In the draft, the St. Louis Rams must balance need versus best player available

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NFL Draft experts have described offensive tackle Jake Matthews as a “plug-and-play” talent.

But some claim Greg Robinson, while less polished, has the higher upside.

What about wide receiver Sammy Watkins? There are some scouts out there who think he’s the best receiving prospect to come along since Calvin Johnson.

And speaking of the best, how can defensive end Jadeveon Clowney not be the no. 1 overall pick? He’s a freak – one of the best prospects to come along in years.

And don’t even get me (or the scouts) started on quarterbacks. Blake Bortles has the prototypical size and arm strength sought after in a signal-caller.

But Teddy Bridgewater was the presumed No. 1 overall pick during the entire college football season.

And, of course, you can’t ignore Johnny Manziel’s “It” factor.

During this “silly season” of the NFL, rumors fly, players see their stocks rise, other see their stocks fall – all without any actual games taking place. Teams fall in love with a player and convince themselves that he’s the one guy that can put them over the top.

Sometimes this player fills a position of need for a team. Sometimes they’re drawn to the talent of the individual. And in a best-case scenario, the player fits both categories.

The Rams find themselves in an enviable position in the 2014 NFL Draft. With the second and 13th overall picks, they have the luxury of improving their team through a variety of methods (as previously discussed).

What the team shouldn’t do (and based on past history, I’m confident they won’t) is reach for a player with either of those picks just to fill a hole on the roster.

At this stage of their rebuild, the Rams have a solid team. There are no glaring weaknesses. Sure, there are always areas that can be improved (name me a flawless team. Yeah… didn’t think so), but there’s a solid base in place.

But solid hasn’t gotten the Rams into the playoffs. They need impact players around whom other teams game plan. Right now, defensive end Robert Quinn would probably be the only player to fall into that category – while others have a chance to reach that level.

When it comes to the draft, the Rams would be crazy to pass on Clowney (if he somehow makes it past the Houston Texans) just because they also have Quinn and Chris Long. There are far worse problems to have than a defensive end rotation of Quinn, Long, Clowney, William Hayes and others. Especially in a division in which you play Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson twice a year respectively.

If Clowney goes first overall an the Rams think Matthews is the next best player available, they should jump at the opportunity to take him. But if they don’t see much of a difference between Matthews, Robinson or Taylor Lewan, that second pick might be used in a more valuable way – either via trade or on another player.

And looking at the 13th pick, most mock drafts see the Rams lack of depth in the secondary and automatically assume safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be the selection. If the Rams love him, then great. Bring him on board and strengthen the secondary. But if they’re not sold on him, look elsewhere to maximize the value of that 13th pick.

Fortunately I believe those in charge are smart enough to know this already. Plus, the team hasn’t asked me for any draft advice yet. Go with the best strategy – the best player available.

  • Bennett

    Which is why we need do draft Gilbert or Dennard at #13 and a safety (Bucannon or Bailey) in rd. 2