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Draft mistakes and the Rams

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Ok, we can't talk about ownership all the time, not with the Combine just a week or so down the road. Let's get back to the draft. ESPN's Todd McShay recently shared his four common draft mistakes in a column on ESPN. Reading over them, the first thing that came to mind was how the St. Louis Rams' recent draft history matched up against the four factors cited by McShay. 

(The article is hidden behind the ridiculous Insider pay wall. Though I am sharing the four mistakes from the piece.)

1. They will ignore the big four. At the top of the draft, four crucial positions -- QB, offensive tackle, cornerback and pass-rusher -- should trump all others.

2. They will be seduced by looks. Scouts, GMs, even esteemed members of the media get too wrapped up in 40 times and 225-pound bench press reps.

3. They will pay no mind to minds. As one scout told me recently, "You can't win with dumb players in the NFL anymore." This Jeff George-inspired rule isn't so much about human intelligence as football intelligence, not book-smart guys but playbook-smart guys.

4. They will choose need over value. Everyone who has a say in a team's draft starts with the idea that the biggest holes need to be filled first. It's a fair philosophy in a football utopia. But in the real world, hole-filling can't be the only -- or primary -- factor in determining which guy to take.

Apply these to the Rams' last two drafts when they had the second overall pick in both cases. They took an offensive tackle and a defensive end, and I've never had the impression that it was Combine performance that sealed the deal on Chris Long and Jason Smith. In fact, they had OT Jake Long on top of their board in 2008, but the Dolphins got there first. 

As far as each player's football mind, Long and Smith both get high marks. Smith learned the ropes at the NFL level pretty fast; tracking his performance from camp to midseason just before he got injured, we saw a player shoot up the learning curve. Long has struggled, finally starting to emerge in the last half of his sophomore season, but I his problems haven't really been the result of his football IQ. 

The need over value point is where some Rams fans will argue over the last two first round picks, especially in the case of Jason Smith last year. The idea of "need over value" might not be the best way to describe it though, as some fault the Smith pick for being too conservative. There was much less argument about Long in 2008, and few of of us thought the Rams needed a QB at that point which would have put Matt Ryan in play. There were a few that felt Glen Dorsey was the way to go. Getting back to the Smith pick, since that's the one with the most argument around it, I still think it was a good pick. The Rams had suffered through season after season of horrible offensive line play - ask Marc Bulger - and this was a case where need matched up with value, as so often happens with the depleted Rams roster. 

Now, frame the current debate for the first overall pick in these terms (though I'm not the biggest McShay fan, these are good points). It's either QB or DT for the Rams at the top of the draft this year. In actuality, these three things tell us nothing since the likely picks at either position fit the bill for all four points. 

This does show how much drafting has improved for the Rams over the last two season, i.e. since Billy Devaney has been involved in the personnel mix.