Being a Top 10 selection means that expectations are piled on. Pro Bowls, All-Pro selections, and contributing to playoff teams are all things that are demanded from these elite college players, oftentimes from day one. Fail to meet these expectations and the football world stamps a shameful, irremovable word on your legacy: bust.
Since the 2001 NFL Draft, there have been 15 offensive tackles selected in the Top 10. Nine of those 15 were selected in the first five picks. However, offensive tackle at the professional level has proven a difficult transition for college players to make.
Of those 15 players, only six have been to a Pro Bowl. Those six players have accounted for 18 Pro Bowl appearances, but even that is a bit deceiving. Out of those 18 appearances, half of them are owned by two players: Cleveland's Joe Thomas and Miami's Jake Long.
The Jets' D'Brickashaw Ferguson has three. Leonard Davis has three, though none were for the team that drafted him, nor at the position he was drafted to play. Carolina's Jordan Gross has two. Technically Bryant Mckinnie has one, but he was kicked off the team for skipping practices.
According to both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, Southern Cal's OT Matt Kalil is the second best player available in this draft class, behind Stanford's Andrew Luck. McShay's first 2012 mock draft has the Rams selecting Kalil second overall.
This would be a huge mistake. Maybe Kalil is the next Joe Thomas, or Jake Long. Maybe he's the next Robert Gallery. Reasonably speaking, he's probably somewhere in between. But the Rams have major problems, and those problems aren't going to fix themselves.
2011 was not a kind year to the Rams. Besides their 2-14 record, their offense was simply broken. They ranked 31st in total offense and 30th in passing yards. St. Louis ranked dead last in points per game.
Who should the Rams draft with the second overall pick?
In 2010, Sam Bradford's rookie season, the Rams averaged six more points-per-game, and threw twice as many touchdowns as they did in 2011. What was the difference? Both years Roger Saffold was the starting left tackle.
The difference was Bradford's receiving options. In 2010, Bradford developed a serious repertoire with Wes Welker clone Danny Amendola. Amendola amassed 85 catches, and was a reliable safety net for Bradford to work with.
In 2011, Amendola dislocated his elbow and missed all but the first game. The Rams tried to give Bradford new receiving threats in Brandon Lloyd and Danario Alexander, with limited success. Brandon Lloyd has only had one season with over 1000 yards receiving, and has never caught more than 80 passes. He is not the true No. 1 receiver Bradford needs.
Enter Justin Blackmon.
Though wide receiver is a position typically not targeted at the second slot in the draft, Blackmon is worth the risk. The two-time Biletnikoff award winner consistently torched defenses that were specifically designed to stop him. He helped Oklahoma State win the Fiesta Bowl in 2012 by catching eight passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns against the fourth-ranked Stanford Cardinal, led by Andrew Luck.
If Randy Moss was available at number two, wouldn't you select him? Of course you would.
The Rams have plenty of problems, and they can't solve all of them with one pick. But Blackmon can help solve one of their biggest problems, a severe lack of receiving threats.
Not to mention, the Rams ticket sales haven't exactly been booming. Blackmon may sell some tickets on his own. After all, he caught twice as many touchdowns as the entire Rams organization last season.