In just three weeks, the St. Louis Rams will be on the clock in the 2012 NFL Draft. If the Rams stay put, they will be drafting at No. 6 and be afforded the opportunity to add a player of elite talent to the roster.
If they trade up (unlikely) or down from No. 6, their is some added risk mixed into the equation.
Head coach Jeff Fisher has made it known that the Rams could indeed move out of the aforementioned spot, and that they would most likely move down if they do eventually make a move, as reported by Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
I would think there's a very realistic possibility of moving. Yeah, we could go up or down. It would probably be more realistic for us to move down than it would up.
Of course, Fisher's words were hardly a revelation there, especially considering general manager Les Snead's aggressive past in the NFL Draft, If a ridiculously beneficial trade offer is presented to the Rams, it would seem to be silly for St. Louis to ignore it when the team has so many pressing needs.
If the Rams did trade out, St. Louis would of course still be in position to grab a prospect with exceptional talent, however, the changes of landing a Pro Bowl type player drops, on average, with every additional slot you drop from No. 6.
For example, If the Rams were to trade down to No. 8, their is less chance to land an All Pro than at No. 6, on average. A move to No. 14 would garner an ever lower percentage chance of striking gold than a move to No. 8, and so on.
On the other hand, a move down would enable St. Louis to stockpile more picks and give the Rams brass more chances to fill more holes on a roster that needs upgraded in a plethora of positions.
A trade down from No. 6 would enable St. Louis to shore up more areas of need and to enhance the talent level in St. Louis to a greater extent across the board.
Even though I would not be the least bit surprised to see the Rams make a first round trade, there is probably a better chance that they end up picking at their current slot.
That said, let us jump right into to my first St. Louis Rams Mock Draft of April.
There are so many scenarios here (some of which were touched on in the introductory slide) that it can make one's head spin.
The more I look at how things appear most likely to unfold, the more I think Trent Richardson, the big running back from Alabama, ends up being the pick here if the Rams stay at No. 6.
What is my reasoning for this? That answer has several layers to it.
One, if the Minnesota Vikings stand pat at three they almost certainly grab left tackle Matt Kalil or wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
There is also the theoretic possibility that a team could trade up to No. 3 in an effort to grab quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
That possibility was recently discussed by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Florio even suggests that the Vikings could, at the very least, trade down one spot with the Cleveland Browns allowing the Browns to nab the former Texas A & M QB.
Bud Shaw of cleveland.com analyzes the potential Tannehill to Browns scenario here. Shaw reports in the previously-linked column that Mike Mayock of the NFL Network if just one draft analyst who believes the Browns must take Tannehill at No. 4 or move up to No. 3 to grab him.
Some suggest there is no way that Cleveland (or anyone else) takes Tannehill in the top five. However, the Browns already reportedly offered a boatload of draft compensation to the Rams in their failed attempt to move up to No. 2 to be in position to select quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Furthermore, Cleveland also inquired about Rams QB Sam Bradford before turning their attention to RGIII, according to a report from Tony Grossi of espncleveland.com, citing sources from the NFL league meetings.
The bottom line appears to be clear as far as Cleveland is concerned: they appear to be very interested, if not intent, on trying to upgrade at quarterback.
Some suggest a team could simply move up to No. 6 for Tannehill. However, the only sure-fire way to grab the QB is to move up to No. 3 or No. 4. If not, teams risk missing out on Tannehill, who made the most of his pro day, according to this via nfl.com.
Sources told Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network that Cleveland is indeed considering taking Tannehill in the 2012 NFL Draft after his impressive pro day.
The aforementioned report also suggests that Cleveland would entertain offers for their No. 4 pick if a team like Miami wants to move up for the QB or if another team wants to jump ahead of the Dolphins.
All in all, it is looking more and more like a possibility that Tannehill goes in the top four of the draft, whether it appears like a wise move or not.
At No. 5, NFL analyst Tim Ryan suggests the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut ties with troublesome cornerback Aqib Talib and pick cornerback Morris Claiborne, as reported by Ira Kaufman for The Tampa Tribune.
If that occurs, that would leave both wide receiver Justin Blackmon or running back Trent Richardson on the board for St. Louis at No. 6.
Although the overwhelming choice at No. 6 by Rams Nation is Justin Blackmon, I am beginning to think the Rams would lean towards Richardson if both he and Blackmon are on the board there.
Why do I feel this way?
Well, for one, Fisher loves the running game and loves big backs like former Tennessee Titans halfback Eddie George.
For the most part, Fisher's teams have always been built around a strong running game and tough defense. That does not figure to change in St. Louis.
Furthermore, Steven Jackson (as great as he is) missed all or part of several games in 2011 and will be 29 soon. Richardson would provide terrific injury insurance while waiting in the wings to eventually become the franchise back at some point in the future.
The Rams have done nothing in free agency regarding the attainment of a backup running back so you have to assume that will be addressed in the draft.
On the other hand, the Rams have offered a second round tender to restricted free agent Danny Amendola, and his almost certain return could be key.
Who else in the league is adding a guy that caught 85 passes in his last full season other than St. Louis? The answer: none.
They also signed 2009 Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith, who should be back to full strength this year (or at least the Rams hope) and could make a significant impact, as analyzed by Simon Samano in this nfl.com piece.
In addition, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Rams are talking to both Jerome Simpson (wideout for the Bengals) and Jerricho Cotchery (receiver for the New York Jets) this week.
With all the recent activity at wide receiver and Fisher's love affair with the ground game, it leads me to believe that Richardson could indeed be the most likely pick at No. 6 if available there.
I believe that he and Kalil are the two surest picks in the entirety of this year's draft class. Look for Richardson to head to St. Louis if available when the Rams make their selection.
The Rams added 27 year old Jo-Lonn Dunbar of the New Orleans Saints to help solidify the outside linebacker position via free agency and will finish off shoring up the position if they take the ever-talented Zach Brown here.
Some, such as Will Brinson of cbssports.com still have Brown going in the first round but I think he could be available here and believe the tools he brings too the table would be to enticing for the Rams to pass up here.
Zach Brown is a St. Louis Rams fan and could soon be heading to his favorite team.
I know many of you like Brown, as do I, but wonder if he could possibly be on the board this late.
Brown lit it up at the 2012 NFL Combine, posting a 4.44 40 at 6'1" and 244 pounds.
A defensive front with Chris Long former teammates Robert Quinn, newly acquired defensive tackle/end Kendall Langford and Brown could form the nucleus of one of the better pass-rushing defenses in the NFL going forward.
Brown is a fluid athlete with outstanding change-of-direction skills, something that could help him match up with the likes of tight end Vernon Davis twice a year when battling the San Francisco 49ers.
Brown is the rare linebacker who could run with Davis in the open field.
Although he has room to improve in pass coverage, particularly man-to-man, he has the physical tools to be terrific in that regard.
Furthermore, Brown reacts quickly to developing plays.
Brown uses his speed well against the run and should naturally get stronger at the point of attack. He has the speed and quickness to track down backs and beat them to the edge.
The most exciting aspect to Brown's game, in my view, is his potential as a pass-rusher.
He possesses the necessary attributes to become a top-notch pass rusher at OLB, something the Rams have lacked since the departure of Will Witherspoon.
Mohamed Sanu (who played for Rams new quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti at Rutgers when Cignetti was the offensive coordinator there) goes 6'2' and 215 pounds while bringing great size and toughness to the position.
The only thing some have questioned about Sanu is his speed; however, he ran a 4.41 40 yard dash at his pro day, easing some concerns there.
St. Louis will have the inside track on Sanu with Cignetti on board, who should certainly know him extremely well.
You can rest assured that St. Louis' general manager Les Snead will be debriefing of Cignetti in regard to Sanu if the Rams are interested in the former Rutgers wideout.
If the Rams indeed grab Sanu in round two, you can bet it will have been a well-informed selection.
Keep in mind that the similarly built Michael Irvin ran in the 4.6 range. Sanu is every bit as fast as "the playmaker" and possesses many similar traits that Irvin displayed in his historic career.
The massive Bobbie Massie brings terrific value at the top of round three and has the potential to play both left and right tackle for the Rams.
Massie, who measures 6'6" and 316 pounds, is an impressive athlete. Massie displayed that at the Combine. He also has the long arms (35 inches) that teams love at tackle while putting up .
Although Massie primarily played right tackle in college, many scouting reports (such as this one) suggest he could swing to left tackle and that would allow the Rams to consider possibly moving Rodger Saffold to the right side.
Massie has quick feet and possesses the necessary attributes to be a terrific pass-blocker while owning the size to be a mauling run-blocker. Massie finishes his blocks well and plays with a bit of an attitude. He fires quickly off the snap on running plays.
Although it appears that St. Louis will bring back 2009 No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith (who has missed most of two seasons with separate head injuries), his injury issues and inconsistent play make drafting a tackle who is capable of protecting franchise QB Sam Bradford a strong consideration.
For every reason imaginable including those mentioned above, Massie makes massive sense for St. Louis in round 3.
If not for coming off a torn ACL in his knee in 2011, Chapman would have no shot at being available at the top of round 4.
However, the former Crimson Tide player could be reunited with running back Trent Richardson due to the fact of him likely falling down the draft boards (as often occurs with injury/health worries) of many teams.
Chapman actually played with the aforementioned ACL injury last season, showing almost unfathomable toughness in not only playing but playing excellent football with a severe injury.
Chapman, 6'1' and 315 pounds, is as close to an ideal run stopper as a team will ever find and is said to truly be a middle round prospect due to the knee situation, as reported in the above-linked column from Daniel Cox for atlantafalcons.com.
According to this draft report from cbssports.com, Chapman can handle the double teams and that should allow 3-technique DT Kendall Langford the opportunity make more plays while aiding the production of Chris Long and Robert Quinn, too.
Chapman shows elite strength and leverage and would be a great addition to the Rams defensive line. He should be ready to go by training camp.
Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller has Chapman with a fourth round grade due to the injury issue, as shared in the aforementioned column from Cox as linked above:
A healthy Chapman would carry a second-round grade from me, but with his injury and an uncertain timetable on a return, I have Chapman in the fourth round.
I feel that Chapman would be a steal in round four and a great fit for St. Louis. He showed he could play even with an ACL injury, so I would like to see what he can do when healthy for the Rams.
St. Louis has struggled to stop the run in recent seasons so upgrading the run support is vital in improving the defense. Fisher loves tough guys and they come no tougher than former 'Bama DT Josh Chapman.
Johnson, 6'3' and 313 pounds, moves very well for his size and is good at finishing his blocks.
Johnson, however, has been suspended in two different seasons with the Ole Miss Rebels, where he played before transferring to California PA.
Johnson is said to have a good punch and is particularly strong in the run game, something that would certainly be a most desirable trait in St. Louis.
Johnson brings good value at the top of round six, however, if guard Lucas Nix is available here (which I do not expect) he would be my choice for this pick.
Adding a defensive back with the speed and production of Asa Jackson in the seventh round makes sense.
Jackson was a first-team All-Great West selection and was also a second team all American by Phil Steele Publications, as reported here. In 2011, Jackson was named Cal Poly's most valuable defensive player.
This past season, Jackson had 54 tackles, two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns of 52 and 100 yards) and seven pass breakups.
He has also displayed ability as a punt returner, averaging 18 yards on eight returns (among the nation's best averages), with his longest going for 41 yards.
Jackson checked in at 5'10' at the NFL combine, put up an impressive 19 reps in the bench press and has good length (long arms.) Jackson also has good quickness, balance and speed (4.4 in the 40-yard dash.) He is said to reach top speed quickly thanks to a good burst.
As a returner, he has proven to be elusive, making defenders miss on many occasions. His versatility as a punt returner would only increase his value in St. Louis.
For much more on Jackson, look here.
Nfldraftscout.com has Sensabaugh and his stock on the rise, as it should be.
The former cornerback from Clemson had a good senior season and was impressive at the NFL Scouting Combine.
For a seventh-round prospect, that is noteworthy.
Sensabaugh ran an unofficial 4.37 40, was third in the three-cone drill and fourth in the vertical jump at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.
Sensabaugh is very quick and fast and shows good agility as well. Furthermore, he has good size, checking in at 6'0 and 189 pounds.
Sensabaugh played a lot of press coverage in 2011 and performed well in that regard.
The ability to play that type of coverage could appeal to the Rams brass, as they are likely to blitz often. If Sensabaugh can thwart receivers off the line, it could create some problems for opposing offenses.
According to cbssports.com, he is smart, durable and productive—three great characteristics desirable that you would want to see in any player.
It is also encouraging that he is accustomed to playing against top-flight receivers after playing in the SEC.
Shane Gray covers the St. Louis Rams year-round. You are encouraged to check out the rest of his work here. He also owns and operates stlramscentral.com.