2012 NFL Draft: Rams' Options at Number 2 Grow with More Underclassmen Going Pro

Shane GraySenior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2012

Trent Richardson
Trent RichardsonAndy Lyons/Getty Images

It looks as if three potential top ten selections (Morris Claiborne, Trent Richardson and Dre Kirkpatrick) are throwing their names into the 2012 NFL Draft mix.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, cornerback Morris Claiborne of the LSU Tigers will enter the 2012 NFL Draft, as reported via this tweet:

 Adam Schefter LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne has decided to enter the NFL draft.

Claiborne is touted as a consensus top ten pick, and a top five pick by many draft evaluators.

Claiborne led the LSU Tigers and their defense to the NCAA national championship game before ultimately falling to Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, who, by the way, may produce two top ten picks of their own in 2012: the previously mentioned Richardson, the top-rated running back available, and Fitzpatrick, the highest regarded cornerback, respectively.  

Both will reportedly announce their own intentions to enter the NFL draft on January 12, according to the Tuscaloosa News.

Claiborne, Richardson, and Fitzpatrick join an ever-growing and impressive group of underclassmen entering the 2012 NFL Draft headlined by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Matt Kalil and Justin Blackmon.

Morris Claiborne with Les Miles
Morris Claiborne with Les MilesKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The additional talent infusion enhances the overall value of the 2012 NFL Draft and the value of picks at the top of the draft, specifically.  

Even if none of these three (Claiborne, Richardson, or Kirkpatrick) end up as targets for St. Louis and the Rams ultimately trade out, any could be targets in another slot for the Rams.  For example, in a theoretic swap with the quarterback-hungry Washington Redskins, any of these three could become quality targets for the Rams at the number six spot, which Washington currently possesses.  

Conversely, the Rams could stay put and use the number two pick themselves.  

Just us they could all eventually be targeted at a later pick after a trade down, any of the aforementioned early-entries could potentially be enticing to St. Louis at number two by the NFL Draft in April.

For now, names like Blackmon and Kalil would appear to be more likely targets of St. Louis, however, there is always immense shuffling during the pre-draft process, and things tend to change during that upcoming period.

After all, the long process of evaluation that will include the NFL Combine, pro days, the gathering of background information and one on one interviews, among other things, is only beginning.  As we see every year, some players will dramatically raise their stock between now and then, while others will lose ground amidst the evaluation process.   

Regardless of how the Rams eventually bob and weave through the draft, it is undeniable that the additional talent infusion coming by way of the slew of early entrees only enhances the overall value of the 2012 NFL Draft and, specifically, the value of the Rams second overall draft slot.  

Dre Kirkpatrick
Dre KirkpatrickGreg McWilliams/Getty Images

So, whether St. Louis stays at number two or parlays that pick into several others, these players' presence provides enhanced value that will certainly benefit the Rams in one manner or another and their efforts to "build a winning tradition in and for St. Louis"

For more on Morris Claiborne, look here.

For scouting information on Trent Richardson, click here and here

For a good look at Dre Kirkpatrick, go here

Shane Gray covers the St. Louis Rams year round. To check out the rest of his work, go here.  You are also encouraged to follow him here on Twitter.