The Secrets In St. Louis

With four weeks until the draft, not much is known about how things will unfold in the first round. The Rams, who own picks No. 2 and No. 13, might hold the key to unlocking the drama. What will GM Les Snead and company do on May 8?

By
Greg A. Bedard
· More from Greg·

Peter King is tending to personal matters after the death of his older brother Kenny in England. Peter and his family greatly appreciate the outpouring of support they have received. Greg Bedard is pinch-hitting for Peter on Monday Morning Quarterback duties this week.

* * *

Thursday will mark the four-week mark from the draft, which is being hailed in league circles as one of the deepest in years. If there’s any team that holds the keys to the major drama that could unfold in the first round, it’s the St. Louis Rams. With the second and 13th overall pick, coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead know the options are limitless, including numerous trade scenarios.

Yes, Snead and the Rams already have opened for business on the trade market.

“We have had some conversations with multiple teams,” Snead said on Sunday night. “They’re more flirtatious calls than anything. We have numbers 2 and 13, but Houston has number one. Nobody can really seriously chat with us until they are happy with at least two players. I think what might happen as we get closer to the draft, maybe it comes to fruition what Houston is going to do, maybe it doesn’t, you have more serious talks probably the week of the draft going, ‘Hey, if our player is there at 2, this is what we’re going to offer.’ I think it will get more serious.”

Snead certainly knows how this works. In his first draft in 2012, the Rams traded the second overall pick to Washington in the Robert Griffin III trade. St. Louis, which was coming off a 2-14 season, received first-round picks in ’12, ’13 and ’14 and a second-round pick in ’12 in exchange for the second selection.

Les Snead took over as Rams GM in 2012. (G. Newman Lowrance/AP)
Les Snead took over as Rams GM in 2012. (G. Newman Lowrance/AP)

Things will likely be different this time around because of the quality of the draft, the apparent lack of surefire quarterbacks and where the Rams are in Year 3 of the Fisher-Snead regime.

In ’12, Andrew Luck was the no-doubt first overall pick. Only two other quarterbacks, Griffin and Ryan Tannehill (eighth to Miami), went in the top 20. Will any of the quarterbacks in this year’s class (Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles) be viewed as such must-haves that a team will move up swiftly to take one? Debatable.

Snead thinks that in this particular draft, you don’t need to be a thrower of the ball to get people interested, not with top positional talents like pass rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack, receiver Sammy Watkins and tackles Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews available.

“I actually think there’s more than one player that people would want to move up for. I just don’t know what they’d want to give to move up,” Snead said. “At the top maybe there’s four or five players who were one step or one notch ahead of the very good, and sometimes a team might say we need to get that guy. You don’t know the value of what people would be willing to give. The fact that there could be multiple teams eyeing one of those guys could drive up the price a little bit.”

The Rams themselves have an interesting dilemma. After two consecutive 7-9 seasons, including last season when Bradford missed the final nine games (ACL), the Rams are knocking on the playoff door. A trade down from either draft spot might keep the team stocked in the draft for years to come, but how will that play if the Rams don’t post a winning season in Year 3 of Fisher and Snead?

“I think the way to get it right is you make the right decision for the organization, and I like to say you make the best decision long term because the short term is by definition short—it won’t last as long,” Snead said. “But because this draft is really good, it’s a good chance for us to take some shots with picks in this draft to improve the team. Not only tomorrow and opening day, but also four and five years down the road.”

The Rams have rebuilt their roster, which won 15 games in the five seasons before Fisher and Snead arrived, to the point where no player save Watkins might play right away at his targeted position. St. Louis has a star end in Robert Quinn, and a very good one in Chris Long, which would put Clowney or Mack in a reserve role, at least initially. The Rams have Jake Long, Joe Barksdale and Rodger Safford as capable offensive tackles, meaning Robinson or Matthews would likely play elsewhere along the line as rookies.

Snead doesn’t mind. He points to when the Ravens took future Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden fourth overall and played him at left guard for a year before Tony Jones was traded.

“Trust me, 14 wins in two years is not the goal. Never has been and won’t be,” Snead says. “We want to start winning more consistently. There’s no question this draft can help us do that.”

“They made a long-term decision and they made it work short term,” Snead said of those Ravens. “At the end of the day, that may have been something that helped Jonathan because you get to go in and get your feet at maybe a less vulnerable position. And in going from tackle to guard, you have to think quicker sometimes so that can make moving to tackle a smoother transition.

“I’ve said this and sometimes people have taken it out of context and they think we have arrived. What I’ve said is we’re pretty much returning everybody at each position who started for us last year. And the only [potential opening] is one of the guard positions. That gives us a chance to say we don’t have to pick someone just to start. So now we can weigh our options moving back [or] staying, taking really, really good football players. A lot of these guys can help anybody, and the more we have the better.”

With the draft a little more than four weeks away, teams will soon begin their final deliberations. Snead said the scouting and the coaching staffs will meet in three of the next four weeks to “fine tune” the draft board. Then the trade talks will become more serious. With the cards they’re holding at the top of the draft, the Rams figure to be very popular. But when the time comes, they’re going to have to make a difficult decision about the present and future in this crucial draft.

“I don’t think I ever look at it as, ‘This is it,’” Snead said. “When we first got here there was a goal to build, develop and coach the football team to win consistently for the long term, but we wanted to do it as rapidly as possible. So as we sit here, as you measure things, we’ve probably moved the needle. Before we got here they had 15 wins in five years, and we’ve had 14 in two. But, trust me, 14 wins in two years—7-9, third and fourth in the division—is not the goal. Never has been and won’t be. We want to start winning back-to-back or multiple games in a row more consistently. There’s no question this draft, where we are, can help us do that. This is a nice draft to have those picks.”

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105 comments
pk_sea
pk_sea

Came here for the gun control diatribe, left disappointed. 

usameos6
usameos6

If teams and coaches want to blame anyone for the players taking a hard line on the offseason during CBA negotiations - they have no one to blame but themselves.  They're the ones that have turned 'voluntary' workouts into a mandatory function and have cut players that did not attend these 'voluntary' sessions (e.g. Willis McGahee in Denver).  Teams are pitching this whole "hey - we just want to chat with them a little bit and help them work on their craft" narrative but the truth is that without defined hard limits, teams would continue to push the 'voluntary' boundaries as much as possible.  

kennyinrockford
kennyinrockford

Someone should let Les Snead know that Steve Jobs is taking off more than 15 weeks from work these days.

Alex(Eugene,OR)
Alex(Eugene,OR)

Regarding the item regarding Golf Digest covers. I find that interesting coming from a writer employed by Sports Illustrated. This is the magazine that gives the swimsuit edition. I don't see an annual Female Athletes edition that devotes a similar number of pages to female athletes coming from Sports Illustrated. Golf Digest is doing exactly the same thing that Sports illustrated does, realizing that their audience is mostly male and catering to that audiences desire to see pictures of women that are mostly attractive. Kinda like the pot calling the kettle black if you ask me.

Bernard4195
Bernard4195

Nice job filling in for Mr. King.  Good insights into the draft and compensatory picks (a topic that needed a clear explanation).  No political sermons a positive as well (at least for those of us that don't share Mr. King's opinion on gun control, the "R-word", etc.).

awall
awall

Steel Rail is a good beer, but BBC's Coffeehouse Porter is truly outstanding!


ps. thanks for the great football coverage.

ShermanRichard
ShermanRichard

Did you know that the A. in Greg A. Bedard stands for a-hole?

badcyclist1
badcyclist1

There is a reason why Kevin Costner is the GM of the Hollywood Browns.  He'll draft Johnny Football and condemn his team to years of unproductive drama and another lost decade.  Art follows life.

magicvilas
magicvilas

BTW Peter, I finally tried some Allagash White. Nice beer, but I was a little underwhelmed.

magicvilas
magicvilas

I think Paulina Gretzky should be on the cover of every magazine, every month, regardless of it's content or focus...

rskins09
rskins09

Sean Taylor .. Has to be one of the best NFL players I've ever seen ..A lights-out hitter who had the speed to play anywhere in a defensive backfield ..PFW  draft report - coming out of  The U  was comparing him to Ronnie Lott .Said coming out of college he was more advanced than Lott .. Saw him play @ Fed Ex field at every Redskin home game .. He could and did take over games ..RIP  Sean ... You were awesome ...

salvaje50
salvaje50

Pretty much all sports.  No lattes, airport complaints or How much a rental car or hotel room cost.  Imagine that.

Go Saints
Go Saints

"Sorry, I don’t haiku" was the best closing haiku since Peter King started doing them.

Judge Smails
Judge Smails

My condolences to the King family on their loss.


Scramble
Scramble

I could see the Ravens taking a look at Chris Johnson. If healthy they could have one of the better offensive lines this year. With a healthy Pitta and Steve Smith possibly filling Boldin's slot, they will have receivers to make circus catches again to give the appearance that Flacco is worth his paycheck and keep defenses honest once again.

Bucky182
Bucky182

I found it laughable when DeSean Jackson readily admitted to being friends with gang members but downplayed it by saying he doesn't hang around them if they "do negative things." So, there are positives to being a gang member? Do these guys volunteer at soup kitchens and read to children at their local libraries?

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip

The draft and player development is the most important thing to Packers GM Ted Thompson.  Let's hope he get's it right this year. I'm going through football withdraws right now, so maybe a little controversy is a good thing.


Bongo
Bongo

Christ, people, if you don't like MMQB don't read it!  Heaven forbid there every be some respectful, rational sports discussion attached to an article on SI.  It seems most of what we get is "this is a worthless article" and similar nonsense.


I try to stay away from stuff I don't like.  It's pretty simple.

westcoastbias
westcoastbias

Talk about Revisionist History: "In ’12, Andrew Luck was the no-doubt first overall pick. "

Anyone else recall all those articles about "who should be #1: Griffin or Luck?"  Seems to me it was a coin flip on draft day - not in the Colts' minds, but in the minds of many evaluators....

pgh71146
pgh71146

Thanks for your comments on Fenway. I lived in Boston area for 20 years and always admired that only John Kiley was heard between  innings.  No charge calls, or electronic messages or commercials. However, much of this environment is still available at a minor league, college or even a high school baseball game.  Stop at one on the way home.

KidHorn
KidHorn

Do you have to be a Red Sox fan to write this column?


How do the Rams control the draft? Do they dictate all the draft picks by every team?

DaveG
DaveG

1) It's the off season.  The off season.  Do you get it: THE OFF SEASON.  If those coaches were permitted they'd have the players in full gear all year long under the heading of "training".  If I have a beef with any of this is that the players are even in the facility during THE OFF SEASON.  The NFL uses them, abuses them and discards them, and you want even more from them during THE OFF SEASON.

2) RE the Golf Digest Paulina Gretzky cover: " ... is a slap in the face to LPGA players from the game’s magazine of record."  Imagine a sports magazine devoting an entire issue to fashion models in skimpy swim suits? Lovely lovely hypocrisy from the magazine which still exists mainly because of the swimsuit issue.   I am shocked and appalled ...

Patrick Santillo
Patrick Santillo

As much as I love the MMQB with Peter, you can fill in anytime - I like your writing style and I'm a coffee home brewer and not much of a Yeungling fan.

davidjcu
davidjcu

The problem with the Rams is that they have depth, but lack playmakers on offense. The defense is sound and competive, but the offense lacks the big play. While Tavon Austin is an explosive player, he is the only threat on offense allowing defenses to key in on him, and simply just have to bend and not break. Playing against defenses in the NFC West where the points are few and far between in it is essential to have a players that can make those 2 or 3 huge plays in a game.

CMFJ
CMFJ

@Alex(Eugene,OR)


Your argument would have more merit if SI had not had female athletes on the cover for the last 3 years.  They have, so really not the same thing.

usameos6
usameos6

@badcyclist1  I think Costner could actually do a better job than whoever has  been running the Browns the last several years ......

Mike26
Mike26

@magicvilas  You have low standards - she's nothing but skin and bones.

Matthew W
Matthew W

@rskins09  

RIP

He dominated the whole defense when he was at the U. Gave Bowden fits....

Buck2185
Buck2185

@Bucky182 Sherman gives them some of his Adderral and it calms them down for awhile

KidHorn
KidHorn

@Bongo If you don't like the comments, then don't read them.

Mike26
Mike26

@Bongo  But that's what people do for human interaction after their moms and dads have gone to work for the day and they're left by themselves in the basement to "find themselves" as 20-somethings.

Mike26
Mike26

@westcoastbias  No, I think most people figured it was Luck; then they felt really confident about it after he signed his deal prior to the 1st round.

Sportsredo
Sportsredo

@KidHorn  Think man. They are said to "control" it because they have more options than anyone with two picks in the first 13. Nobody else is close to that. They can do about whatever they want and the deals should get sweeter up to and including draft day. read the article!!

Buck2185
Buck2185

@KidHorn Yes, you have to be a Red Sox fan to write for this column. You also get bonus points if your head is firmly planted up the NE Patriot rear end.......

nyhoukcdal
nyhoukcdal

@DaveG  The team gym is nicer than anything available outside the NFL, and it is free for them to use.  If you happen to live in the same city where you play, and don't have a lot of non-football obligations, why wouldn't a player be in the facility?

SportPage
SportPage

@DaveG  SI has (for the most part) one issue a year that "non-athletes" grace their sports magazine cover. Of the last 4 covers that Golf Digest had that featured a woman on the cover, 3 out of the 4 have been "celebrities".

Mike26
Mike26

@DaveG  How's the view from that high and mighty pedestal Dave?

Wombat
Wombat

@Patrick Santillo  You know, I'm not much of a beer aficionado but it has been nice to be able to get a Yeungling Lager draft just about everywhere you go now. It is a much better beer that a Miller, Coors or a Bud. Yeungling is good and I don't have to wade through a parade of questionable IPA's to find a gem... there's a lot to be said for consistency.

Mike26
Mike26

@davidjcu  Fisher's teams have NEVER had explosive playmakers on his teams; even in his best years in Tennessee (all 4 of them) he had a grinding-type offense with Eddie George/Steve McNair and then nobodies/Kerry Collins.  He's either really bad at choosing offensive talent or just doesn't let his offensive coordinators ever use it.

Mulva
Mulva

@Mike26 @westcoastbiasNo, westcoast is right. Some in the media claimed Griffin had more upside and Luck was the safe pick. I heard Luck called a "game manager" and having only an "average" arm during the '12 draft process.

I remember hearing similar things in '98 with Manning and Leaf. Overanalysis leads to these sorts of observations.

IdDoHannahStorm
IdDoHannahStorm

@SportPage @DaveGPutting Kate Upton on the cover with the baseball Upton brothers was a bit of a stretch and right in line with the Gretzky cover.

Mike26
Mike26

@usameos6 @davidjcu  Not much for playmakers outside of CJK and the occasional scramble by McNair for a first down.  

AKMessiah
AKMessiah

NotChris Johnson 2000+ Yards Anyone? Not Explosive....McNair Not Explosive?

usameos6
usameos6

@Mike26 @usameos6 @Mulva @westcoastbias  That's the way most ex-QB's end up going .... Simms/Jaws/Theisman/Young, etc.  They make provocative statements to build ratings and page clicks.  While I agree that the overwhelming majority of the media was all about 'suck for luck' and thought that he would be a franchise QB (I heard more Elway comparisons than Manning ones) - there were folks out there that believed that RGIII had more 'upside' and would end up being a better pro.  

Mike26
Mike26

@usameos6 @Mike26 @Mulva @westcoastbias  So?  Nobody saw "big-time" NFL throws from Manning before or during his NFL career = but that seems to have worked out well anyway....


And no, I quit listening to Simms years ago...most intelligent folks do.  He more about drawing attention to himself rather than just doing commentary on the game.

usameos6
usameos6

@Mike26 @Mulva @westcoastbias  I guess you don't listen to Phil Simms then:  “But the one thing I don’t see, I just don’t see big time NFL throws.  I don’t care what anybody says."  

Mike26
Mike26

@Mulva @Mike26 @westcoastbias  I NEVER heard Luck called a game manager at all.  He was considering Peyton 2.0 by most - just without the athleticism of Griffin.

usameos6
usameos6

@Mike26 @AKMessiah  He also completed a high percentage of his passes for 20+ yards - although it's tough to separate how much of that was YAC.  I don't think of him as 'explosive' but did think of him as a playmaker . 

Mike26
Mike26

@AKMessiah  His major plays were mostly an occasional scramble for a first down.

AKMessiah
AKMessiah

For His Time And In His Prime McNair Was A Playmaker, His Stats Don't Look Spectacular Now, Bu He Was A Playmaker No Doubt

Mike26
Mike26

@usameos6 @Mike26 @davidjcu  Correct - he DID have CJK for a couple of years, didn't he?  And he mostly broke his long ones off simple screens and off-tackle runs.  Good call!

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