Are the Rams Playing (Losing) for Draft Picks? It Could Appear That Way

Categories: Rams
At some point in time, I honestly have to wonder if the Rams are throwing these games. 

Not completely just going in the tank, mind you; obviously, I think there's a real component of true ineptitude here. Yes, I realize that is a pretty serious understatement, and that this group largely looks like a weekend rec center flag football team playing against real NFL competition most weekends, but hear me out. 

rams-365-713520.gifLook, we all know that the Rams' season is over. In fact, the Rams' season has been over, quite possibly, since the opening kick off of the 2008 football season, when they were announced for the very first time. This simply isn't a team with enough talent, enough good players, to compete. Too many guys who just shouldn't be counted on to do it week in, week out for the Rams to be taken seriously. 

But at stake here is also the future of this team, in the form of the #2 overall draft pick in next year's amateur draft. How valuable is that #2 pick? Well, tough to say, honestly, but the NFL does have a slotting system in place, in terms of how much a team would have to give up in order to gain a given pick. Thanks to that little bit of foresight, as well as a little help from the good folks over at SportzNutz.com, we can get a look at approximately how valuable these draft picks are, at least in relation to one another. 

Take a look at the chart in that link. Pick #1 is worth 3,000 points. Pick #2 is 2,600. Pick #3 is 2,200. Once you get to pick #4 and below, the values even out a little bit. There's no longer quite such a large gap in between them. Thus, you can pretty easily see that the bulk of the value is at the very top, and it's a pretty significant gap between the top few picks. 

Now, what does that actually mean? Well, what it means is that, for a team to put together a package worth a given draft slot, they need to put together a similar number of points, using their own draft picks. In this system, the #1 pick is worth literally twice as much as the seventh overall pick. If a team wanted to move from the #7 slot up to the top slot, they would essentially have to somehow come up with double the value they already have in order to do so.

Looking at the chart again, if we were to go across the board, with this hypothetical team at #7 in the draft order picking in the same spot throughout, we see that, by the NFL's own value system, the #1 pick is worth more than the entire draft of the team that picks seventh.

If you want to move up from seventh to first, you're going to have to offer up something from next year's draft, or some current players that you think could narrow the gap, because you don't have enough value in your whole draft this year to get that move done. 

Now, why am I going into all this math? Well, I'm glad you asked. Looking at this, we can see just what kind of value having a high draft pick establishes. Team's whole futures are built on drafting in the NFL; it isn't like baseball where a team can just buy whatever talent it wants, so long as it has the coin, and draft picks are four-year projections. The NFL has a salary cap, and that changes the equation entirely. Drafting in the NFL is the only way to build a team successfully. You want to see what happens when you draft poorly in the National Football League? Look no further than our own current Rams. 

Or how about this? Personally, I think the value system is a good way to look at it, but if you don't like numbers, then let's try something else. What about some of the players who have been taken second overall in the NFL draft? Not included on that list is the Rams' selection in 2008, Chris Long, who's already beginning to look like a pretty solid choice. 

Guys like Reggie Bush, Julius Peppers, Donovan McNabb, and Marshall Faulk don't just grow on trees, you know. Of course, there is also the infamous Ryan Leaf on that list, but hey, you pays your money and you takes your shot. The point is, the quality of player you typically see taken at #2 in the draft is consistently pretty high. 

So I have to wonder, with all that in mind, when the Rams looked up at the scoreboard on Sunday afternoon and saw that Kansas City was about to go in the crapper again, were there maybe some on the sideline who recognized that as a bad thing? Maybe some who realized that the Chiefs were about to take over that second spot in the draft if the Rams didn't do something quickly? 

Am I accusing the Rams, and Jim Haslett, of throwing the game yesterday? No, I'm not. But when you know perfectly well that your season is over, what are you playing for? Well, for one, a job. But what if the coach already mostly knew he was going to have a job? What if the owner had told him, at some point in time, that he was going to be back, that the organization thought he was the guy to do the job? If you've got a job already for next year, wouldn't it make sense to try and get something that would really help you out for that next season? Wouldn't maybe you, say, not call the most intelligent of plays at times, if you were already looking ahead to what kind of return you're going to get in the future? Would you maybe just ease back off the gas a little here and there? 

If Jim Haslett and the Rams already have an understanding in place as to what is going to happen to him going forward, specifically that they want him to be the head coach next year, the temptation to look forward and try to get the best draft pick possible has to be there. I know it would be for me. When you look at the kind of exponential return you could get from a team trying to move up and nab a player they want, it would be tough to say it isn't a thought. I know it would be for me. 

Maybe the Rams really are this bad. It's entirely possible. But at the same time, both of the past two weeks, the Rams have looked like a completely different team early in the game, while building solid leads, compared to late in the game, when it all seemed to just fall apart in a hurry. 

Maybe they really are just this bad. But maybe, just maybe, someone down at Rams Park already has their eye on the future. 

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