Best- and Worst-Case Scenario for St. Louis Rams' Top 3 Picks

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVApril 14, 2015

Best- and Worst-Case Scenario for St. Louis Rams' Top 3 Picks

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    The St. Louis Rams will be on the clock with the No. 10 pick in several weeks. It's time for the franchise to visualize the possible scenarios and determine the best and worst courses of action. 

    While the St. Louis front office and scouting department has been working on these tough decisions far longer than any of us, it's still safe to say that the fans have certain desires. If the Rams' draft-day strategy does not meet the collective expectations of the fans, the cries of anger will be heard. 

    This article will outline the best and worst scenarios for St. Louis' first three picks. If the Rams nail all of these best-case scenarios in the first three rounds, the fans will be ecstatic.

Few Wrong Answers in Round 1

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    Best Case: Fix the Offensive Line or Take Best Playmaker Available

    There are two key trains of thought when it comes to St. Louis' first-round strategy. There's the safe path with minimal risk, and then there's the path with high risk and high reward. Neither answer is wrong. 

    The safe strategy involves grabbing one of the many first-round prospects on the offensive line. This can be done with the No. 10 pick, or the Rams can move back, gain extra picks and still get a decent lineman. 

    Brandon Scherff of Iowa is likely the most pro-ready rookie lineman from this class. His pass blocking is a work-in-progress but still solid, and his run blocking is top-notch. He's also a versatile player capable of playing four different positions on the line, so that's a definite plus. 

    Miami's Ereck Flowers also makes sense. His pass blocking could be a major liability, but he's the strongest and nastiest road grader from this class. If St. Louis is determined to run the ball, he can certainly help in that department. 

    The other option—the high-risk, high-reward option—would be to pass on a lineman and instead grab an electric playmaker. 

    Amari Cooper of Alabama and West Virginia's Kevin White are the top two choices. Either player will add a much-needed boost to a very stale St. Louis offense. 

    Whether the Rams draft a lineman or take a gamble by going for the playmaker, there are few scenarios that will upset the fans. 

    Worst Case: Overthinking It

    The two scenarios mentioned above are basically common sense. However, sometimes logic can be elusive for general managers who overthink things. 

    Les Snead is a natural deal-maker. Without a doubt, the Rams will be swapping picks and moving up and down the draft board. If not in the first round, then certainly in the later rounds. The Rams have benefited in the past, but it has hurt them as well. 

    In the 2012 draft, the Rams traded down in the second round, dropping from No. 45 to No. 50 overall. The move allowed St. Louis to recoup a lost fifth-round pick from an earlier transaction. 

    The Rams only dropped down five spots, but they missed out on Alshon Jeffery and Bobby Wagner in the process. Instead, they ended up with running back Isaiah Pead, who has been a complete bust. And the fifth-round selection they regained was wasted on lineman Rokevious Watkins, who lasted one season. 

    If the Rams are in love with a certain player who can be had at No. 10, they better go get him. Unless a blockbuster trade offer is on the table, it's unlikely that trading down and earning one or two extra picks will make a major difference. 

    Having said that, if the Rams don't necessarily have their heart set on a certain prospect or if their preferred prospect is gone before their on the clock, then a trade-down scenario would make sense. 

    As long as they don't overthink or trade down just for the sake of trading down, they should be fine.

Rams Must Find a Starter in the Second Round

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    Best Case: Making Up for Missed First-Round Opportunities

    The Rams need help on offense, specifically the offensive line and wide receiver positions. Luckily, this draft is pretty stacked with both. 

    The common consensus is that the Rams will pursue one of those two positions with the No. 10 pick. Anything else would certainly come as a major surprise. 

    It's tough to decide between the two positions. But as mentioned, there's depth in this class, so the team really doesn't have to choose just one—it can have both. 

    If the Rams go with the top lineman available at No. 10, that doesn't mean they won't be finding a No. 1 receiver. There are plenty of options in the second round. 

    Arizona State's Jaelen Strong and Oklahoma's Dorial Green-Beckham are two excellent athletes capable of immediately boosting St. Louis' aerial attack. Both are strong, physical players capable of holding their own against the tough NFC West defensive backs. 

    And if the Rams use that No. 10 pick on Cooper or White, the team can use the second round to grab a starting-caliber lineman. 

    Duke's Laken Tomlinson is a popular choice at guard. If the Rams prefer a tackle (they need help at both positions), Pittsburgh's T.J. Clemmings and Oregon's Jake Fisher should be available. 

    Whatever the order—receiver-lineman or lineman-receiver—it would be a major victory if the Rams come away with a starter at both positions with the two top picks. 

    Worst Case: Pretending That Needs Don't Exist

    One aspect to this regime that's mildly concerning is its radical "best player available" approach. Meaning that the Rams typically draft the highest-rated player on their draft board regardless of position. 

    It's certainly an effective strategy utilized by many successful teams (Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, to name a few), and it's paid off in some instances. Without this strategy, the Rams never would have landed rookie Pro Bowler Aaron Donald (defensive tackle was hardly a pressing need during last year's draft). 

    However, as is true with most things in life, taking it to the extreme can be harmful. If the team drafts blindly, pretending that the offensive line isn't completely in shambles, the outcome could be disastrous. 

    Surely I'm not the only one concerned Jeff Fisher will pass on a starting-caliber offensive lineman in order to satisfy his desire to add another defensive weapon. 

    Reaching for need is rarely a good thing, but the Rams are in trouble if they don't secure a lineman in the first two rounds.

Top Talents Can Be Had in the Third Round

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    Best Case: Finding a Troubled Prospect with First-Round Talent

    Fisher and Snead are entering their fourth season with the Rams and have yet to exceed seven wins. The pressure is surely building, so the Rams need a quick turnaround. 

    In order for St. Louis to right the ship overnight, the front office will need to take risks that carry the potential for a big payoff. 

    The Rams can do that by finding a first-round talent who slipped into the third round due to injuries or off-the-field troubles.

    Green-Beckham was mentioned in the previous slide. He's a likely second-rounder, but seeing him fall to Round 3 wouldn't be a major shock. If that happens, he's a perfect example.

    Another good example is Cedric Ogbuehi of Texas A&M. The offensive tackle was once a lock for the first round, but his stock has been shattered, thanks to an ACL injury during his 2015 bowl game, according to ESPN.com.

    Either player obviously brings a considerable amount of risk, but they're capable of breaking out in a big way under the right circumstances. 

    If the Rams are determined to shake up the NFC West and make a run for the division title, these are the type of bold moves they'll have to make. 

    Worst Case: Drafting Another Running Back

    Fisher and Snead have drafted a running back in the third round or earlier in two of their three drafts with the Rams. It's unlikely it'll happen again, but you never know. 

    The team grabbed Pead in the second round of 2012 and Tre Mason in the third round of 2014. St. Louis also selected Zac Stacy in the fifth round in 2013 and Daryl Richardson in the seventh round of 2012. 

    Fisher loves his running backs. No one can deny that, and it certainly wouldn't be shocking to see him add another this year. Let's just hope it's in the fifth round or later. 

    Mason and Stacy have both demonstrated that they can carry the load if called upon. Both are excellent runners with bright futures (though Stacy was very underutilized last season). The team also has Benny Cunningham, who was an excellent third-down back in 2014 with 45 receptions and 352 receiving yards. 

    As much as Fisher loves the position, it's simply a luxury at this point. There's no immediate need, so the third round is simply too early for such foolishness.

    If the Rams can trade Stacy for an extra third- or fourth-round pick, that would make it easier to swallow. Until then, the Rams must lay off the backs until Day 3.

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