses to not respect the run game and go after Bulger, leading back to (1). That said, Holt’s touchdowns fell from 10 in 2006 to 3 in 2008. Crabtree is definitely capable of catching or creating 10, even under adverse conditions. Points per game: Crabtree adds 49 points to the positive side, or roughly +3 per game. That’s his upside. However, he isn’t going to catch enough balls or be involved in enough plays to significantly impact the Rams’ time of possession. No defensive points awarded. Long term: The Rams still have a mushy core, with an unsettled O-line, D-line, and linebacking corps. Despite new playmaking talent, the Rams struggle to show that continuous improvement from drive to drive that the team deserately needs to prove they’re heading in the right direction under Spagnuolo.