2012 NFL draft a crucial one for Rams

The St. Louis Rams kicked off the draft season when they made the blockbuster Robert Griffin III trade with the Washington Redskins. Now the NFL eyes will soon be on the struggling franchise once again.

A potential football dynasty fondly remembered as “The Greatest Show on Turf” was wrecked by a startling count of draft-day busts that ranged from Trung Canidate to Tye Hill, with the occasional Eric Crouch and Dominique Byrd thrown in.

For too many years now, Rams Park has been the place where premium NFL draft picks go to die.

Since GM Charley Armey was phased out in a power grab by Mike Martz in 2000, a sequence of Rams’ personnel wizards have displayed less skill in finding the target than a bunch of dizzy, blind-folded, fruit-punch-chugging, hyperactive kids staggering around in a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

Where have you gone, Eric Crouch?

Over their past 12 drafts, the Rams have had only one pick, running back Steven Jackson, turn into a Pro Bowl selection.

Hours away from the start of the 2012 NFL draft, new bosses are in charge of player procurement. It virtually is impossible for GM Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher to do worse than their procession of failed predecessors.

That said, we’ve been burned more times than former Rams third-round draft choice Jonathan Wade. So we shouldn’t automatically assume that we’ll be treated to draft-day brilliance from Snead and Fisher.

However If they can’t open a talent pipeline through the draft, then Rams Park will remain an NFL wasteland.

We’ve reached the most critical and intriguing Rams draft in many years. This team doesn’t have roster holes; it has roster craters. The Rams finally can begin to work on the repairs.

Given the glaring weakness of the current talent base, the Rams can’t fill all of their needs with the eight picks in hand. That’s why, to state the obvious, trading down in the first round to collect additional picks is an appealing option. But it won’t be an option unless another team gets jumpy.

Perhaps some quarterback-crazed team will try to leap into the No. 6 spot for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. There’s talk of several teams coveting Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, so the Rams might do well to promote the idea that they’re thinking of taking him at No. 6. There is also a chance that some teams have interest in moving up for Alabama safety Mark Barron.

What we do know is this: If the Rams stand pat, they’ll have three of the top 39 selections, four of the first 65 and five of the top 96 picks.

The Rams should be able to locate solutions. Sure, it would be nice to find a few gold nuggets, but at this point I’d be OK with solid, dependable competence in the Rams’ war room.

Barring a trade, what will the Rams do tonight with the sixth overall pick?

The question is difficult to answer in not knowing what Minnesota (No. 3), Cleveland (No. 4) and Tampa Bay (No. 5) have planned before the Rams go on the clock.

The Rams could use any of the top players who would fall to the sixth slot — be it Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, Alabama running back Trent Richardson, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne or USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil. You also can’t dismiss the DT, Cox, as a possibility, either.

Richardson probably will be gone, unless the Rams want to sacrifice a premium pick to move up and grab him. With so many other needs to address, I don’t see that happening.

The Rams could use an offensive tackle (Kalil), but during Fisher’s 16 seasons at Tennessee, the Titans never used a first-round pick on an OT.

Claiborne would fit, and we shouldn’t rule him out. But he isn’t the physical, banging type of cornerback that Fisher coveted for his defenses at Tennessee.

This leads us to Blackmon. If he’s gone from the board before No. 6, the Rams might have to go for the offensive tackle, the cornerback or the defensive tackle.

Unless, of course, the Rams really like Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd and believe he’s worthy of the sixth pick. Or, unless the Rams are willing to gamble that Floyd still would be there if they slid down in the first round.

If Blackmon is gone, and the Rams don’t view Floyd as a viable alternative, then they’ll have to hit on another position at No. 6 and go for a wideout in the second round.

That’s risky. There could be a run on wide receivers late in the first round, putting the best pass catchers out of the Rams’ reach unless they want to launch a preemptive strike and trade up for another pick in the first round.

The possibilities are enough to make your brain swell, so let’s keep it simple.

If Blackmon is there, take him. And Blackmon sitting there at No. 6 still is the most likely situation. And even if the Rams take Blackmon, then they should seriously consider pulling another wide receiver off the board in the second round. (A.J. Jenkins, anyone?)

While Blackmon isn’t the sixth-best player in the draft. He’s a bit of a reach at No. 6. He isn’t as tall or fast as you’d like, but he’s a beast of competitor. And he is a playmaker. They are in short supply at Rams Park.

It makes no sense to draft quarterback Sam Bradford No. 1 overall, invest $50 million guaranteed in his rookie (2010) contract, then continue to surround him with mediocrity.

It’s hard to disagree with those who say Blackmon isn’t the prototype No. 1 wideout. But here are the names of the seven wide receivers on the Rams’ roster: Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander, Brandon Gibson, Steve Smith, Austin Pettis, Greg Salas and Dominique Curry.

Blackmon might not be Calvin Johnson, but he would upgrade a terribly neglected spot in the Rams’ offense.

Shane Clemons

About Shane Clemons

Shane Clemons came from humble beginnings creating his own Jaguars blog before moving on to SBNation as a featured writer for the Jaguars. He then moved to Bloguin where he briefly covered the AFC South before taking over Bloguin's Jaguars blog. Since the inception of This Given Sunday, Shane has served as an editor for the site, doing his best not to mess up a good thing.

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