Decisions Loom Large For Rams
With the NFL Combine in full swing, the St. Louis Rams, holders of the #1 pick in April’s draft have certainly been talking it up over the weekend. General Manager Billy Devaney let it be known that the Rams had narrowed down their choices for the top selection (should they even keep the pick) to defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy or quarterbacks Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen. Well, for whatever that tidbit’s worth in the next 2 months. For the sake of argument let’s play along with Devaney.
That’s a fine final four. Depending on the pundit and/or expert you read, those players are at the top of the 2010 draft class. Several media outlets reported that Clausen and Bradford were charming teams they met with with their respective grasps of playbooks and ability to break down plays on a chalkboard. And well, Suh and McCoy are just imposing specimens of defensive prowess ticketed for can’t miss stardom in the NFL.
On Saturday, head coach Steve Spagnuolo made the rounds and eventually spoke to the NFL Network’s main Combine coverage team. What Spagnuolo addressed was the well publicized fact that the Rams have not drafted a quarterback in the first round since 1967. It’s not that they haven’t had decent quarterbacks, just that they’ve never restocked the well to get one early in the draft like most every other team on the planet. Jim Everett and Kurt Warner for example were acquired via free agency or trade. Does that put the pressure on the Rams brass to take a quarterback? Because it’s clear what the implication is from that stat is, isn’t it? That the Rams have whiffed in the draft on the likes of young quarterbacks such as Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco over the years, and for a team with a big fat question mark on the quarterback position whiffing on another class of quarterbacks could serve up a tough pill for the fan base to swallow, especially one being asked to stomach a rebuilding.
I’m not convinced the Rams need to take a quarterback here, history or no history. As I’ve mentioned before the Michael Vick option still intrigues me. Even the Josh Johnson deal would be nice in a way. However if the Rams front office is convinced one of the quarterbacks is a can’t miss franchise guy, then sure go ahead and draft him at the top spot or trade back to get him.
Speaking of trades, Devaney also spent time debunking the rumor that he’d consider packaging the NFC’s leading rusher Steven Jackson. Devaney in fact went on to say that Jackson should be the player he builds around. Since he’s debunked that craziness, I will not devote any more discussion to how absolutely dumb an idea it would be to trade the one good thing the team had going for it on either side of the ball and then try to sell fans on having enough faith in an alleged rebuilding plan so they continue to buy tickets. I just won’t say anything about that at all.
With the free agent market starting to flood with free agent running backs and other position players due large signing bonuses, the Rams have several directions they could go to fill needs outside of the draft, but after the skill position players complete their work at the Combine, here are five quarterback and running backs I think the Rams should consider picking after the first round:
- Tony Pike – Quarterback, Cincinnati. This guy, at 6’6” is one of the tallest signal callers at the party, and one of the few top names who actually is throwing while he’s in Indianapolis instead pushing all his chips to his pro day. Pike has a big arm, though his system with the Bearcats didn’t always utilize it. He’s another spread guy who’ll have to learn to play under center but his size and ability make him a nice second round pick up.
- John Skelton – Quarterback, Fordham. Ok, this is a stretch, but it might make sense in a backwards sorta way. Skelton is one of the other tall quarterbacks throwing at the Combine. He’s got the big NFL arm and he can thread the needle with his passes but what makes this guy interesting is he can move out of the pocket ala another big quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. The drawback is he lacks the full mechanics repertoire to make him pro ready any time soon. His throwing and running wowed at the Combine, but his knowledge of schemes and coverages and find another receiver did not. The fact that he played at 1AA Fordham doesn’t help his résumé that much either. But as a project, he’s farther ahead of the curve than most. The Rams could go here in a later round if they have a veteran quarterback running the show.
- Jahvid Best – Running Back, California. Best was more than a quality back in the Pac-10, he was one of the nation’s leading rushers and big playmaker on the ground. What might scare teams off was his battle with concussions this past season that caused him to sit the remainder of the season after a scary fall into the end zone in a game against Oregon State. The Rams are already dealing with that with last year’s first round pick Jason Smith who missed the Rams’ final six games with post-concussion issues, but Best could help them in the backfield.
- Dexter McCluster –Running Back, Ole Miss. This diminutive dynamo caught everybody’s attention at the Senior Bowl last month and hasn’t stopped catching eyes of scouts since. McCluster is an explosive runner, when given space. The question is how his build will hold up taking hits from and blocking against NFL defenders. McCluster, though, showed he’s got the heart and toughness of a lion packaged in his 5’9”, 175lb frame as a blocker in the Senior Bowl. He might be worth a look.
- Ben Tate – Running Back, Auburn. Another impressive candidate at the Combine, Tate’s problem is overcoming the perception that he doesn’t work hard and that’s what seems to be keeping him in the middle of the pack when his SEC numbers would suggest he’s probably deserves to be mentioned in the with those at the top of the 2010 running back class. Tate is strong and he has good speed and definitely could share the load with a veteran back like Steven Jackson.