Breaking Down the Draft Needs For the St. Louis Rams

Ron Clements@Ron_ClementsCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - SEPTEMBER 20:  Quarterback Dan LeFevour #13 of the Central Michigan Chippewas during play against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on September 20, 2008 in West Lafayette, Indiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The St. Louis Rams have a lot of holes to fill.

They need about as much help as a blind quadriplegic calling a suicide hotline.

They can address some of their needs via free agency—a big new wide receiver here, an offensive lineman there, maybe even a veteran quarterback to groom the star of the future.

Aah, the future.

The Rams were the third youngest team in the NFL last season, and look to remain young in 2010 because the majority of their needs will be met during April’s draft.

Marc Bulger has probably played his final game as a Ram. It’s undeniable the team needs a franchise quarterback, but anyone thinking there is a quarterback worthy of the top overall pick come April 22 is simply delusional.

While Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen and Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford each have their upsides, both are too risky to gamble the future of a franchise that won the Super Bowl just 10 years ago.

There is really only one sure-fire player to go with for the No. 1 selection, and that is Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Cornhusker is regarded by nearly every draft guru as the best player in the draft. When you’re trying to build from the ground up, like the Rams are, you need to take the best players.

While defensive tackle isn’t St. Louis’ biggest need, an impact player like Suh can upgrade the entire unit.

Suh is the best-case scenario for the Rams with the No. 1 pick.

The worst-case scenario would be drafting Clausen. If Rams general manager Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo are wowed by Clausen's physical abilities and ignore his questionable leadership ability, they could both be looking for jobs within two years.

At the top of Round 2, St. Louis has a couple of options—either grab that quarterback of the future or select a game-breaking wide receiver.

I choose option A. While this year's quarterback class lacks that true No. 1 guy, it is a pretty deep class of good quarterbacks, which is why the Rams do not need to gamble with a signal caller to begin the draft.

There are a handful of quarterbacks who should be available with the 33rd pick on Friday, April 23 when the Rams begin Day 2 of the draft in the NFL's new three-day format.

Three guys I'd focus on are Texas' Colt McCoy , Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour and Florida's Tim Tebow . All three were highly productive, winning quarterbacks in college, and all three were four-year players with proven leadership abilities.

None more so than Tebow. There is a knock on Tebow's delivery, but nobody can dispute his productivity, tenacity and versatility on the football field. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Tebow threw for over 9,200 yards and 88 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions in three seasons as a starter.

His Gators won two BCS championships and another BCS bowl game, and he ran for 57 more touchdowns in his career. Rams fans in St. Louis are already clamoring for a guy like Tebow, and he would definitely pack the empty seats at the Edward Jones Dome . Those fans are probably singing a different tune after watching Tebow struggle all week at the Senior Bowl, including a pair of fumbles during the game.

McCoy is college football's all-time winningest quarterback, but may lack the arm strength needed to make NFL throws. He was unable to play in the Senior Bowl, making his Combine and individual workout that much more important. Assuming his BCS title game injury doesn't affect him too much, a strong showing at the Combine could quell the naysayers.

LeFevour is my guy. The 6-3, 228-pound CMU QB ranks second all-time in total offense for his career. He's the only player in NCAA history to pass for more than 12,000 yards and rush for more than 2,500. He also has accounted for more touchdowns - 150 - than anyone in college football history. He has 102 passing TDs, 47 rushing and even caught a TD pass in illustrious career while leading the Chippewas to four straight bowl games, two bowl victories and a pair of MAC championships.

A four-year starter, LeFevour is everything you want in an NFL quarterback—productivity, undeniable leadership ability, winning track record. If he can prove at the Senior Bowl that he can adapt from a spread offense in college to more of a pro style system, which I believe he can, the Rams would be insane to pass on a guy who has franchise quarterback written all over him.

If the Rams want to sell season tickets, they should draft Tebow. If they want an NFL-ready quarterback to build around, LeFevour is the choice.

Best case scenario, Devaney selects LeFevour. Neither Tebow nor McCoy would be terrible selections. The worst case scenario would be taking a wide receiver here. While it is a need, when first-year Ram, and four-year veteran Ruvell Martin is the dean of receivers, going after a free agent like San Diego's Vincent Jackson would be the best bet.

All that being said, if a guy like Bradford—because of his shoulder injuries—falls here, you take him. And if running backs Clemson's C.J. Spiller or California's Jahvid Best fall out of the first round—both very improbable scenarios—you do not pass them up.

Round 3 and beyond is where you really build your team. The Rams have nine total draft picks, so seven remain from here on out. An option would exist to use a couple of those, including the third-round pick, to move back into the second round if a solid offensive tackle like Iowa's Bryan Baluga or USC's Charles Brown is somehow still unclaimed. Massachusetts' Vladimir Ducasse is a real possibility here.

But the best thing for the Rams is to use all of their picks to stockpile players. They need a running back to spell Steven Jackson. Rookie Chris Ogbonnaya looked good in his only NFL action the last two weeks of the season, but I'm not sold on the former Texas Longhorn and seventh-round pick. It took him 14 weeks to even be activated for a game. Veteran backups Samkon Gado and Kenneth Darby were largely unproductive in 2009 and probably won't be on the 2010 roster.

What the Rams don't need is another big bruising back like Jackson, which is why I don't like the idea of taking Stanford's Toby Gerhart or Tennessee's Montario Hardesty here.

They need a change-of-pace back. Somebody like Fresno State's Ryan Mathews or USC's Joe McKnight would be great choices.

They also need that offensive tackle in case Alex Barron is not back with the team. The club also needs help in the secondary —especially if they can't re-sign safety Oshiomogho Atogwe . The fifth-year player from Stanford is the best defensive player the Rams have and, along with cornerback Ron Bartell, the only true serviceable NFL starter the Rams have in the secondary.

That's where a guy like Michigan's Donovan Warren or Alabama's Javier Arenas can come in and upgrade the unit. Keeping Atogwe is also a must.

In the third round, the best-case scenario is simply taking the best player available that fills a need. Whether that's offensive tackle, cornerback or running back. The worst thing the Rams can do from here on out is reach for a player. Follow your board and draft as many good players as you can. Trading down is definitely an option.

Hopefully for Rams fans, the best players available can help build a successful team on the foundation Devaney and Spagnuolo have laid.


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