St. Louis Rams 2012 NFL Draft: What Should the Rams Do with the No. 6 Pick?

Shane GraySenior Analyst IMarch 19, 2012

St. Louis Rams 2012 NFL Draft: What Should the Rams Do with the No. 6 Pick?

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    With the sixth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams select...?

    The answer to that question will have to wait until April 26, the first day of this year's much-anticipated annual event.

    Although I of course do not know specifically what the Rams will do with the No. 6 pick, I know exactly what they will do, in general.

    Head coach Jeff Fisher, general manager Les Snead and the Rams talent evaluators will make a decision based upon what they believe will bring the most value to St. Louis, whether that is selecting a certain player, trading up for a specific guy or moving down to accumulate more picks.

    If they stay at No. 6, St. Louis should stick to their draft board and select the player that the war-room believes is the best player for the Rams going forward, whoever that may be. 

    If they trade up to No. 3 or No. 4 (which would appear to be the far most unlikely option), the Rams would almost certainly do so to grab left tackle Matt Kalil or wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

    If they trade down, they will amass more picks and be in position to fill more holes on a roster with a multitude of much-needed enhancements.

    That said, let us jump to it and first look at who St. Louis should take if staying at No. 6 and then who they might target if trading down to specific areas of Round 1.  

With the No. 6 Pick the St. Louis Rams Select…

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    There are four players who are most likely to be considered at No. 6 based on a consensus of overall value, the specific needs of the Rams and the vast majority of NFL mock drafts: left tackle Matt Kalil, wide receiver Justin Blackmon, running back Trent Richardson or cornerback Morris Claiborne.

    Before breaking this down, let me say this upfront: if the Rams do not land a free agent wide receiver (most of the legit options are gone) or trade for one prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, I believe the Rams should use two of their top four picks (and probably two of their first three) on wide receivers.

    The position absolutely should and must be upgraded. Head coach Jeff Fisher said the Rams would get weapons for Sam Bradford, and it is imperative that St. Louis do just that.

    With the No. 6 pick, however, the Rams cannot reach, regardless of the glaring need at the wide receiver position.  If the Rams indeed feel Blackmon is the best fit and best player available, he should and almost certainly would be the pick.

    If Blackmon is not rated as the best player available on the Rams draft board, then the Rams should pass.  If Blackmon is rated as the best player available but is gone and wide receiver Michael Floyd is there but not rated as the best player available, they should pass on him, too.

    What if the Rams Rate All Four of the Aforementioned Players (Blackmon, Kalil, Richardson and Claiborne) Equally?

    I believe if that were to theoretically occur, the Rams would go with Blackmon in a very close call over Kalil.  Rodger Saffold is capable of playing a solid left tackle (when healthy as in 2010) and the Rams could find a good tackle prospect (right or left) in round two or three.

    Fisher has always believed he can coach up second, third and fourth round offensive linemen, so that could also be a factor if both Kalil and Blackmon were to be available at No. 6, regardless of how unlikely that scenario may be.

    As for Fisher's belief that he can get an offensive linemen after round one and coach him up adequately, there is no reason to believe that philosophy would, should or must change now.

    With all that in mind, I believe the Rams would take Blackmon over Kalil if everything else is essentially equal between those two prospects.

    What if Those Four Players Do Not Rate Equally (As Would Almost Certainly Be the Case?

    If I were stacking the board, I would rate the players based on the following:

    Best Player Available:

    1. Richardson
    2. Kalil
    3. Blackmon/Claiborne

    Biggest Need in St. Louis:

    1. Blackmon
    2. Kalil
    3. Claiborne
    4. Richardson

    Safest Pro Future/Least Likely to Bust:

    1. Kalil (very unlikely to bust, should remain relatively healthy with a long career)
    2. Richardson (would have rated No. 1 but running backs incur a tremendous amount of damage and a higher injury likelihood than left tackles)
    3. Claiborne
    4. Blackmon (early first round wide receivers, such as Mike Williams and Roy Williams, have seemingly been more likely to bust than offensive linemen, running backs and cornerbacks)

      Highest Valued Position:

    I read various opinions on these scenarios from a plethora of NFL people.  

    The positions of left tackle, cornerback and wide receiver are three of the most highly valued on the field.  Wide receivers have been valued higher of late by many, especially with the recent offensive emphasis throughout the league. 

    Here is the overall consensus (with my own assertions factored in):

    1. Left Tackle (only one on the field at a time; protects quarterback’s blind side)
    2. Corner/Wide Receiver
    3. Running Back

    In this ranking system, the player with lowest point total wins.  The players ranked as follows when adding up the totals:

    1. Kalil (six points)
    2. Blackmon (10 points); Richardson (10 points) 
    3. Claiborne (11 points)

    That said, I would stack my board based on the preceding totals in the table above and take whichever of these players is available, in this order: Kalil, Blackmon/Richardson, Claiborne.

    Again, St. Louis has two early second-rounders and the second pick of Round 3.  If they do not grab a wide receiver in Round 1, they can grab a couple receivers in Rounds 2 and 3.

    Prospects such as Reuben Randle, Steven Hill, Alshon Jeffery, Dwight Jones, Brian Quick and Mohamed Sanu could be available there. 

What If the Rams Trade Down?

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    Depending on the general area the Rams trade down to (if they were to do so), St. Louis should have some great alternatives to choose from. 

    If they trade into the No. 8 to No.14 area of Round 1, some legitimate options there might include defensive tackles Dontari Poe or Fletcher Cox (to pair with newly-signed Kendall Langford), offensive tackles Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin, cornerbacks Stephen Gilmore or Dre Kirkpatrick or wide receiver Michael Floyd.

    If St. Louis were to move down into the No. 15 to No. 20 range of Round 1, some alternatives likely available that would make sense include wide receiver Kendall Wright, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, offensive guard David DeCastro, outside linebacker Melvin Ingram or any of the preceding players mentioned in the No. 8 to No. 14 area who have slid to this region of the draft. 

    If the Rams do not like what is available at No. 6, do not expect a reach.  

    Fisher and Snead will not panic or mortgage the future to reach for a player needed now. Instead, expect a trade down in that situation and the gathering of more picks.

    Keep in mind, if the Rams were to trade all the way down into the No. 15 to No. 20 portion of Round 1, they would pick up more in return than a trade down to the No. 8 to No. 14 area. 

    That would be the case because it would obviously take more compensation from a team to be able to get the Rams to move down to No. 15 the No. 20 area than for the Rams to trade to a spot closer in proximity to their No. 6 pick.

    For a better idea of what the Rams could expect in return, take a look at the NFL draft value chart.

    Whatever the Rams ultimately decide to do on draft day, it will be extremely interesting to watch the process play out. 

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