|With Sam Bradford on board and RG3 in demand, the Rams have a lot of draft leverage. (US Presswire)|
The St. Louis Rams say they'll listen to all inquiries for their first-round draft pick, the second overall, and they should. Then I suggest they take more step.
Take the highest bidder.
Because the people interested in the second pick most likely are interested in Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, the next best thing to Andrew Luck, and that can mean only one thing: They're willing to overpay to acquire him.
So let them.
It happened in 1998 when San Diego, then sitting third, coveted the second pick so dearly that the Chargers paid two firsts, a second and three-time Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf to move one spot.
Then they chose Ryan Leaf. You win some, you lose some and some just plain disintegrate.
But this year's second pick of the draft is more valuable for a couple of reasons: 1) You're not investing the enormous sums of guaranteed money that was involved prior to the latest collective bargaining agreement, and 2) there are, for the first time since 2004, two elite quarterbacks on the board.
|More on NFL Draft|
Luck is one; Griffin is the other.
You won't get Luck. But you may get Griffin. One problem: This may be the first year since 1999 that quarterbacks go 1-2 in the draft, which means it's never too early to start cementing relationships with the new front office in St. Louis.
Griffin is on the short lists of a cluster of quarterback-needy clubs that should be eager -- OK, desperate -- to draft him. But the Rams trade only if they feel secure at quarterback, and they should.
They have Sam Bradford, the first pick of the 2010 draft, and, yeah, I know, this administration and this head coach didn't choose him. But I don't care. It's too soon to flush the guy. Besides, he was the best quarterback in the NFC West his rookie season.
Granted, he went backward in 2011, but that happens when you have an offensive line that can't pass protect, receivers who can't catch and injuries that won't quit. Give him a break. No, give him a chance.
The Rams will. Remember, when he took over as head coach, Jeff Fisher mentioned Bradford as one of the reasons the job was so attractive -- saying he thought he had "a chance to be great." That doesn't sound like someone looking for his next quarterback.
Which means there's no need to start looking at RG3.
It also means the Rams can afford to entertain offers for the second overall pick, especially when they include two firsts, a second and more. The Rams need offensive linemen, wide receivers and another running back, and you can get all of them with a raft of draft choices. And you can get a raft of draft choices by holding an auction for the second spot in the draft.
Washington should be interested. So should Miami. And maybe, just maybe, Cleveland. All have top 10 draft picks. But the Browns are the most fascinating because they have two first-round selections, which means they have ammunition to outbid the competition -- provided, of course, they're interested, which they should be.
Even if they're not, someone will, and the Rams owe it to themselves to find out who that someone is.
But I'm suggesting they don't stop there. I'm suggesting they take the best offer on the table because what's the alternative -- Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon? USC tackle Matt Kalil? Alabama running back Trent Richardson? All are possible picks at that position, but the Rams could do better, much better, with what they gain in return for the second choice.
When the New York Jets moved up to the fifth position of the 2009 draft to choose Mark Sanchez they traded Cleveland their first (the 17th overall pick) and second-round choices, plus three veterans.
The Jets got off easily. The Rams won't be as considerate -- nor should they be. They can sit where they are and help their club, or they can make a deal and help their club more.
My guess is there will be a tsunami of interest for Griffin. He's accurate. He's productive. He's smart. He's responsible. He's the Heisman Trophy winner. And he's going to be someone's starter next season. Only I don't think that someone is St. Louis.
The Rams can win with Bradford, and they proved it in 2010 when they came within one win of the playoffs -- falling short with a loss to Seattle on the last day of the season. So give the guy help, and you can start with the draft.
"They're going to ask for the moon," said one GM, "and they should. Because maybe you get a Raider deal."
Oh, yeah, I forget about that one. The Oakland Raiders were so hot for Carson Palmer -- who was out of football at the time -- that they offered Cincinnati two draft picks that became a first and conditional second-rounder. Basically, the Raiders made Bengals' owner Mike Brown a deal he couldn't refuse.
A trade for the chance to draft RG3, who is unproven but who has an enormous upside, almost surely starts with two ones, a pair of twos and goes from there –- with the Rams allowing all suitors to play tennis, one trying to outbid the other.
"What we do," Fisher told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "will define the future of this franchise moving forward."
I couldn't agree more. The question, of course, is this: Is that with Blackmon, Richardson or Kalil, or is it with a package of high draft picks that includes several first and second rounders?
I think you know the answer. I think the Rams do, too.