The gift that keeps on giving.
No, it’s not the Jelly of the Month Club, all you Christmas Vacation devotees. It’s the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. When the Rams traded down four spots last year, from No. 2 overall to No. 6, it allowed Washington to move up to take Robert Griffin III. In addition to the sixth pick in the ’12 draft, Washington gave St. Louis a second-round pick in 2012 and first-round picks in 2013 and 2014.
Sunday’s final scores mean Washington’s first-round pick is the second overall, and so the results for St. Louis are real, and they’re spectacular. (Okay, I’ll stop with the bad movie/TV references.) The Rams have made five trades involving the original pick or the tentacles of that pick, and have six players from the trade under contract today.
But at the end of the day, the original trade down with the Redskins will only be very good for the Rams if Sam Bradford becomes an upper-echelon NFL quarterback. And by the time the Rams know whether he will be, the fruits from the trade will already be used up. Bradford, of course, is about six weeks out from ACL surgery and is projected to be fully healthy for the start of training camp in seven months.
What the Rams have gotten so far:
Starters (4): Defensive tackle Michael Brockers (first round, 2012), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (second round, 2012), linebacker Alec Ogletree (first round, 2013), running back Zac Stacy (fifth round, 2013—he cost one additional sixth-round pick).
Backups (2): Running back Isaiah Pead (second round, 2012), wide receiver Stedman Bailey (third round, 2013).
Waived (1): Guard Rokevious Watkins (fifth round, 2012), now a backup in Kansas City.
The big whiff was Pead, who hasn’t been good enough to earn a No. 2 job; fifth- (Stacy, before being named the starter this year) and seventh-round (Daryl Richardson) backs have beaten him out for that. Jenkins and Brockers have been middling but solid starters, Ogletree has made some splash plays and looks like a keeper, and Stacy is one of the best 2013 draft bargains; he’s good enough that the Rams won’t have to make running back a priority entering 2014.
Now? As you read further up, St. Louis brass is likely to look to churn the pick again this year. If Cleveland is in love with a quarterback and wants to move up—or if any team is—the Rams will listen and try to turn another high first-rounder into multiple good prospects.
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My current problem with quarterback-prospecting …
… revolves around Matt Flynn. I look at Oakland, where Flynn was shipped in the offseason, and I see the Raiders floundering at the position after cutting bait with him nearly three months ago. I see the Bills, who did the same after a short trial with Flynn when E.J. Manuel was down. And I say: You’re telling me Matt Flynn couldn’t have helped either team, either playing or by providing depth? I say this after watching the Packers for the past month, because Matt Flynn saved their season. Matt Flynn made the return of Aaron Rodgers Sunday in Chicago relevant. Without Flynn, Scott Tolzien would have given it the ol’ Badger try … and failed.
There isn’t a team right now in the NFL that wants to hand Matt Flynn the reins to run the team for the next five years. Understood. But the cavalier treatment of him, particularly in a quarterback-needy place like Oakland, troubles me. When I was in training camp with the Raiders, I remember GM Reggie McKenzie telling me Flynn wasn’t the most gifted athlete with the biggest cannon, but he was smart, confident and the right guy to lead the Raiders in a time of transition. Boom. Ten weeks later he’s on the street.
Finally back in his comfort zone, Green Bay, Flynn orchestrated a tie and two wins in his five games. He was good, not great. But I would submit that if you watched Flynn in the second half of the Minnesota tie and the two wins (Dallas and Atlanta), you’d see a quarterback who belongs on the roster of a good team, and starting for some teams. After trailing Minnesota (20-7), Atlanta (21-10) and Dallas (26-3) early in the third quarter, Flynn led Green Bay to 65 points in the three second halves and put up these numbers:
|Completions/Attempts||Completion %||Yards||Yards per Attempt||Touchdowns||Interceptions||Rating|
Bottom line: If you know what Flynn is as a quarterback—and former Packer exec McKenzie did know what he was—why be impatient with him? Especially when the realistic goal of the Raiders this year should have been to get the quarterback right for the future. Based on the last month, Oakland has zero idea who its quarterback is for 2014.
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2014 scheduling tidbits I love.
With the end of the regular season, we can now look ahead to the intriguing storylines impacting games next year.
RG3-Luck. Washington is at Indianapolis, and the first two picks of the 2012 draft will, presumably, face off for the first time.
The tables, and home team, will be turned in Manning-Luck. Indy will play at Denver.
Brady-Manning XV. The most familiar non-division rivalry in recent football history, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, happens for the 15th time in 14 seasons since Brady took over the starting job in New England. Just think: If Manning didn’t miss the 2011 season with a neck injury and Brady didn’t miss most of 2008 with a torn ACL, it could be 17 times in 16 seasons. (Then again, maybe the Colts wouldn’t have dumped Manning for Andrew Luck if the former was healthy in 2011.)
Jim Harbaugh will get a closeup of what he missed. Niners at Denver. Harbaugh went after Peyton Manning two Marches ago and lost him to the Broncos.
Why the NFL needs a permanent, annual rivalry game for every team. San Francisco travels 38 miles around the Bay to face the Raiders—the first time since 2002 they’ve played in Oakland. Steve Mariucci and Bill Callahan were the head coaches that day, and Jerry Rice ran routes for the Raiders.
And speaking of rarely played intrastate rivalries … St. Louis at Kansas City. Houston at Dallas. Games like this should happen every season, and those teams without a great natural rival should invent one. Dallas and the Giants are half a country apart, but that got to be a great rivalry because of the frequency of the game. It can happen anywhere, and the beneficiaries would be fanbases like Washington’s and Baltimore’s, where a great rivalry between those two teams would develop.