Will Trent Richardson replace Steven Jackson in St. Louis next season?
Then the real NFL Draft is going to start.
Minnesota will have five good choices. Whatever it decides to do will impact the draft boards of those teams picking behind them, maybe causing drastic changes to those teams' plans.
So how will all of this impact the Rams? Keep reading, and I'll tell you how the St. Louis Rams are going to come out of the 2012 NFL Draft smelling like a rose.
Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State) is an absolute stud. I see him having a very good NFL career, and I'd love for him to pair up with Sam Bradford for the next decade.
But that's not going to happen. Let me tell you why.
Minnesota will pick Matt Kalil (LT, USC) with the third pick. Then Cleveland is going to shock a lot of people by taking Blackmon with the fourth pick. Cleveland wants a QB, but it isn't going to pick Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M) this high in the draft.
So that leaves the Browns with a simple choice: Blackmon or Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama).
I think Cleveland is going to select Blackmon in order to give its young QB Colt McCoy one last "best chance" to prove he is a starting-caliber NFL QB. I just don't see the Browns selecting Richardson this high in the draft. The running back position has been devalued in recent years, so Blackmon should, in theory, provide "more value."
With the fifth pick, the Tampa Bay Bucs will select Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU). That will leave the Rams with one very clear and obvious choice to make.
The Rams will take about .002 seconds to turn in their card to select Richardson if this scenario unfolds. Richardson is a 5'9", 224-pound running back who runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. He is like a one-man wrecking crew, able to run over or around defenders. He is also a terrific receiver coming out of the backfield.
Of course, if the Rams do select Richardson, that is going to leave them with a very interesting decision to make regarding Steven Jackson.
Other Possible Choices: If either Blackmon or Claiborne is available, the Rams would be happy to take either player, as they are both excellent prospects and fill a glaring roster hole.
I'm a huge Steven Jackson fan. I respect him, and I think he's a great player. Having said that, I've been saying for months that the Rams need to trade Jackson. The only question is going to be, "What can the Rams get in return?"
There are some teams in "win now" mode that need a back of Jackson's caliber. I could see the Rams getting a third-round pick back from the Jets (No. 77 overall), Cowboys (No. 81 overall), Lions (No. 85 overall) or Giants (No. 94 overall).
By trading Jackson, the Rams would be clearing the way for Trent Richardson to carry the load from day one in a Rams' uniform. They would also be getting Jackson's $7 million salary off the books, getting a nice draft pick in return, and allowing Jackson the chance to play for a winner before he retires.
If Jackson lands on the right team, he has enough left in the tank to take them to another level for the next two seasons.
Stephen Hill is a 6'4", 200-pound wide receiver who ran a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash. He is a terrific athlete, a huge target, and he could be a steal for the Rams if he makes it to the top of the second round.
Hill played in an option-style offense at Georgia Tech, so his numbers won't blow anybody away. He is a bit of a project in terms of route running and his knowledge of a pro-style offense. However, that should not cause the Rams to hesitate if Hill is still on the board. He could quickly become the big-play, vertical-threat type of receiver the Rams haven't had in years.
Hill is shown in the late first round in some mock drafts, but I think he will last until the Rams are picking in the second round. Of course, if the Rams wind up picking Blackmon with their first-round pick, then the Rams will probably not be picking another receiver in this spot.
Other Possibilities: Jerel Worthy (DT, Michigan State), Rueben Randle (WR, LSU), Kendall Reyes (DT, UConn).
The Rams will probably consider Reyes with their first pick in the second round. He is a highly-touted defensive tackle. Reyes is 6'4", 298 pounds and considered by some to be a better overall prospect than Jerel Worthy, another promising DT prospect out of Michigan State.
Reyes has the talent to step in and be a starter at DT right away for the Rams. With the addition of Kendall Langford, another talented DT, the Rams front four is suddenly young and talented. This should help take outstanding MLB James Laurinaitis to an All-Pro level.
Other Possibilities: Bobby Massie (OT, Mississippi), Janoris Jenkins (CB, Northern Alabama)
That is a not a picture of Mitchell Schwartz, the right tackle out of Cal. It is a picture of Jason Smith, the current Rams' RT, who is owed something like a bazillion dollars next season, despite the fact that he can't block and he stays hurt all the time.
Okay, maybe a bazillion dollars is a bit of an exaggeration. I actually don't even know how much money that really is, but you get the idea.
The Rams are going to have to make a move for a starting offensive tackle at some point. Schwartz is a 6'6", 310-pound right tackle, and he is being touted as a future starter in the NFL. This seems about the right place for Schwartz to come off the board, and if this is the Rams' selection, they will have picked four starters already in this draft.
Other Possibilities: Isaiah Pead (RB, Cincinnati), Lavonte David (OLB, Nebraska), Bruce Irvin (OLB, West Virginia).
Pictured above is James Laurinaitis, the outstanding MLB of the St. Louis Rams. Laurinaitis has had to play with an awful set of defensive tackles in front of him, which makes his job a lot harder. As we discussed, Kendall Reyes (second-round pick) and Kendall Langford (free agent) are about to make Laurinaitis a much better linebacker, simply because he is going to have a chance to make plays closer to and behind the line of scrimmage now.
Laurinaitis has also played with a pretty terrible corps of linebackers in St. Louis. Demario Davis is a 6'2", 230-pound outside linebacker, and he runs a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash. Davis is a terrific football player, and despite his small college status, he could step in and make a major contribution to the Rams defense as a rookie.
I think Davis could be a starter beside Laurinaitis for years and years in St. Louis. The Rams have now picked up five starters in this draft.
Other Possibilities: Brandon Mosley (OLB, Auburn), Sean Spence (OLB, Miami FL)
The Rams have positioned themselves nicely in free agency and the draft so far, thus allowing themselves a "luxury pick." The Rams still have needs everywhere, and while this pick would fill some of those needs, this is more about adding another weapon than filling another need.
Chris Rainey is 5'8", 174 pounds, and runs a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. He is a "slippery" type of player, able to elude defenders and cut on a dime. Rainey is one of those little scat backs you play with on Madden. You know, the kind that can take it to the house on any given play?
Rainey is that dude in real life.
I could see the Rams using Rainey in the return game right away, while also using him as a change of pace back and/or slot receiver. For a team starved of playmakers, Rainey would make the opposing defense at least respect whatever side of the field he lines up on.
Other Possibilities: Robert Turbin (RB, Utah State), Cyrus Gray (RB, Texas A&M), Jamell Fleming (CB, Oklahoma)
Reminder: The Rams lost their fifth-round pick in the Brandon Lloyd trade.
That is Jacob Bell, the Rams' underachieving left guard that they released in free agency, pictured above. When you get this late in the draft, you are either (a) trying to hit a home run by picking a guy that slid down a lot of draft boards, or (b) playing it safe and picking a guy who might stick as a special teamer or a specialist.
I have the Rams taking Joe Looney, a 6'4", 320-pound guard out of Wake Forest. Looney tore a ligament in his foot at the Senior Bowl, and his inability to work out might have caused him to slide just a bit. He is seen as a lineman with enough size and strength, as well as the demeanor, to potentially be a starter in the NFL.
I could see the Rams taking a chance on Looney with this pick if he is still available.
Like I just said, this late in the draft you are trying to steal a guy who is sliding or nobody has ever heard of, or you are playing it safe and trying to find a role player. Trevathan is the ultimate role player. At 6'1", 230 pounds, he has the size to be a decent outside linebacker in the NFL. However, he only ran a 4.7 in his 40-yard dash, and he lacks the explosion to be an impact player at that position.
Trevathan is a hustler and a solid tackler, though. I see him as the selection here, and I think he has an outstanding chance to actually make the final roster as a special teams player.
In this scenario, the Rams would walk away with a franchise running back, a starting defensive tackle, a starting wide receiver, a starting right tackle, a starting outside linebacker, and a dynamic playmaker in Chris Rainey.
With a solid offensive and defensive line, and several young, explosive playmakers, the Rams would be in great position to move forward with those extra first-round draft picks they will have for the next two years.