High on the list of Day Two needs and wish list items for the Rams: defensive tackle, outside linebacker, running back, wide receiver. Nowhere to be found on that list of offensive weapons, though, is tight end. I mean, why would there be, with three already on the roster in Hoomanawanui, Onobun and Bajema, and Daniel Fells just a phone call away from re-signing?
And yet, several second-round re-mocks have the Rams selecting Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph at pick 45. Great value, I suppose, but is it worth taking the "best player available" if there isn't a need? Especially when the McDaniels offense has been notoriously punishing to the tight end position?
I brought the question to Shane Hallam, who seems like a pretty smart guy, and I'm not just saying that because he graded our Mock Three draft and gave us an "A-." (Okay, maybe I am, a little. But he is legitimately a smart guy.) Here is a snapshot of our exchange:
RamsHerd: Kyle Rudolph won't be a popular pick in STL. Do you think the "McD doesn't use TEs" argument is a red herring?
Hallam: I do. If he had a "complete" TE, he would use him. Will it happen? Probably not, but I bet Rudolph is on the Rams' board.
RamsHerd: [Rationalizing] Rudolph would probably be the best pass-catching TE McD has seen at the pro level... solid red zone threat as well....
Hallam: Yup, and McDaniels DOES like TEs who block. See draft picks in Denver.
(Ouch, that's a knife in the gut for Broncos fans, who watched McDaniels use one of the high draft picks obtained in the Jay Cutler trade to trade up for a block-only tight end in 2009's draft. It's one of the litany of bulletpoints at www.JoshMcDanielsSucks.com.)
But the larger point is that the trend of Tight Ends suffering under McDaniels has to be looked at in context of the talent at hand. In retrospect, the declining value of Ben Watson's offense in New England could be looked at like this: "McD originally saw a weapon that needed to be utilized to open up the middle of the field, but his perception of Watson changed over time. The guy had hands of stone, and the Patriots added a much more potent interior threat in the name of Wes Welker. Feeding Watson over Welker would have been a firable offense, though he continued to use Watson in the offense to mix things up."
Of course, that makes for a nice story if you desperately want to justify the value of Rudolph, the best TE in the draft, to the Rams. But desperation and draft day seldom mix with pleasant results.