Rams draft: The case for trading down
MAY 08, 2014 9:33a ET
ST. LOUIS -- When they met with the media for their pre-draft press conference Tuesday, Rams coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead did just about everything they could to avoid revealing anything about their strategy for their No. 2 overall pick in tonight's NFL Draft.
The coach did reveal one interesting nugget, however.
"We've identified six to eight players that we think potentially could fit us at (No.) 2," Fisher said.
He has no interest in disclosing who those six to eight players are, of course, but that small revelation could speak to the plans that St. Louis has for that pick. If the Rams are really considering that many players at No. 2, it would make a lot of sense to trade down a few spots, pick up an additional draft pick and still select a player they like.
In the last of our series of stories on what the Rams could do with that pick, we look at that option -- something St. Louis has already had success with in the Fisher/Snead era.
WHY TRADE DOWN?
The Rams are in this spot, at No. 2 overall, because they traded down in the 2012 draft with Washington, also known as the Robert Griffin III deal.
St. Louis traded the No. 2 pick in 2012 for three first-round selections (in 2012, 2013 and 2014) and a second-rounder in 2012, which the Rams used to take cornerback Janoris Jenkins. That 2012 first-rounder, No. 6 overall, was traded for a first-rounder (defensive tackle Michael Brockers) and a second-rounder that year, and the second-rounder (used by the Bears to take wide receiver Alshon Jeffery) was then traded for a later second-rounder (running back Isaiah Pead) and a fifth-rounder (offensive lineman Rokevious Watkins).
Got all that?
In 2013 the Rams had the No. 16 and No. 22 (from Washington) picks in the first round but ended up trading up from 16 and then back from 22.
St. Louis traded the 16th pick, a second-rounder, third-rounder and seventh-rounder to the Buffalo Bills -- the highlights were the Bills taking quarterback E.J. Manuel in the first and linebacker Kiko Alonso in the second -- for the No. 8 overall pick (wide receiver Tavon Austin) and a third-rounder (safety T.J. McDonald).
The Rams traded No. 22 and a seventh-rounder in 2015 for the No. 30 overall pick (linebacker Alec Ogletree), a third-rounder (wide receiver Stedman Bailey) and a sixth-rounder that they packaged with another pick so they could move up to select running back Zac Stacy in the fifth round.
So the Rams basically turned the No. 2 pick two years ago into a package of players that included Brockers, Jenkins, Ogletree, Bailey, Stacy and others and still sit in the same exact spot at No. 2 overall again in 2014.
This draft doesn't have a quarterback prospect like RGIII that teams will have to trade up to No. 2 to get, but there's still some value there.
If the Rams really have six to eight players they like for that spot, then they could trade back somewhere in the top eight to 10 picks and still get a player they like while picking up an additional draft pick or two.
St. Louis already has 12 picks in this year's draft, which probably gives them the flexibility to move up at a later time if they want to.
"You've got 12 picks; make the most of the opportunity," Snead said. "That could be using some of your picks to go up and get a guy. It could be trading a pick for a better pick in the future. It could be picking a better player there. ... You're going to have picked people before, and you want to look at everybody and say, 'If we pick this player, what's his role on this team, the next two or three years,' and try to make the best choice. So whether it's using those picks to go get people you want or actually picking players, you just want them. ... I'd say just stack good decisions. Make them one at a time. Try to stack as many good decisions as possible and there will be a flywheel, there will be a snowball effect and guess what, it'll turn into good things."
This is also the last chance to take advantage of that 2012 trade with Washington.
"I think it's important to nail this draft," Snead said. "It probably has nothing to do with the RGIII trade. Any draft you want to nail, but to your point, we've been given some extra shots at the basket. If we can turn those into points, per se, you've got a better chance of winning down the line. You definitely want to take advantage of it, but there's no one draft more important than the other."
The Rams don't have to look far to see how teams have turned later-round draft picks into success on the field. The NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have mined gold with those picks.
Seattle drafted cornerback Richard Sherman in the fifth round in 2011, Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor in the fifth round in 2010 and franchise quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round in 2012.
San Francisco selected quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second round in 2011 and Pro Bowl linebacker NaVorro Bowman in the third round in 2010.
The more picks a team has, the more opportunities it has to find difference-makers. The Rams have proven that the past two years by finding starters in the later rounds such as Stacy and McDonald.
WHY NOT TRADE DOWN?
The Rams have plenty of options.
If there is a player they really want -- let's say, as a guess, offensive tackle Greg Robinson or wide receiver Sammy Watkins -- there's a good chance they won't be able to trade down too far and still grab one of those players.
This is where Fisher's estimate of six to eight players comes in. If they'd be happy with any of those players, then they'd feel good to trade down and add additional picks. If that number is inaccurate, or if they have a particular player they really like, they should stay put and take the best player available and continue to build a strong foundation for the future.
Based on the Rams' manipulation of their first-round picks the past two years, don't be surprised if they make at least one trade in the first round Thursday night.
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at email@example.com.