On Friday, we got our first whiff of a brand new 2011 NFL Draft rumor involving the St. Louis Rams. This rumor said that there were "rumblings" that the St. Louis Rams could consider picking Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph early in the draft. It might not be as half-baked as it sounds.
After our initial post got some go-around on the web this weekend, I've had some feedback on the possibility. Most people shrug it off as pure draft week smoke screen, and it does make the most sense in that regard. However, someone else with much better insight into the Rams draft thinking than I said that the notion of the Rams picking Rudolph is "more legitimate" than the idea of them drafting Alabama RB Mark Ingram.
Now, before you get carried away, remember, it's still very much in the realm of rumor and speculation. Insert any number of players that make more sense for the Rams to draft over Ingram. It's all in how you say it, and when you say it like a politician articulates a campaign promise, it means just as much.
Parsing it rationally, two thoughts come to mind.
First and most obvious, is the smoke screen. Though the usual smoke screen doesn't make as much sense here. Conventional wisdom says that Rudolph isn't valued enough for the 14th overall pick, like Ingram is. Could enough bluffing convince some interested teams lower in the first round that the Rams just might do it? Maybe. Then again, maybe it's a signal flare that the Rams want to move back in the first round, where picking Rudolph wouldn't been seen as such a reach. Am I missing something with the smoke screen idea here? Smoke screen are meant to confuse, and the Rudolph talk certainly does that.
Second, it's the idea of Rudolph as a receiver, less as a tight end. He runs routes well, and as a big guy, 260+ lbs, he gets yards after the catch. But he's more than just a dump off over the middle tight end. Think of the current group of Rams receivers and point out one that runs a fade, an out and a seam route. I don't recall any of them having all of those arrows in their quiver last year, much less standing 6'6" with solid hands. Speed-wise he obviously doesn't get his YAC based on his forty time, but he is fast enough to match up well against safeties and linebackers and can get down the field with his strong route running ability.
The real key in thinking about Rudolph and the Rams is what McDaniels wants to do with the current group of receivers. Put a guy like Rudolph into the mix and it might open up Avery, Clayton, et al to do more. Don't ignore what New England did with their tight ends last year. McDaniels is a Bellichick guy and just because his offense looked like it did in Denver doesn't mean his philosophy won't evolve. It should evolve.
If the Rams miss out on Julio Jones at #14 and can somehow finagle a trade down, pretty unlikely, the Rudolph pick merits some consideration. There are also the injury concerns though...