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Looking Ahead to Day Two of the Draft

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In the end, things probably worked out the way they had to in the first round of the draft. The Rams took their quarterback, and all we can hope for now is Sam Bradford turns out to be who they think he'll be. 

You know, you would think drafting a possible franchise quarterback would have been more exciting, but somehow it sort of wasn't. Having the first pick meant there was no drama in waiting, and it had been a foregone conclusion for weeks that Bradford was the guy. Kind of odd, really. 

So where do the Rams stand going into the second round? I'm glad you asked, because if you hadn't I would have felt bad about forcing you to read this column. 

The first thing which needs to be said as we go into the second round is the same thing said before day one: if the Rams can trade down, they probably should. The difference is that now, the Rams actually have a legitimate shot at trading their pick at the top of the round. Shockingly, Jimmy Clausen is still available, and several teams appear to be very interested in moving up to take Clausen. The Cleveland Browns, who you might recall had brief talks with the Rams over possibly moving up to the top of the first round, are the most likely suitor, but the Buffalo Bills have also reportedly had interest. If the Rams can snag an extra pick or two out of one of those teams in exchange for moving down a bit in the second round, it would probably behoove them to do so. 

However, for now we'll operate under the assumption the Rams hold on to the pick at 33. The top five names I think the Rams should be considering: 

1. Arrelious Benn, WR, Ilinois -- To me, Benn is the best solution for the Rams at 33. They have a receiver corps with a few talented, speedy receivers, but no physical presence to catch passes. Sam Bradford is going to need someone to throw the ball to, and I think Benn makes a ton of sense as a big target who can control the middle of the field. 

There are questions about Benn's production in the 2009 season but I attribute that more to an Illinois team which underachieved as a whole and a quarterback in Juice Williams who had a rough season. Don't get me wrong; Benn receives plenty of blame for the Illini's struggles as well, but I think there's a whole lot more to him than what we saw in '09. I see some Anquan Boldin in him as a physical, possession receiver who can function equally well as a first option or a safety valve. 

2. Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas -- Kindle is the best player remaining on the board, hands down. The only question for him is his health. Sadly, that's a doozy of a question. His knee has been an issue for a long time now, and there is speculation he may need microfracture surgery to regrow cartilage. That's a pretty serious concern for any potential suitor. If not for that, Kindle would have likely been a top 15 pick. 

Even if Kindle does need the surgery, he still might very well be worth the risk, as he is easily the best edge rusher left on the board. He plays with tremendous energy and verve on both run and passing plays, and is a sure tackler with just enough explosiveness to make an impression. He'll need to add some bulk, but that shouldn't be much of an issue on his long, lean frame. In a perfect world, Kindle would add 20 pounds and slide into a strong-side linebacker assignment. It remains to be seen if his knee will allow that to happen, however. 

3. Charles Brown, OT, USC -- First off, how cool would it be to have a guy named Charlie Brown on your team? Of course, I'm sure Mr. Brown has heard it all before and will probably kick the ass of anyone who calls him Charlie Brown or asks him to kick a football or say, "Auugh!" Still totally worth it. 

Beyond the sweetness of his name, Charles Brown is also a heck of an offensive tackle, and would be a nice fit as the Rams try to build a wall to protect their shiny new investment at QB. They took Jason Smith last year, who should end up at left tackle sooner than later; taking Brown to play at right tackle this year would give them two tremendous anchors for the offensive line. At 6'5", 303, Brown still has a little room to add to his frame in the weight room and is already a beast in pass protection. He could use some work on his pulling in run blocking, but that looks to be something he can easily develop. Brown could be a dynamite right tackle at the next level, and would represent a nice confluence of need and value for the Rams. 

4. Rod Gronkowski, TE, Arizona -- All the stuff I said about Arrelious Benn applies in the case of Gronkowski, as he would present the Rams with a chance to get a big possession guy for the passing game. He's got outstanding hands, great size, and enough elusiveness to find open space consistently. Gronkowski should have been off the board long before now but, like Sergio Kindle, has an injury concern depressing his stock. Gronkowski had back issues which kept him out the entire 2009 season and eventually required surgery. Back injuries are scary, scary things, and I personally would be very leery of taking Gronkowski. Still, if his medicals check out and the Rams believe he's healthy enough to be the player he was before his back problems, they could grab a first-round talent in a value position. 

5. Everson Griffen, DE, USC -- Leonard Little is just about at the end of his road, and the Rams need to find some way to create more pressure on opposing quarterbacks in the future. Griffen is the best pass rusher left on the board, a defensive end capable of running right past most offensive tackles and crashing the pocket. There are questions about his consistency and effort, however, as his production simply wasn't there every game at USC. 

Griffen is probably a bit of a reach at 33, but I don't think there's a chance he lasts until the beginning of the third round. He presents the best opportunity for the Rams to upgrade their pass rush, but the questions about his motor and toughness make him a risky pick. 

6. Chris Cook, CB, Virginia -- Another guy who fits with the Rams' positional needs, Cook is the best corner remaining on the board and a personal favourite of mine. He has durability concerns and was academically ineligible for the 2008 season, both which have contributed to him being ranked a bit lower than I think he should have been. Nonetheless, the Rams have a need to improve at the defensive back position, and I think Cook has a ton of upside. I'm partial to tall, more physical cornerbacks as opposed to the waterbug speed guys in the Tye Hill mold. 

Cook has great size and length, with a legitimate 6'2" height as a cornerback. He doesn't have burner speed, but does an outstanding job of using his size and strength to shut off receivers. He also plays the jump ball as well as any corner I've seen in quite a while. Ron Bartell is a good corner, and I personally like Bradley Fletcher, who the Rams selected in last year's draft, but Cook could give the Rams another big, physical cover guy on the outside, and they could definitely use that. Cook is probably a bit of a reach based on draft position, but like Griffen won't last until the third round. 

So what are the chances the Rams take one of the guys on this list? Virtually none. It doesn't matter how sound your thinking is in predicting the draft, teams just almost never do what you expect them to do, and I don't see any reason this year should be any different. Still, that's sort of the fun of the draft, isn't it? 

Personally, my idea of a best-case scenario would be the Rams trading down to the Browns' position, getting an extra pick in the process, and then taking whichever of Benn and Charles Brown is still on the board. We'll see just how it actually plays out, though. 


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