Just lose, and Rams picking first in draft
The last time the St. Louis Rams had the No. 1 pick of the
draft, they traded up for the rights to select future seven-time
Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Pace.
A decade later they’re on the verge of getting a top pick they
truly earned. Just lose one more time to the San Francisco 49ers in
the finale Sunday, set a franchise record for futility at 1-15, and
the lowly Rams will be on the clock for months instead of
It’s a spotlight they’ll try their best to avoid, even if it
costs them a shot at Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh.
A victory Sunday that could hand the top pick to the Lions
(2-13) for a second straight year if Detroit loses at home to
Chicago isn’t wholly unlikely. The 49ers (7-8) shut out the Rams
35-0 in October, although it was only 7-0 at halftime. San
Francisco has a six-game road losing streak and was a touchdown
favorite against a team that’s lost by an average of 16 points, but
has been a lot more competitive at home.
“Do I wish we didn’t have the first pick? Certainly,” general
manager Billy Devaney said in an interview with The Associated
Press. “Selfishly, I hope Detroit gets it. Either way, in reality
if you’re picking one or two, it means you had a pretty crappy
That was the case in 2008 with the Dolphins, who took offensive
tackle Jake Long at No. 1. And with the Raiders in 2007
(quarterback JaMarcus Russell).
Only one team has had the No. 1 pick twice this decade, the
Texans in 2002 (quarterback David Carr) and 2006 (defensive end
Mario Williams). But this is the third straight year the Rams have
Kevin Demoff, Rams vice president of football operations, said
picking first rather than second would cost the Rams about $1
million per season for the life of the contract unless it’s a
quarterback. Money considerations aside, coach Steve Spagnuolo
wants to go out a winner and so do players.
Center Jason Brown wanted no part of a conversation about a loss
Sunday being a plus for the franchise, saying “Next
Whether it’s the first pick or the second, the Rams say it’s way
too early to be in the predicting business. Demoff pointed out many
scouts had Suh and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy “neck and neck” as the
top defensive tackle in the nation before Suh’s dominant outing
against Texas in the Big 12 championship game.
Demoff expects the gap between the players to close in the next
few months, unless Suh dominates again at the Senior Bowl and the
“Handicapping the draft in December is one of the most futile
exercises,” Demoff said. “Everything changes over four
Devaney said the Rams haven’t even begun to put a draft board
together and guessed they might have as many as five finalists for
the top pick – if they don’t trade it away.
“I think it’s awesome there’s so much talk about the draft,”
Devaney said. “Suh is what everybody says he is, he’s the real
deal. But will there will be other real deals? Who knows?”
The Rams have plenty of experience at the top of the draft
lately, going a sorry 6-41 since 2007 under three head coaches who
each had his own method of judging talent. St. Louis picked second
the last two seasons, taking Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith in
April and Virginia defensive end Chris Long in 2008.
They believe they hit the mark with both players, even if it
hasn’t helped the record yet.
“No one player can come in and change everything,” Long said.
“Certainly not quickly, especially. It’s a team sport and we all
have to just continue to try to get better and trust in the things
that coach Spags is doing.”
Long has been the Rams’ best defensive lineman against the run
most of the season and has lately stepped it up in the gaudier
aspect of his position, pass rushing. He’s second on the team with
five sacks, one more than his rookie season, and has come close
countless other times with team-leading totals for quarterback hits
(13) and quarterback pressures (7).
Devaney is completing his first season as GM, but had a say in
Long’s selection. He said the decision was unanimous on the
“He played well early on but wasn’t getting the sacks and that
was the focus, and rightly so,” Devaney said. “He’s played the
run outstanding all year and now his game has become
Smith returned to practice Wednesday after missing five games
with a concussion, but is unlikely to play in the finale. Before
the injury Nov. 22 at Arizona, Smith had established himself on a
unit opening holes for Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson.
“We had a little personality and things started to click for
him,” Devaney said. “He’s going to be a heck of a player, and he
showed everybody what he’s capable of.”