On April 30th, 2015, the NFL Draft will convene in Chicago, IL. The last time the NFL Draft was held in "the Windy City" happened in 1964. Since then, it's been held in New York City. That draft day in 1964, the then Los Angeles Rams selected Bill Munson, quarterback out of Utah State with the #6 overall pick. He had three years with the Rams, then moved on to play for four other teams before quietly leaving the NFL in 1979. Oddly enough, that same day - 9 rounds later - the Dallas Cowboys would select a quarterback who went onto the NFL Hall of Fame: Rodger Staubach...
The 2015 NFL Draft starts now, with smokescreens and side-slide dance moves to veil team intentions. I get it! Your team has immense needs on, let's say: DEFENSE, so you whisper to anyone in the media you reeeeeally like that running back out of Ohio Poly Tech... Never mind that you're teasing a college kid into thinking he's going to be drafted in the first round, only to wind up waiting to hear his name called around pick #212... Yes, the rumors are just rumors, but we're all gullible at times, now aren't we?
When the St. Louis Rams' Les Snead settles into draft mode, he'll be faced with the toughest task he's had since taking over as general manager. He only has five draft picks in 2015, compared to his bevy of choices in 2012(10), 2013(7), and 2014(11). Snead will also be faced with having the #10 overall draft pick, which can be both a blessing and a curse... The tenth spot is a tricky one, unless the draft class is unusually blessed with talent. In most years, there really isn't a "Top 10" list of players who are a lock to succeed at the next level. At #10, it's often a position where a team is forced to go best player available for a specific need. Trades are harder to find here, unless a team makes a serious gaff (cough, New York Jets...cough, cough...).
Right now, all the Mock Draft-niks are heralding defensive players, as well as the standard two quarterbacks, to pretty much rule the top ten draft picks. An offensive tackle makes an appearance every now and then in the top 10, and the occasional wide receiver. But this is how this little dance susses out every year... "One-two-three-Winston", then "one-two-three-Gregory", and so on. It's a dance to a slightly out of tune melody until the NFL Combine happens, then the tempo goes up a notch after a few players run faster or slower than the gurus like.
If I'm to believe what I'm seeing in all the Mock Drafts, the St. Louis Rams will - guaranteed! - select either an offensive tackle, quarterback or defensive back at #10 overall. OK, for the sake of argument, let's say one of these position choices happens. First, there are three teams who need a quarterback more than the Rams do - Yes, disagree here all you like! Tamp Bay, Tennessee and the New York Jets all pick before the Rams do at #10. If either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota fall to #10, shouldn't a few warning bells be going off in Les Snead's head?
None of the offensive tackles available really make my heart flutter, and the Rams used the #2 overall draft pick in 2014 on Greg Robinson. Yes, the St. Louis offensive line needs help, but none of the tackles or guards available are all that remarkable.
The 2015 NFL Draft class looks loaded with pass rushing talent. There are defensive tackles, ends and linebackers o' plenty. There's some interesting defensive backs too, with Michigan State's Trae Waynes and off-field issues Marcus Peters leading the way on my corner back draft chart. But neither of them are worth the #10 pick overall, are they?
Yes, fans scream: "Trade down, for the love of God!" Yell and stamp your feet all you want, but it's quite possible it won't happen, or at the very least not amount to much in the way of addition draft stock. The way this draft is starting to shape out, the best player available for each of the nine teams who draft before the Rams fits all their needs perfectly. Have a look at how I see the Top 10 picks going as of today:
#1 - Tampa Bay: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State - All the people who screamed for a Florida based team to take Tim Tebow will be clamoring for Winston. He'll sell tickets, regardless of his off field issues. Talent wise, he has the tools. But will an old school coach like Lovie Smith veer away, and take a Mariota instead? Could happen...
#2 - Tennessee: TRADE! The Titans want USC's Leonard Williams, but so does Oakland. This is, after all, is the Raiders we're talking about here, so they send #4, a 2nd round pick, re-signed before the draft center Stefan Wisniewski and back from IR wide receiver Rod Streeter to the Titans to move up. They select: Leonard Williams, DT/DE, USC
#3 - Jacksonville: Foiled - as they always are on draft day - the Jaguars scratch their heads and wonder what happened to Leonard Williams for 9 minutes and 50 seconds while they're on the clock. In a rush, they take: Brandon Scherff, OT/G, Iowa.
#4 - Tennessee(via Oakland) - Ring, Ring! "Hello?" It's the Jets calling, and they have a new head coach and GM. Todd Bowles has defense on his mind, but in his first head coaching gig he has to pay attention to that other side of the ball. His offensive line is, well, offensive. He bites the bullet, then sinks into true Jets form to trade up to get: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. The Titans snag a #2 this year, and #2-s in 2016 and 2017
#5 - Washington: They drug owner Dan Snyder, and put him in a closet. With Brian Orakpo injury riddled and a free agent, it's time to move on. They select: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson.
#6 - Tennessee - With three 2nd round picks sitting in their pocket, they go for a skill position. UCLA's Brett Hundley is just another version of Jake Locker, so they pass on him even though they need a quarterback. They need wide receiver help in a big way, but the need at OLB/DE is glaring too. They flip a coin, and hope Washington's Hauoli Kikaha, OLB/DE - the most undervalued player at his position - is still there in the second round. They select: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama.
#7 - Chicago: They run to the podium, and select: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
#8 - Atlanta: Their defense was simply awful in 2014 - and I mean ugly - especially against the run. They need a guy who can fill the middle of the field, and add some leadership. They really don't want to reach this far for a middle linebacker, but they know their guy won't be there in the second round. They select: Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
#9 - Head coach Tom Coughlin doesn't mind taking "big uglies" anywhere in the draft. With Will Beatty aging and costing serious $$$, and Justin Pugh better suited at guard, Coughlin goes for the meanest, nastiest tackle/guard in the draft to help kick start a woeful run game: La'el Collins, OT/OG/ LSU
#10 - St. Louis: (Fill in the Blank)
OK, in this scenario, the Rams' Les Snead is looking at some good, but not great prospects. If the needs list for St. Louis includes offensive tackle/guard, outside linebacker, and quarterback, there isn't anyone who jumps out at me. Washington's OLB Shaq Thompson is just a bit too small for my liking, and I think he has potential bust written all over him. Missouri's OLB/DE Shane Ray has too small a resume for me. At tackle, Stanford's Andrus Peat doesn't strike me as passionate about the game, and may be a victim of Jonathan Martin wimp syndrome carrying over. Quarterbacks? UCLA's Brett Hundley is beyond a reach here, as are the other prospects at this position. There's a bevy of offensive tackle/guard prospects, but none of them scream to be taken as high as #10 overall.
Do you take a swing at a wide receiver here? I wouldn't, simply because I think the pass catchers in this class kind of mirror who the Rams current have on their roster, with the possible exception of Arizona's Jaelen Strong. How about a corner back? Well, with the rise of E.J. Gaines, the Rams have a nice stable of defensive backs. Safety? A true free safety may be a possibility, but with the acquisition of Mark Barron mid-2014 season, I think Rams' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has other plans, including multiple strong safety sets.
So fill in the blank for the Rams, but before you do, think about the situation Les Snead is in right here. Think about all the first round picks crowding the Rams roster, and the salary effect going forward. Consider the possibility the Rams will be willing to trade away a 2016 or 2017 first round pick to move up if there's a guy they really want. Start wrapping your head around the fact the 2015 NFL Draft is a different animal all together for the Rams...