Unless Jeff Fisher and Les Snead decide to close their eyes and pick players’ names out of a hat, they couldn’t have asked for a better foundational draft then the one they’ll partake in next week.
And even if they did pick names out of a hat, it would still be hard for this duo to screw things up.
I write with conviction because the 2012 NFL draft just happens to be incredibly deep at positions that the Rams covet. Despite what some have said the past few weeks, Justin Blackmon is the top playmaker in this year’s wide receiver class and there’s a good chance that he’ll be there at No. 6. If Fisher and Snead are feeling frisky, they could also invest their top second-round pick (No. 33 overall) in someone like LSU’s Rueben Randle if he happens to fall. At 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds, Randle is a legit vertical threat that didn’t post gaudy numbers at LSU, but blame the Tigers’ shoddy quarterback play over the past few years – not Randle’s potential as a playmaker.
Randle is just one example, too. I really liked watching Arkansas’ Joe Adams this past season, and Iowa’s Marvin McNutt was extremely productive throughout his entire collegiate career. On the flip side, Miami’s Tommy Streeter wasn’t a productive college player but he’s another guy that might be worth a look in the later rounds based on his physical attributes alone. (He’s 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds, with huge hands and was once a top recruit coming out of high school, so the talent is there.)
For as deep as the receiver position is in this year’s draft, the guard class might be even deeper. Unless they trade back it’s hard to imagine the Rams snagging Stanford’s David DeCastro, who is one of the draft’s better overall prospects regardless of position. But Kevin Zeitler could be available in the second round, and he was part of an offensive line in Wisconsin that paved the way for the eighth-best rushing attack in the NCAA last year. I’d be lying if I said I watched a lot of Midwestern State games in 2011 (or any for that matter), but a guard prospect like Amini Silatolu that has drawn comparisons to Ben Grubbs based on his size and ability is always intriguing.
Despite signing Cortland Finnegan to a $50 million contract this offseason, the Rams may look at cornerback help as well. Morris Claiborne, Dre Kirkpatrick and Stephon Gilmore will come off the board in the first round, but I love the potential in some of the mid-round prospects. Vanderbilt had one of the most opportunistic defenses in the SEC last year and was led by a cornerback in Casey Hayward who compiled six interceptions (second in the SEC, tied for fifth nationally) and 70 tackles. Sometimes he can be caught flat-footed, but he has very good instincts and played against top competition in college. Central Florida’s Josh Robinson is another mid-round corner who stands out based on his speed (4.33 forty) and from what I’ve seen, isn’t afraid to come up on the outside and mix it up in run defense.
Granted, unless Ryan Kalil falls to the Rams at No. 6 they probably won’t be addressing their need at left tackle this year. Can teams find a good left tackle in the middle rounds? Yes, but it’s difficult to find one that’s ready to start right away. Linebacker, which is another need area for the Rams, isn’t as deep this year either.
But Fisher and Snead have a golden opportunity to address two, if not three weaknesses in the first 39 picks based on the depth of the positions that the Rams need. And if Fisher and Snead are really good, they’ll find multiple starters and/or impact players thanks to owning four picks in the first three rounds.
The opening is there – Fisher and Snead just have to run through it.