What to do with draft pick number ten? That’s the question.
Last week I discussed seven options for the Rams’ first round selection. Now, let’s expound on the strategy that could be most beneficial to the team.
Like most NFL draftniks, I’m addicted to mocks. Be it Peter King’s or Larry King’s, I’ll consume it all the same. And no matter which mock I look at in relation to this year’s draft, I don’t like how things play out in front of the Rams.
There’s a case to be made that Alabama receiver Amari Cooper is the best prospect in this year’s class. He’s a tremendous route-runner, has excellent hands, and plays under control. He tracks the ball perfectly on deep throws, can lineup outside the numbers and win there, or inside in the slot and beat defenders that can’t match up with him in space. Cooper uses his hands well to beat jams, plays with great technique, and has a superb feel for the game.
The guy is good.
He’s polished, pro-ready, and would look great in a Rams uniform. He’s also unlikely to be available when Jeff Fisher and Les Snead make their first selection.
The same can be said for the other top prospects, which include USC’s Leonard Williams (popularly mocked to Tennessee at No. 2), Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr. (No. 3 to Jacksonville), Clemson’s Vic Beasley (anywhere from No. 5 to Washington to No. 8 Atlanta), West Virginia’s Kevin White (No. 4 Oakland to No. 7 Chicago) and Florida State’s Jameis Winston (No. 1 to the Bucs).
Besides the unlikely scenario of the top prospects falling to No. 10, the Rams face a self-imposed dilemma regarding their offensive line. With holes at right tackle, left guard and center, the Rams might not be able to afford bypassing an offensive lineman with their first pick, even with veterans Joe Barksdale, Justin Blalock and Stefen Wisniewski still available in free agency. Had they addressed more needs in free agency, they could have allowed the top nine picks to play out and then simply chosen the best player on their draft board.
But this is where need may intersect with value and opportunity.
The Rams need offensive linemen – multiple offensive linemen, in fact. The good news is they don’t need a cornerstone left tackle, having selected Greg Robinson with the No. 2 overall pick a year ago. This year’s draft class is flooded with tackles that could potentially start on the right side for the Rams in year one.
Stanford’s Andrus Peat headlines the list. Peat’s best attributes are his size and playing technique. He’s polished and is one of the safer prospects in this year’s class, even if he’s not dynamic. Oregon’s Jake Fisher is technically sound as well, is athletic and has an excellent grasp of angles, an underrated part of playing tackle at any level. Florida’s D.J. Humphries, Pitt’s T.J. Clemmings, Texas’ Cedric Ogbuehi and Miami’s Ereck Flowers don’t come without limitations, but none are considered massive projects either.
If the Rams have Peat listed atop their draft board now or when they’re on the clock in a few weeks, then he’s likely to be their pick.
But unless the drop-off between Peat and the other offensive line prospects (including potential guards Brandon Scherff of Iowa and La’el Collins of LSU) is significant, then here’s hoping they have an opportunity to trade back.
Being able to address a need with one of the top prospects on their board while also nabbing an extra draft pick or two would be the epitome of value. Maybe the Rams miss out on Peat or Scherff, but landing Fisher, Humphries or Clemmings in the back half of the first round, plus acquiring another second or third-round pick (depending on how far they trade back), would still be a success. Maybe that extra pick turns into another starter along the offensive line.
There have been previous drafts where I’ve argued the Rams should just sit and pick in order to secure the best quality (i.e. talent) over adding quantity (i.e. more selections). But every draft is different and if things play out in front of the Rams like most are assuming, trading back could benefit the team in more ways than one.