"With the fourteenth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft (what?), the St Louis Rams select Michael Brockers, defensive tackle, LSU."
Before you even say it, allow me.
"What the what? Remember Jimmy Kennedy? When are we going to draft weapons? What about Sam Bradford? A defensive player? A defensive TACKLE? You've gotta be kidding me?!? Hope you're ready for double digit losses again this year!! Remember Jimmy Kennedy? Aw shit, I said that already..."
With that viewpoint fully considered, then, and before we get to the actual meaty part of this draft-day discussion, let's spend a little time in remembrance of another round of draft crushes that sadly went by the wayside.
Trent Richardson (Browns, after a trade up to 3) sure would have been nice. Justin Blackmon (Jaguars, after a trade up to 5) wasn't my crush, but plenty of Rams fans wanted him. Michael Floyd (Cardinals at 13, one pick ahead of the Rams) could have been spectacular. And David Decastro... (stolen by the Steelers at 24) well big fella, what can I say but that when it came down to it, coach Fisher went with his gut and picked D meat over O meat. Not real surprising there.
Okay, now that's over and done with too. Let's break the Rams first round into three parts:
1: The Trade(s) made the day.
Les Snead is about ready for his statue. He has already pulled off more big-time trades in one round of the NFL Draft than all of his predecessors combined in the annals of the Rams (St Louis edition).
First, he expertly pitted the Browns against the Redskins in a furiously escalating battle for the #2 pick, coming away with a ransom of picks that ranks somewhere near the top ten richest draft value hauls ever. Almost 4,000 points of conventional draft value for a single pick. Stunning. But that was only the table-setter.
Second, he had to prepare his options at number six for the various names that could have fallen to him. Who would the Rams have stayed for? Kalil? Richardson? Blackmon? Or should we be asking who they would have dialed if either of those players had fallen?
In my mind, Maurice Claiborne could very well have been a great pick for the Rams. But when the LSU cornerback fell, Snead immediately sent the pick to the team (Dallas) most desperate for him, and in so doing, set himself up to have a MONSTER second day. Ultimately, in stepping back from a blue-chipper, the Rams chose more starters. That's the correct choice in this situation.
But these trades don't happen in a vacuum. Snead had to be working the phones on multiple fronts, had to be building relationships on multiple fronts where most first-year GMs would be lucky to establish even one. Naturally, building on Jeff Fisher's rolodex helps, but Snead still had to deliver.
By contrast, look at poor Jeff Ireland and the Miami Dolphins. Stuck having to talk themselves into Ryan Tannehill at 8 when they could have easily had him later. If they could have dealt the pick. Ireland tried in vain to trade back into the first round, but fully admits that he couldn't.
(Trade telephone etiquette requirement #1: get past the receptionist. Trade telephone etiquette tip #1, to enable requirement #1: don't be a total jackass alienating everyone you meet.)
This was a fine, fine performance for the men working the Rams war room.
2: Brockers is a gamble, but not a reach.
I'm not a big Michael Brockers fan, but I am more than willing to become one. Given his track record, if Jeff Fisher wants to lay a big wager on a defensive tackle, I'm willing to double down on that bet. If he looks at an unproven one-year starter and sees a goldmine of raw talent, we are all but obligated to weigh that talent heavily, and count on Fisher and his coaching staff to mine it and refine it.
And raw talent Brockers has in spades. He doesn't have stats, particularly sacks, but another DT (bringing a voice of wisdom) thinks those sacks will come. I'm speaking of former Ram Clifton Ryan, who was forthcoming in his opinion of Brockers:
"Still raw, but his skill set fits their up the field system. With the pass rush that Long and Quinn generate, he should get sacks if he can collapse the pocket."
Fisher added his own assessment after the pick was made:
"For not having played, for not being a four-year starter, he's very, very instinctive. He can play across the face of blocks, he pushes the pocket, he can collapse, he can get on an edge, he plays with effort. I mean, what else can you say? And there's so much more ahead of him."
All things being equal, would Fisher have preferred a more finished product in Fletcher Cox (12th, to Philly) or a different caliber of raw talent in Dontari Poe (11th, to Kansas City)? We'll never know. But the decision to trade down showed that the Rams believed not in a single player, but in their board and in the quality and depth at this position. Of the three big men, Poe probably represents the biggest gamble and Cox the readiest to play, but whichever way the pick had gone, we still have a veteran coaching staff ready to make the most of it.
(Link: Ryan at TurfShowTimes scooped pretty much everyone with the first published interview of Brockers, talking to him even before Roger Goodell did. The kid is understandably excited to play for Fisher and his staff.)
3: The best is yet to come (and not just from Brockers).
Thanks to the largesse of the NFC East, the Rams will have the first, seventh and thirteenth picks of the second round. Here are some of the names available, any of whom could step in and start from day one:
G/T Cordy Glenn. WR Stephen Hill. OLB Courtney Upshaw. WR Rueben Randle. CB Janoris Jenkins. RB Lamar Miller (okay, more of a platooner than a starter). OLB Lavonte David. TE Coby Fleener. G Amini Silatolu. T Mike Adams. WR Brian Quick. And the list, as they say, goes on and on.
Today was about draft strategy, laying in wait, pouncing on opportunities rather than players, and still coming away with a kid that they believe strongly in.
Tomorrow will be about Jeff Fisher putting his stamp on the roster, cashing in the winnings that came with the 2nd overall pick of the draft and coming away with foundational players that can look up to the likes of James Laurinaitis as the exemplar of what a 2nd-round pick can do for this franchise.