Nick Wagoner at StLouisRams.com had a chance to sit down with the preeminent scout on Twitter, Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks), for an interview on how the Rams should approach this year's draft. Unfortunately, I can't link the story directly, as the official blog of the Rams doesn't appear to support individual permalinks. So here's a series of pertinent quotes, with a link and a warning: if you want to come back to this at a later date, you may have to scroll down a while before you find the article. http://www.stlouisrams.com/blog/
Nick Wagoner: With the Rams having the top pick, how do you see that spot this year?
Daniel Jeremiah: I think when you are picking number one there are a lot of needs so I think the best thing to do is just take the best player and for me, it’s Ndamukong Suh who makes the most sense. He will have the chance to have the greatest impact. The only thing that would deter me from that is if Sam Bradford checked out 100 percent healthy and your doctors were OK with durability concerns and you feel like he fits perfectly with what you do. Because if you don’t have a quarterback, that has to weigh into it. But that’s the only other option.
This meshes perfectly with my pre-draft sentiments, and the official RamsHerd selection in our FanBall mock draft odyssey. (Hint: his name rhymes with "Mmm, Donkey Kong Two.")
NW: How do you compare Suh to the guys you saw in your time doing it?
DJ: He’s the best interior defensive lineman I have graded in six years. Last year, I was in Cleveland and we were going to have a top five pick and I went all over the country to do all the top players and he was my top player assuming he would have came out last year. He was my top player in last year’s draft.
Jeremiah scouted for both Cleveland and Baltimore, teams with an emphasis (Baltimore particularly) on big, disruptive players on defense. Last year, though, rather than use that top five pick, Cleveland cannily traded down twice and picked up a horde of players. Perhaps because their top guy on the draft board didn't declare for the draft?
NW: Before you head to the combine, do you almost have to retrain your brain? In other words, don't you have to remind yourself you have all this tape and in person scouting you've done, why would you change that based on some guys running around in shorts?
DJ: I would agree with that totally. I think the NFL as a whole has gotten better at that. There was a safety from ASU a couple years ago who was not very good on tape and he went to the combine and he was like 6’2, 230 pounds, ran a 4.3 and he still went in the seventh round by the Broncos. So even though he did everything you could possibly do at the combine, he was not rewarded for it because of average tape. Teams are better about it. The best thing you can do is have a round of draft meetings before the combine and you get these guys up on the board and set a baseline so when you go to the combine you might deviate just a little bit to help separate these people on the board but you are not going to make a huge leap on the board once it’s establish.
This is becoming a running theme in the pre-combine commentary, an emphasis from men in suits that the Combine doesn't really matter that much. Peter King weighed in on it in his MMQB this week; Pro Football Talk called the Combine "the underwear olympics," and even Billy Devaney in today's NFL.com live chat responded to a RamsGab query by saying "We will not use the combine to change our grades on a player."
NW: How deep do you think this draft is?
DJ: I think it’s deep in a lot of areas and weak in a few. I don’t think it’s a deep quarterback draft, I don’t think it’s a deep interior offensive line draft. Those are the two areas I would say it’s a little weak. But I think there is a lot of tackles, defensive tackles, edge rushers, hybrid types, outside linebackers, a good bit of corners. I think there’s good depth at safety. It’s a pretty good draft.
This quote meshes with the rationale that our man at the Broncos Stable used, justifying his heartbreaking pick of Mike Iupati in the FanBall Mock Draft. And it places even more importance on the Rams' second round pick.
While the Rams are publicly saying that the offensive line is not a priority -- again, witness Mr. Devaney's comment today, "We all like the shape of our offensive line." -- I still believe a top-tier smashmouth guard would be a fine addition to round this line into shape, and make it a true competitive strength for the team.
Moreover, if the Rams do go with Suh at the top spot, rather than pulling off the mythical "blockbuster" with Tampa Bay, they will now be facing a "best of the rest" decision at quarterback in Round 2, likely headed up by Texas QB Colt McCoy.
When the list of available free-agent quarterbacks is headed up by Chad Pennington, and it just gets worse from there, going with a "best of the rest" choice isn't all that palatable.