Rams

Schefter guarantees Rams will take Sam Bradford

ESPN’s Adam Schefter made a bold prediction on Thursday that has NFL buzzing.

“I would like to record something here, on February 24th.  Two months from the draft.  And tell you who the number one pick is gonna be right now… When all is said and done, that the Rams’ number one pick on April 22nd, two months from now, will be Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.  I’m willing to take all bets on that one right now.”

I’ve had Bradford going to the Rams in my mock draft for the past two weeks, and for most of the offseason for that matter. I told a friend the other day that I think there is a 90 percent chance that the Rams take Bradford, 9 percent chance its Ndamukong Suh, and 1 percent chance someone else.

Normally I don’t put any stock in what I hear from TV’s talking heads in terms of draft rumors at this time of the year. It is far too early to make any definitive statements on the draft. However, I’m inclined to believe Schefter has some reliable sources on this report for two reasons:

1. Schefter rarely goes out on a limb. He isn’t always right (no reporter is) but he seems to do a much better job than some of his counterparts at sorting out the crap he’s fed from front offices from the legitimate stories. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard him make a statement as bold as this, meaning he must have a pretty good reason to believe he’s right.

2. The Rams are the only team capable of making a decision this early. I would dismiss a rumor connecting any other player to any other team in February, but the Rams have the ability to make their selection whenever they want. I’m sure the Rams will wait until Bradford’s March 25th workout before truly settling on him, but it isn’t unreasonable to think that they’re strongly leaning his direction.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Rams 1 Comment

Where will Brian Westbrook land?

The Eagles announced that they will part ways with veteran running back Brian Westbrook earlier this week. The move doesn’t come as a surprise, but it should make teams extremely hesitant to acquire the 30-year-old running back.

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins

Whoever signs Westbrook should be prepared for this scene to repeat itself

LeSean McCoy will be the feature back in Philly, but the Eagles lack a reliable backup. Behind McCoy on the current depth chart are Eldra Buckley, Dwayne Wright and Martell Mallett. The fact that the Eagles are willing to part with a veteran like Westbrook means they obviously don’t believe he can stay healthy and produce over the course of a season.

Westbrook’s career may very well be over, but because of his past success, there will undoubtedly be some teams that pick up the phone and give him a call. So where might Westbrook land? Assuming he’s healthy, here are some options:

5. Rams
The Rams probably aren’t Westbrook’s first choice, but given the serious concerns about his health he may not be sought after by the serious contenders. The Rams would like to limit Steven Jackson’s carries, but they don’t currently have an adequate backup. Westbrook’s ability as a blocker and receiver would make him a perfect fit.

4. 49ers
The 49ers are in the market for a change-of-pace back to pair with Frank Gore. They’re more likely to address this need in the draft, but Westbrook could be brought in for his veteran leadership on a team that’s trying to take the next step towards the playoffs.

3. Packers
The Packers are a legitimate title contender, which would be appealing to Westbrook. From the Packers standpoint, they would love to add a backup to share the load with Ryan Grant who has been workhorse over the past two seasons.

2. Steelers
Westbrook is a similar player to Willie Parker who is an unrestricted free agent and appears unlikely to return. The Steelers may decide this would be too much of a lateral move, but a healthy Westbrook would be the perfect compliment to Rashard Mendenhall.

1. Vikings
The Vikings may take themselves out of the running by re-signing Chester Taylor, but if Taylor departs Westbrook would be the perfect replacement. Brad Childress is familiar with Westbrook from his days in Philadelphia, which would give both of them a comfort level from day one. Westbrook’s ability as a receiver would make him the perfect compliment to Adrian Peterson.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Eagles, Free Agency, Packers, Rams, Steelers, Vikings Comments Off

Should the Bucs trade up for Suh?

Rumors are swirling that the Rams and Bucs have discussed a trade that would involve a swap of their 1st-round picks, potentially with Josh Johnson heading to St. Louis.

For what its worth, the Rams have denied the rumors.

From the Rams standpoint, this would be a brilliant trade. The top two players on most draft boards are Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, but the Rams don’t really need a defensive tackle. 2007 1st and 5th round picks Adam Carriker and Clifton Ryan have been a nice duo at tackle over the past few years. They aren’t Pro Bowlers, but its arguably the strongest position on the Rams defense.

Trading down would allow them to stockpile picks (which they desperately need) and potentially land their quarterback of the future, be it Johnson, Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen. Should they pass on a quarterback with the 3rd pick, Eric Berry would be an excellent addition to their secondary. Even Derrick Morgan would potentially make sense as a replacement for Leonard Little who is likely to sign elsewhere.

Big 12 Championship - Nebraska v TexasBut does it make sense for the Bucs?

Its true, they need a defensive tackle. However, there is a decent chance that either McCoy or Suh will fall to them anyway. The Rams are likely to  consider selecting a quarterback 1st overall, meaning one of the top two tackles could be on the board at No. 3.

Considering the overwhelming lack of talent on the Bucs roster, its hard to understand why they would part with extra picks just to land Suh. The Bucs would likely have to part with their 2nd-round pick as well, if not more, to move up. For a team starving for talent, a draft that potentially brings in Eric Berry and Brandon LaFell would seem to be a much faster route to turning things around than only landing Suh.

The added bonus for passing on this trade would be the potential to trade down on draft day. If the Rams pass on Bradford and Clausen, the Bucs will be on the clock at No. 3 one slot ahead of Washington, who is likely to select a quarterback. If a team like the Bills or Seahawks have their heart set on one of the top two quarterbacks, the 3rd pick will be the ideal slot to trade into. This would allow the Bucs to land a player such as Joe Haden and acquire additional picks.

No matter what angle I look at this trade it seems like a losing situation for the Bucs. Suh is an elite talent, but a defensive tackle doesn’t turn around a franchise on his own. The Bucs have too many holes to fill to risk their entire draft on one player.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Buccaneers, Rams Comments Off

Marc Bulger Done in St. Louis?

ramsMarc Bulger has reportedly cleaned out his locker in St. Louis and doesn’t expect to return. For what its worth, the Rams are downplaying the reports.

Its tough to sort through rumors like this, but I’m inclined to believe the initial reports that Bulger is done in St. Louis. The Rams have no reason to tip their hand on their plans for Bulger, because its entirely possibly that they are involved in trade talks regarding their former franchise quarterback. As soon as teams believe Bulger will be released, the Rams leverage is thrown out the window.

Tennessee Titans v St. Louis RamsThe rumors pushed me to update my mock draft today and insert Sam Bradford into the No. 1 slot. I’ve thought all along that the Rams would prefer to add a franchise quarterback. However, I was unsure as to whether the Rams were comfortable enough with Bradford or Jimmy Clausen to make one of them the No. 1 overall selection. With Bulger apparently out of the picture, it clears up their draft intentions.

There is one wild card out there that could lead the Rams back to Ndamukong Suh.

The Rams have reportedly discussed the possibility of signing Michael Vick. This is pure speculation, but its possible the Rams feel they are close to acquiring Vick, but would prefer to move Bulger first. That said, I believe Vick in St. Louis is a long shot. This team is rebuilding from the bottom on up and 30-year-old quarterback with major character concerns just doesn’t seem like a prudent move.

As of now, all signs point to Bradford or Clausen going No. 1 overall.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Rams 3 Comments

10 Teams that Need a Quarterback

It isn’t always the deepest position in the draft. And it doesn’t always have the top prospects. But regardless of the current class, the one position that always gets the most attention is quarterback. Aside from the teams selecting in the top 10, its too early to really gauge who’s interested in who. But what we can do is analyze which teams actually need a quarterback the most.

Below are the 10 teams we’ve identified as having the greatest need for a new franchise signal caller:

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders1. Oakland Raiders - We’re now three years into the JaMarcus Russell era and he’s shown absolutely no improvement. For some quarterbacks it takes longer to develop, but at this point in time Russell isn’t anywhere close to being an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. It’s just about time to mark him down as one of the biggest busts of all time. That said, I’m not sure Al Davis feels the same way. I’d be fairly surprised to see the Raiders bring in another quarterback within the first three rounds in this year’s draft.

2. St. Louis Rams – Marc Bulger will likely return for 2010 and, if healthy, could lead the Rams back to respectability. But he clearly isn’t the long-term answer and the Rams will strongly consider drafting Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford with the 1st-overall selection.

3. Buffalo Bills – Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick all started for the Bills this season and all three were equally mediocre. The Bills could trudge through 2010 with one of them as the starter, but they are clearly in the market for a new franchise quarterback.

4. Washington Redskins - As I’ve stated before, I don’t actually think Redskins need a new quarterback. Jason Campbell is capable of being a starter in this league. That said, his career in Washington certainly appears to be over. Given that they don’t have an adequate replacement on the current roster, all signs point to the Redskins selecting Clausen or Bradford the 1st round.

5. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck will be back for at least another year, but the Seahawks are already looking for his replacement. Clausen and Bradford are both options in the 1st round. However, Carroll doesn’t appear to be taking a rebuilding approach this offseason. He may prefer to select an impact player in the 1st round and grab someone like Sean Canfield in the 3rd or 4th round to develop behind Hasselbeck.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars - David Garrard made the Pro Bowl this year, but Jack Del Rio doesn’t exactly sound like he’s sold on Garrard’s long-term future with the team.

7. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton was great for half the season, but stumbled down the stretch. He’s an unrestricted free agent and the Broncos may have no choice but to keep him around if they want to compete in 2010. That doesn’t mean, however, that he’s a long-term solution.

8. Carolina Panthers – Matt Moore played well in relief of Jake Delhomme late in the year, but he’s a restricted free agent. The Panthers have a big decision on their hands: do they pay Moore and cut ties with Delhomme or give their former Super Bowl quarterback another shot?

9. San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith didn’t exactly look like a former No. 1 overall pick this season, but he didn’t look like the complete bust that we saw through the first four seasons of his career either. He’ll be back in 2010, but the Niners should consider taking a flier on someone in the 3rd or 4th round.

10. Cleveland Browns – The Browns are proof that having two quarterbacks causes nothing but problems. Neither Anderson nor Quinn has been able to stay on the field more than a few games at a time over the last two seasons, leaving the Browns with no real clear idea as to what they have at the position. Quinn deserves another shot, but the Browns will certainly entertain the idea of trading both and starting over.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Jaguars, Panthers, Raiders, Rams, Redskins, Seahawks 29 Comments

Rams Should Target a WR in the 2nd Round

Between now and the NFL Draft, we will run a series of articles analyzing each team’s needs using stats provided by ProFootballFocus.com

ramsThe Rams obviously have more than a few needs to address this offseason. I’m sure I and everyone else covering the NFL Draft will spend more than enough time analyzing their decision with the No. 1 overall selection, so for this feature I’d like to focus on their need for a No. 1 receiver.

In 2007 the Rams inexplicably made Donnie Avery the first wide receiver chosen in that year’s draft. It was a decision that ranks among the more underrated draft blunders of all time. Since it happened in the early 2nd round the baffling decision didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved. It wasn’t the greatest draft for receivers, but wouldn’t DeSean Jackson look good in a Rams uniform right about now?

Two years later the Rams are left with a depleted receiving corps and nothing resembling a No. 1 receiver. For all intents and purposes Avery was their go-to-guy, but at 5’11″, 186 pounds he just isn’t cut out for the role.

Among receivers that were targeted as least 90 times this season, only the Lions’ Calvin Johnson and the Raiders’ Louis Murphy caught a fewer percentage of balls thrown their way.

lowestcatchpct

On the surface, the one thing that these three receivers have in common is poor quarterback play. Its fair to say that each of these players would have an increased catch percentage had they played in Indianapolis or New England. In Avery’s case, however, much of the blame has to fall on his shoulders.

Arizona Cardinals v St. Louis RamsIts tough to grade Avery in games quarterbacked by Kyle Boller or Keith Null, but Avery wasn’t any better with Marc Bulger throwing him the football. In games started by Bulger, Avery caught just 27 of 51 balls thrown his direction (52.9 pct).

To be fair, Avery should never have been put in this position. As I mentioned, this was a hole the Rams dug for themselves. Each of their top three receivers – Avery, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola – are 6’0″ or shorter. Rams quarterbacks need a big receiver that can go up and make plays. Smaller receivers rely on their speed and route running ability to get open and only the elite can be truly effective week-in and week-out with that skill set.

So how does this apply to the Rams draft?

In the second round there should be a number of receivers that would fit perfectly into the Rams offseason. In my current mock draft I have the Rams selecting Arrelious Benn. Benn is 6’2″ and has the speed to stretch the field. He was somewhat inconsistent at Illinois, but was often at the mercy of some truly terrible quarterback play by Juice Williams and others. Other options include Brandon LaFell, Demaryius Thomas and Damian Williams – all of whom are 6’1″ or taller and have the ability to make their presence felt immediately in St. Louis.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Rams 1 Comment

Who’s No. 1?

Now that the draft order is set, we can begin to narrow down the candidates to go No. 1 overall. The one obvious candidate is Ndamukong Suh. He is the top rated player on my draft board and many others.

There’s no denying that Suh is an elite talent. Personally, I think he may be the top defensive prospect in 15+ years, perhaps since Dan Wilkinson was the No. 1 overall pick in 1994. But is Suh really a good fit in St. Louis?
Adam Carriker and Clifton Ryan were their starting defensive tackles this season and the Rams have been pleased with both. Ryan is a restricted free agent, so it is possible that an opening could be created if he signs elsewhere. However, if Suh were not an option, it is likely the Rams would make every effort to re-sign Ryan.

The question Rams have to ask themselves is: is Suh such an elite prospect that he is worth selecting despite the fact that his position one of the few strong areas of their roster?

Another option would be move Carriker, Ryan or Suh to defensive end. Leonard Little is an unrestricted free agent and appears unlikely to return, creating a hole on the defensive line. Carriker would be the best option to move outside, since he played defensive end for the majority of his career at Nebraska. However, he’s bulked up to make the transition to defensive tackle and may no longer be capable of providing the pass rush that the Rams need on the outside.

The Rams recorded just 25 sacks this past season and desperately need someone capable of getting to the quarterback. As good as Chris Long is, he will never be a consistent 10+ sack guy. He is a run stopper, not a sack artist. Putting Carriker, Ryan or Suh opposite Long at defensive end would only further limit the Rams ability to pressure the quarterback.

What the Rams really need is a franchise quarterback. Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen are both options but few, if any, teams will have them higher than Suh on their draft board. Are the Rams willing to pass over higher rated players to reach for a position of need? General Manager Billy Devaney is only in his second year on the job so its too early to know how he’s likely to handle this situation.

The best case scenario for the Rams is to entice a team to trade up for Suh. The Bucs would appear to be the most likely candidate to make that move. If the Rams pass on Suh, the Lions will take him without even thinking twice, meaning the Bucs have zero chance of landing Suh in their current position. The Bucs would have to package this year’s 1st and 2nd-round picks at a minimum to move up two spots, but its possible that they will covet Suh enough to make that move.

Ultimately its too early to tell who the Rams will select, but it would be difficult to imagine a scenario where the to pick is someone other than Suh, Bradford or Clausen. Its likely that this is a rare year where we really don’t know who will go No. 1 until the day of the draft. The Rams should keep their phone lines open until the time on the clock runs out

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Rams Comments Off