As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. While some Rams fans might consider it puke-worthy to “flatter” division rival Seattle, it might be wise to imitate the draft approach that built the core of their reigning Super Bowl champion squad.
Since the regular season ended, their has been mass speculation surrounding what the Rams will do with their two first round picks in May’s draft, nos. 2 and 13 overall. The team has obvious needs that they should strongly consider addressing with both picks – namely offensive tackle, safety, and cornerback – but the presence of some potentially special players at the defensive end and wide receiver position have been the basis for this offseason’s raging “want vs. need” debates.
Last week’s addition of wide receiver Kenny Britt coupled with some prior statements made by head coach Jeff Fisher make the selection of Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins seem less-and-less likely at second overall (even though it shouldn’t). However, if that’s the case, it appears that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Cowney or one of the draft’s top two offensive tackle prospects –Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews or Auburn’s Greg Robinson – will be taken with the Rams’ first pick (barring a trade back).
While taking one of the offensive tackles first and filling a need in the secondary at 13 may not represent the flashiest of picks, there is a very successful model for this approach that essentially began the Seahawks’ trek towards their 43-8 thrashing of the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
In 2010, the first year under new head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the team found itself in a similar position as this year’s Rams. The prior regime, under general manager Tim Ruskell, had fleeced the Broncos out of their 2010 first round pick the year prior, when Denver offered it to them in exchange for their 2009 second round pick (37th overall). It was a baffling deal from an outside standpoint – trading next year’s first rounder for a current second rounder – but it was a deal that was too good to pass up. The Broncos would use the pick on cornerback Alphonso Smith.
After the 2009 season saw the Seahawks finish 5-11 in the final year under head coach Jim Mora Jr., they found themselves in the top-10 of the draft with pick no. 6 overall in the first round. Additionally, the Bears would finish 8-8 and allow the Seahawks to pick at 14th overall with Chicago’s pick secured the year prior. Strikingly similar to the position the Rams now find themselves in.
What makes it stranger is that the Seahawks found themselves with very similar needs to those of the post-2013 Rams. They needed to find their left tackle of the future, a role that 2009 starters Sean Locklear and Ray Willis weren’t likely to fill. They needed to shore up a secondary that was part of the league’s sixth-worst defense against the pass. They needed help along the defensive line, and there was a potentially elite defensive tackle prospect to be had in Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh. Finally, they needed an injection of talent and youth at wide receiver after 2009 saw their corps fail to crack 1,000 yards by any single member and be led in receptions by the aging T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Basically, the Seahawks could have gone a number of ways with their combination of picks in the top half of the first round. Ultimately, though, they’d end up playing it safe and addressing their core needs. For what it’s worth, their decision was made a bit easier by a lack of any clear top-10 receiving prospect outside of the “distraction”-plagued Dez Bryant. However, the 2010 draft became the foundation for their current success.
At no. 6, the Seahawks had missed on tackle Trent Williams out of Oklahoma but scooped up his Big 12 rival Russell Okung, out of Oklahoma State. Okung has had some injury issues, but is a Pro Bowl-level player when healthy. At 14, they added safety Earl Thomas, a three-time Pro Bowler and first member instilled in the famous “Legion of Boom.”
Going tackle-safety with their two first round picks (again, barring a trade) seems like one of the most logical outcomes for the Rams, and it seemed to work out OK for Seattle in 2010. Additionally, the Seahawks were able to address their other major needs very successfully in later rounds. Wide receiver Golden Tate was picked up with the team’s second round pick, and they were able to add fellow LOB members Walter Thurmond and Kam Chancellor in rounds four and five, respectively.
I should clarify all this by saying that following this model obviously won’t guarantee the same level of success for the Rams, but rather it serves as another discussion point among the endless amounts already out there as to how the team should allocate their selections. The 2010 Seahawks found themselves in a similar draft situation and with similar needs as the current Rams, added their left tackle of the future and an elite safety in the first round, shored up other needs later on, and it turned out OK for them. Just saying.
Still, if the Rams wanna go ahead and take Watkins at 2, I’ll still be the first one to lead the chorus of cheers. Hooray, options!