I was pretty vocal on Twitter last night about my personal disdain for the Rams' taking Todd Gurley with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. That was reactionary and more open-ended.
Here's the rundown of the major reasons I still don't like the pick a day later:
1.) The Running Back Position Doesn't Merit A Selection That High
It has pretty much been my one #hottaek since back around 2007. There's no justifiable reason to take a running back early in the first round. It doesn't improve the team substantially. Adrian Peterson is the best running back of his generation and has been to the postseason just three times in eight seasons. That spectacular 2012 season in which he came back from an ACL injury and rushed for over 2,000 yards? The Vikings were 14th in points and 20th in yards in the NFL that year. Of course many Rams fans like to point to Marshawn Lynch...in Seattle. Do not pay attention to Marshawn Lynch in Buffalo. Steven Jackson, to me, is a Hall of Famer. We know how that went... And, as many who are on the 2015 We Need Offensive Linemen train certainly recognize, the effectiveness of your running game is more than the quality of your running back.
There were no tight ends taken in the first round. The first linebacker who isn't an edge pass rusher, Stephone Anthony, went in the penultimate pick of the round. People look at other positions and understand that the lack of value in the position doesn't insult the capability of the player assigned to it. People just can't get over it with running backs.
2.) The Rams Had Already Overdrafted The Position
The NFL isn't college football. You can't go after all the players you want year after year. Opportunity costs are something all NFL fans understand, whether they know it or not. This is what it looks like:
|Todd Gurley||RB||2015||1||10 (10)|
|Tre Mason||RB||2014||3||11 (75)|
|Zac Stacy||RB||2013||5||27 (160)|
|Isaiah Pead||RB||2012||2||18 (50)|
|Daryl Richardson||RB||2012||7||45 (252)|
In Jeff Fisher's first three years, he had already amassed a solid RB corps despite the lack of success Isaiah Pead has had in the NFL. Here's the Rams' current RB depth chart, minus Gurley:
That combination put the Rams' rushing attach near the middle of the league, with a few caveats. First, we all know the quality of the offensive line play last year. Second, the fact that the Rams passed far more often than they ran it skewing their totals away from rushing stat accumulation. So compared to say Houston who gained 500 more yards than the Rams on the ground, St. Louis had a more effective attack with just one less touchdown and a much better yard per carry rate.
That being said, the ground game wasn't the issue for the Rams' offense in 2014. A successful first-round pick level of talent isn't going to improve the overall quality of play to the degree it would in several other areas. And that's assuming Gurley is successful.
3.) From The End of 2012, The Rams Have Headed In The Wrong Direction
This is perhaps the core issue though.
One thing I repeatedly got from Rams fans on Twitter was how significantly the team has improved under Fisher.
The 2012 season saw a huge jump over the previous five years, but that's largely due to two factors:
1.) That was the worst five-year stretch of any team in NFL history. It was an unsustainable level of horribleness.
2.) The core assembled in the Steve Spagnuolo/Billy Devaney era doesn't get enough credit. Their record of drafting in the mid- to late rounds was horrible, but their early round record includes Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, Rodger Saffold and Robert Quinn. That's not anywhere near as bad as their predecessors.
Throw in the RGIII haul and the team was bound for an uptick in 2012. Since then, the Rams have gotten worse in nearly every metric.
On offense, the Rams were 23rd in the league in 2012 in yards. That dropped to 30th in 2013 and 28th in 2014. On defensive yardage allowed, they've gone from 14th to 15th to 17th. Dozens of people called the Rams' defense elite. They're talking about the 16th best defense in points allowed in 2014, down from 14th in 2012.
Of course the major excuse many like to roll out is that the Rams never had good QB play thanks largely to Sam Bradford's injuries in the last few years. That's perhaps why you take an insurance policy out in the form of a quarterback in the draft a bit earlier than the 214th pick which they used on Garrett Gilbert a year ago.
Many Rams fans want to cling to optimism pointing to the Seattle and Denver wins or the back-to-back shutouts over the Raiders and Washington. Somehow, they conveniently ignore the fact the Rams lost 10 other games last season. Jeff Fisher's apparent commitment to a productive running game and a punishing defense is producing neither. There's a degree of insanity to seeing how the Rams have fared under Jeff Fisher and how he has helped guide the construction of the roster and still back him as the prime candidate to be the one to undo the mistakes he's made in the last few years.
I share misguided optimism with Rams fans from time to time. It's comforting. I want the Rams to have a winning season in 2015. It's been a decade. But I'm more realistic than optimistic or pessismistic.
The Rams need a significant improvement in 2015, not an incremental improvement and even that only if everything works out for Gurley as an NFL player.
I just don't agree that taking him with the 10th overall pick was the among the best moves the Rams could make.