Robert Beck/SI/The MMQB
Robert Beck/SI/The MMQB

What to do at No. 2?

The Rams will have a tough choice May 8. Should they take the best defensive player on the board (possibly Jadeveon Clowney) or boost the offense with Sammy Watkins or a top tackle? Our unsolicited advice for St. Louis, plus mail

Inundated with information—all of it questionable—about what Houston will do at No. 1, we’ve given the Rams short shrift with the second overall pick on May 8. I believe general manager Les Snead will take Jadeveon Clowney if Houston bypasses the South Carolina pass-rusher. But I don’t believe that’s what he should do.

I think Snead and coach Jeff Fisher should go offense here. I’d go with Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins or one of the two top tackles, probably Greg Robinson of Auburn. But the Rams could take Watkins here, and with their second pick of the first round take the third- or fourth-best tackle in the crop—Michigan’s Taylor Lewan or the experienced Zack Martin of Notre Dame (a 52-game college starter). Martin could easily move to guard for a year or two.

Watkins and Tavon Austin would give Sam Bradford the real chance a top quarterback prospect needs. And let’s face it: Bradford still has to be considered a prospect. He hasn’t arrived yet, after four seasons. He hasn’t been the most durable player—he has missed 15 of 64 starts with injury—and his 58.6 percent completion rate confirms he hasn’t been the most accurate either.

The reason the Rams would be smart to address the offense early is simple: They’ll have a very tough time winning the NFC West without an offensive upgrade. They might get lucky and win it once, but the consistency of offensive play just isn’t there. In the past six meetings against the cream of the division, Seattle and San Francisco, the Rams have scored 9, 9 and 13 points (against Seattle) and 13, 11 and 16 against the Niners. That’s 11.8 points a game against the teams you have to beat to win the division … and just four touchdowns in six very important games.

Have the Rams already seen enough of Sam Bradford to make a long-term decision on him? (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Have the Rams already seen enough of Sam Bradford to make a long-term decision on him? (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

If you’re the Rams, do you want to rely on holding potent offenses to 10 points a game? Or do you want to give your team a chance to win when the defense has just a B-minus day? Right now, the Rams, with Tavon Austin and Chris Givens and Austin Pettis, have a passable receiver group. It would be sad if the team went 7-9 or something like that this year, and Bradford struggled, and the front office would have to make the call on keeping him or not next February. They’d have to judge based on a good but not great group of wideouts. Adding Watkins to the mix would give Bradford no more reason to be mediocre.

On the line, Jake Long is being held together by baling wire at left tackle, and when will the Rams have a better chance to draft his successor than with the second pick in a line-rich draft? Taking another piece for the line could give the team Long and the prospect Joe Barksdale at tackle for the season, with Rodger Saffold and, say, Robinson or Martin inside for at least one year while they learn the pro game.

My feeling is based on the fact that the Steel Curtain of the mid-seventies Steelers comes along once in a generation. The Rams have Chris Long and Robert Quinn, a formidable rush duo. They need a much better offense more than they need a formidable rush trio.

Now onto your email:

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Jake Locker is a career 57.2 percent passer, though his completion rate has gone up in each of his first three seasons. (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Jake Locker is a career 57.2 percent passer, though his completion rate has gone up in each of his first three seasons. (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

PICKING A QB IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. I’m sorry but I don’t feel the slightest bit sorry for NFL general managers needing a QB in this draft. I see three quarterbacks who are winners and have translatable skills. Aside from Cam Newton, the other first-rounders you mention (Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker and you can throw in E.J. Manuel and Brandon Weeden) were bad choices BEFORE we saw them in the NFL. I remember thinking those were all bad and scratched my head. I don’t feel the same way about Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles because they pass the eyeball test. That doesn’t mean they’re a lock to succeed, but honestly we don’t know about any of them really until it happens. I’m a Falcons fan and a Georgia Tech fan. So when the Falcons were considering drafting Matt Ryan I was looking forward to it because I’d seen him at Boston College and knew he was a winner that elevated his program. Look at the quarterbacks taken in later rounds that have become successful like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. They elevated their programs. My message to NFL GMs: Quit pretending this is rocket science. Pick winners.

—Joe

The word “winners” is important. There’s something about a quarterback being able to be down 28 in a bowl game—as Manziel was against Duke—and bring his team back to win. Make no mistake—that was primarily a Manziel job. There has to be a measure of competitiveness added into the equation when you consider which quarterbacks are going to make it. But just talking about whether a guy has the winning component can be short-sighted. A competitive guy, a never-say-die guy, who completes 55 percent of his passes, can have all the moxie in the world and won’t maintain success in the NFL because he’s just not talented enough. I remember thinking this about Jake Locker; I didn’t understand where the Titans figured he would be accurate enough. He hadn’t been an accurate passer at all in Washington, and he played four years. That isn’t to say he can’t or won’t succeed; it is simply to say that I believe that Tennessee reached with Locker. In judging all positions on the field, it’s always dangerous to generalize and say the most important characteristic is X, and if you have that you’ll definitely make it. I like competitiveness. I like winning. But you better have other traits, including accuracy, if you want to have a successful career in the NFL.

ELEMENTS IMPACT VIKING STRATEGY? Thanks for the info on the Vikings kickers discussing wind conditions with their colleagues at the University of Minnesota. Do you think the Vikings organization will approach the draft or overall roster management differently knowing that they will play in the elements for the next two seasons?

—Mike Jenn, Coralville, Iowa

Good question. I don’t believe it will have a big impact on the quarterback they pick, because general manager Rick Spielman says that he’d like to redshirt the passer they pick for the 2014 season. If that’s the case, then we’re only talking about one year playing outside, and I doubt it’s going to play much of a factor in their choice. I think one of the things that the Vikings have done across the board is try to factor in how different it will be in terms of strategy to play outside for the next two years. And other than on special teams, I’m not sure how big a factor it’s going to be. The Vikings know they have a very good indoor/outdoor running back in Adrian Peterson, and at least one wide receiver (Greg Jennings) who is very used to playing in the elements. So I don’t think it’s going to play a very big role in who they pick or who they don’t.

ABOUT PAT TILLMAN AND THE HOF. Love your work. Thank you for making football so approachable as well as sharing your thoughts and reflections, I truly look forward to them. Regarding Pat Tillman, the Hall of Fame should create a memorial to honor the NFL/military veterans on the grounds somewhere.

—Jeff, San Clemente, Calif.

TALK BACK

Got a question for Peter? Send it with your name and hometown to talkback@themmqb.com and it might be included in next Tuesday's mailbag.

There already is. It’s a large room with a very respectful display honoring all NFL personnel who have served in the military. Tillman’s Arizona uniform is on display, along with a discussion of his contribution to the NFL and to the post-9/11 society. Veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnman are also honored there. When I discussed Tillman on Monday, in no way did I mean to belittle anything about him—not his football career, nor his military career. I just meant to say that on the basis of football alone, he is not deserving of a bust in Canton. And I think the slope gets very slippery if we put someone into the Hall of Fame alongside the greatest players ever to play, who was a good but not great player, and who is being enshrined for other reasons. As I wrote Monday, where do you stop?

GALLERY: Remembering Pat Tillman on the 10-year anniversary of his death

TEAMS WILL REGRET REACHING FOR QB. Do you think that NFL writers and broadcasters, yourself included, make the statement that “you don’t need to draft a QB in the first round, just look at Tom Brady and Russell Wilson” somewhat cavalierly? I think we all know what the underlying message is, and we all know the 50/50 odds of drafting a medium to long-term starting QB in the first round; but I think the message of getting a good NFL QB in the mid-rounds is portrayed in a manner that suggests the odds are similar to a first-round QB. I’m guessing here, but I would think drafting a quality QB from round 3 onward would be 10-15 percent at best. 

—Joe, West Virginia

Excellent point. For me, it’s not that I think that a quarterback picked in the third or fifth round has a great chance to be successful. It’s more that I believe in this year’s draft, every one of these quarterbacks has some major flaws. And in a draft with so many outstanding prospects, why take a quarterback who will make general managers have a knot in their stomachs thinking they just over-reached? I believe that teams reached for quarterbacks in the first round in 2011. Teams should learn from history, and not reach like that this year.

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57 comments
DavidLindsay
DavidLindsay

Ideal scenario for the Rams in my mind - Clowney is available, they take him, with a pre-arranged trade down a few spots with someone who really loves and needs him, and take either Watkins or Evans (who I think will be a better, more useful pro) plus add some picks, maybe a 2nd.


Then again, as a Texans fan, I'd prefer they do that and take Mack or possibly Barr...

MoshéSimpson
MoshéSimpson

Rams should definitely take Sammy Watkins with the No. 2 pick, and look for the best available Lineman later in the first round—whether or not Clowney is available. The Rams have Long and Quinn as the primary outside rushers, so I don't see Clowney cracking that lineup for considerable snaps. And if they are thinking of taking him and converting him to Linebacker, then you might as well draft Mack and get it over with. Bradford has had the least amount of help at the WR position than most other young quarterbacks: Stafford/C. Johnson, Dalton/ A.J Green, Kapaernick/ V. Davis, Crabtree, A. Boldin, Matt Ryan/ R. White and J. Jones, etc. 


Yes, it's intoxicating to watch the Seahawks win the Super Bowl the way they did, and your division holds two of the top defenses in football. Which means that (a) you better be able to protect your quarterback, and (b) you better give the secondary something to worry about in pass coverage. Rams have a decent defense, and may be a couple of players short of being great, but Clowney does not help them score points, he will not protect Bradford, nor help him in this development as an NFL quarterback. Young quarterbacks need guys who can make plays more than they need to ball to be spot-on accurate. Sammy Watkins can help Bradford make a few more completions just from being able to "go get it!" They passed on Blackmon in the past, to pass on Watkins would be a blunder.

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

stop the pat tillman madness.  his life wast worth more than anyone else who gave their life for this country

digitalsundog
digitalsundog

Thank you Mr. King for your well written report about the QB's in the 2011 draft.   I was just telling friends that this years class of QB's reminded me of 2011.   I completely agree with the assessment that picking skill position players from a deep draft this year makes more logical sense from a team looking for consistent long term success, than over reaching for a QB in the first round.  Seattle's team last year reminded me of Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcell's teams from the 1980's.  Modest but solid QB play, emphasis on a strong running game and drafting and trading for an above average defense.  That may not fit the term "today's NFL", but it most certainly reflects a solid, proven system of team building for success!

JackReacher32
JackReacher32

"For me, it’s not that I think that a quarterback picked in the third or fifth round has a great chance to be successful. It’s more that I believe in this year’s draft, every one of these quarterbacks has some major flaws."

I am absolutely with you here Peter. Each of the top 4-5 QBs that are potential starters have serious issues with how they approach the game or did not play high enough competition to warrant a first round pick. That said, I think we are going to see a team reach for a QB given the nature of public pressure to find a signal caller. 

I find it odd that there is continued discussion about Sammy Watkins being a top 10 pick despite his just OK speed and his less than impressive combine numbers. Additionally, playing in a relatively weak ACC made him look better than he will look once he gets on to an NFL field. He is not going to out-jump very many CBs or FS for 50/50 balls, he is rarely going to run past said players, and his 211lbs frame is not so daunting that CBs are going to worry about losing at the line in press coverage. To me Watkins has all the signs of a reach at the WR position and very little indicator that he can ever be more than a decent #2 option.

Redskins
Redskins

"I believe general manager Les Snead will take Jadeveon Clowney if Houston bypasses the South Carolina pass-rusher. But I don’t believe that’s what he should do."


Because, of course, the guy who writes this column (I do not mention his name because I find it offensive) has so much GM experience. What? None, you say? Well, certainly coaching experience. What? None of that either? Well then he is drawing on his career as a player. WHAT? you're kidding. Usually someone has to have some expertise, aha I forgot, that rule never applies to bloviators!

Buck2185
Buck2185

Enough about Manziel already. He is going to be a size large bust. He will join a gang with DeSean Jackson, go for late night drives with Jim Irsay, Get hopped up on Adderall and talk like a loud mouther punk in an interview with Erin Andrews, get heavy into drinking and carousing, gain 50 lbs, change his name to Jamarcus, and be out of football within several years....

RosaNosabe
RosaNosabe

Agree. Rams should load up their offense and see where Bradford takes them. If he's still mediocre, then take solace to the fact that there's and excellent QB class next year 

Ciscos
Ciscos

The Rams have it just as hard as the Texans. Lots of arguments to grab a WR, but let's think about it for a second.


The WR draft in this draft is one of the deepest it's been in years. The Rams have the 2nd and the 13th pick of the draft. They have room with the 13 to move up, but would who they want to get still be there? I doubt it because most clubs are eyeballing the same players.


Sammy Watkins. The Rams could grab him at the No. 2, but OT's like Robinson and Matthews are rare. Extremely rare. Even more, OTs like those two are 7-10 year type of OTs - which makes them that much more valuable.  But can the Rams grab/find a WR just as talented as Watkins. I think so.


If the Rams go OT at the number 2, they have maneuverability with the 13. They can move up or sit and grab Mike Evans (I wouldn't, but they would. Even more, he'll probably be gone by then), Odell Beckham Jr. (I would), Brandin Cooks (most def would), Marqise Lee (Absolutely), Kelvin Benjamin (Yup), Paul Richardson (for sure), Dri Archer and Josh Huff (I'd probably lean toward Huff more, but Archer's speed is unavoidable).


The only thing that blows this draft up is if the Texans don't take Clowney. I'd be hard pressed to believe the Rams would pass on him too.

The Rams are sitting pretty this draft. 

AnthonyAveyard
AnthonyAveyard

When comparing Qbs taken in the 1st round with those drafted in the mid rounds it's important to note that the "golden children " are almost always given preferential treatment / multiple chances to succeed while the later round guys need to prove they belong . No-name Qb's are relagated to taking limited 2nd / 3rd team reps ( and sometimes with a few sub -par outings are dismissed as inferior talent not worthy of further development  )

  Meanwhile the 1st rounders are typically nurtured along and considering their teams' massive investment in money / draft capital are given every chance to succeed . -  sometimes done mainly as a face-saving / job-saving move by GM / HC's .

Wombat
Wombat

Pre-draft coverage is getting to be as ubiquitous and as irritating as pre-election coverage... very few facts, lots of guesses... at least there is very little mudslinging in the pre-draft stuff. Mock drafts I have seen lately; No-QB's, All-QB's, Opposites draft(pick your anti-pick), redraft of 200n, etc. etc. etc... Please believe me Sports Media all of the blood is drained from this particular turnip!

gaybuh1067
gaybuh1067

@digitalsundog the Seahawks just had an "above average defense" last season lol. I'd say it was one of the best of all time.

MoshéSimpson
MoshéSimpson

@JackReacher32  Jack, don't you think that teams should be re-evaluating today's quarterback prospects differently than they used to? When teams picked "sure-fire" No. 1 QBs to rebuild their team, they usually went bust: See Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, etc. And when teams didn't think a player could cut it in the NFL, they were dead wrong there as well: See Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Ben Rothlesburger, Aaron Rogers. Guys like Dan Marino, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck are rare. Most QB's today will not be completely ready for the NFL, so these teams, though desperate, should be looking to the future with some of these prospects—giving them a season or two to grasp the offense and be ready to take over full steam. It worked out well for Aaron Rogers, and Brett Favre even had to stew on the bench for a while until the Packers rescued his career from Atlanta. 


Does this prospect have the tools to be a great QB? Can we give him the time to develop, especially if we do not have great talent at WR? These are the questions that smart GM's should be asking themselves when they look at these QB's in this year's draft.

Icerock
Icerock

@Redskins Your extensive expertise consists of what exactly? HINT: blindly firing back at me by calling me a Liberal just means you have no capacity or skill at intelligent discourse.

msprowles
msprowles

@Redskins  Because, of course, the guy who writes this comment, (I do not mention his name because I find it offensive), has so much journalistic experience. What? None, you say? Well, certainly editorial experience. What? None of that either? Well then he is drawing on his career as a commentator. WHAT? You're kidding! Usually someone has to have some experience, aha I forgot, that rule never applies to bloviators!

Jason1988
Jason1988

The irony in this post is painful. 

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

@Buck2185  again enough with manziel's size brees and wilson are just at 6 foot and oh yeah last time i checked both had super bowl rings

Ciscos
Ciscos

@Buck2185 well at least you gave Manziel seven years in the league. LOL.

EdwardKirby
EdwardKirby

@Ciscos I can see the Rams trading that #2 OAP for two ones, a two and change. I get the feeling they like having two picks in the first round, and would like to extend that streak into the next year as well if they could. If they do that, they can still go OL & WR this year; both in the first round.

CMFJ
CMFJ

@Ciscos  


Agree with all that.  Deep in WR, but also deep along the OL.  Robinson over Clowney would be  tempting because, as you say, this would solidify LT for years.  But the fact that they can still address the OL later and get a good player would make it hard not take Clowney.


I wasn't convinced by PK's concept that two pass rushers is enough and that they don't need three.  More is always better with regard to pass rushers.  

eddie767
eddie767

If I was like most , uninformed, posters, I would've called all kinds of names, after reading first couple of lines. But, after reading whole, point of, comment I think you are completely right. WR, is deep, but the only way to judge Bradford is to see if it's the lack of protection or him that's bad. I don't usually agree with you, but u r spot on this time.

EdwardKirby
EdwardKirby

@AnthonyAveyard Conversely, because of the big money, first rounders are often thrown right into the fire, and if they fail to produce right away -- within two or three years -- they are shown the ropes. That wasn't the way it was in the previous century. Some great HoF QBs had horrid rookie and sophomore seasons before they eventually came into their own.

Meanwhile, the back rounders can sit and absorb as much info as possible before their day in the sun comes. For example, how long did Brady sit?

JackReacher32
JackReacher32

@MoshéSimpson @JackReacher32I am not certain that there is a real need to alter evaluations too terribly much when discussing QBs. Accuracy has and always will be the #1 skill a QB can possess. Footwork and command of an NFL offense set is second on the priority list or at the very least the ability to quickly learn concepts and apply said concepts. Athleticism, in every facet has to come third: arm strength, quick feet, shear speed, elusiveness, etc etc should be the last things GMs covet in their QBs.

Has Kaepernick been OK so far? Sure, but he has shown little ability to read an NFL zone, has proven if he has to stay in the pocket that he is not incredibly accurate, and does not look quite ready to lead a team from the pocket, which is where the majority of QBs are going to win or lose games.

Aaron Rodgers is a fantastic athlete who happens to be a great QB as well. Akili Smith was a phenomenal athlete, but a terrible QB. Drew Bledsoe for the most part was not an incredible athlete, but was an very fine QB. What do most GMs value more? The answer is obvious.

EdwardKirby
EdwardKirby

@MoshéSimpson @JackReacher32 Roethlisberger and Rodgers were first round picks. Favre was a high second round pick traded by ATL to GB for a first rounder.

FWIW, 7 of the last 9 Super Bowl winning QBs were first rounders, and an eighth (Brees) was taken with the 33rd pick (first pick of the second round). Wilson is an anomaly and is the exception rather than the norm these days.

It is getting increasingly difficult to find a Super Bowl-winning QB outside the first round, and even more so for a late sixth rounder (like Tom Brady) or an undrafted gem (like Kurt Warner). Teams are putting a lot more money and effort into evaluating college players over the past ten years or so, and it is likely that very few slip through the cracks these.


The orders-of-magnitude attention that the media is giving the draft lately echoes the scrutiny of the teams themselves.

Mike26
Mike26

@CobyPreimesberger @Buck2185  again with the text-posting coby when are you going to learn how to write something substantive with at least some semblance of structure and punctuation and you really need to stop acting as if all short QB's like Manziel are going to win SB rings especially when seattle won because of defense and not their QB

JackReacher32
JackReacher32

@CobyPreimesberger @Buck2185Go back and watch some footage of Brees and Wilson in college and see how often they just threw balls up for grabs: Now compare that how often Manziel thew up prayers to Mike Evans and you can begin to see why Manziel's reputation for being a gambler is well deserved.

Evans was a man playing amongst children, but pic city is coming to the town that drafts Manziel because of his ill conceived desires to throw into a crowd.

AllThingsConsidered
AllThingsConsidered

@CobyPreimesberger @Buck2185  Any other names than these 2? Statistically, they are an anomaly. So using them as an example that size is not an issue for a QB is a little like saying that Lotto is a viable retirement plan. Sure, it has worked for some...

Ciscos
Ciscos

@CMFJ @CiscosNo kidding with pass rushers!  The name of the game for defense is pressure the QB. if I have two and I can grab a third at a good value, I'm all over it.


I really think in the end, despite all the hand wringing Bill O'Brien and staff are doing, they're going to take Clowney.

Ciscos
Ciscos

@eddie767 Totally agree on Bradford. Frankly I think this is as close to a make or break season for him as there is. The Rams are giving him the players to help.  If he doesn't or can't capitalize on that, his days are numbered.  

I'm glad we found something to agree on today. We can return to disagreeing tomorrow. lol

Wombat
Wombat

@Mike26 @Wombat  That's ok, I'm willing to take hush money... hell, for enough money I'd consider writing a weekly article extolling the beauty that is Roger's vision for the NFL in all it's many forms. Oh, wait. That's been done...

JackReacher32
JackReacher32

@DavidLindsay @EdwardKirby@MoshéSimpson@JackReacher32Thankfully for the Seahawks they had a willing team in my beloved Raiders to take the Flynn dregs from them [very tough to watch].

To your point, it is somewhat odd that teams frequently mention that there are competitions open for a given spot, but it is only for media fodder or to tow the line, and it is never really an open competition for the position.

I am sure locker room moral has something to do with not having certain positions open.

DavidLindsay
DavidLindsay

@EdwardKirby @MoshéSimpson @JackReacher32  Agreed!


What people seem to forget about almost all of the post-pick 33 QBs who have had huge success came in as injury replacements.  Had Bledsoe, etc not been injured, we might never have known who Tom Brady was.  BTW, run his career in reverse (chronologically) and you almost get John Elway...


Russel Wilson is an exception, but honestly, how many Coach/GM staffs would have had the stones to have a true open competition AFTER signing Flynn, then "allow" (not saying that he didn't win it at all, obviously he did) him to win it, at the risk of looking like Grade A idiots if they were wrong?  I'd say those from San Francisco, New England, New Orleans and MAYBE Philadelphia would be the only others who would dare do it in the same situation. Hard to imagine my Texans staff back then even allowing the pretense of competition in the same situation.

AllThingsConsidered
AllThingsConsidered

@Jason1988  It has everything to do with it! I think that "Redskins" intellect - which can be clearly seen in his comment - leaves no doubt about where he stands on the political spectrum...

Jason1988
Jason1988

What does a political affiliation have to do with you rambling? 

DavidLindsay
DavidLindsay

@JackReacher32 @CobyPreimesberger @Buck2185  

Evans was a huge help, to be sure, but Manziel is an extremely smart guy...he will adjust.  Somewhat ironically, the lower he is drafted (even if to the same team - Texans, Jags, Browns, etc), the better his pro career will be.  He has that same sort of chip/eff you that the Seattle d-backs have...

Ciscos
Ciscos

@CMFJ Typing too fast. If they take Clowney, then the Rams can stick to the script. If the Texans don't, then all bets are off. LOL

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