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Rams sitting on gold mine at No. 2 with demand rising for RG3

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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New coach Jeff Fisher should wind up with lots of new talent if the Rams deal No. 2 as expected. (AP)  
New coach Jeff Fisher should wind up with lots of new talent if the Rams deal No. 2 as expected. (AP)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL scouting combine concluded Tuesday, and it wasn't Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Dontari Poe who made the biggest gains. It was the St. Louis Rams.

They have the second pick of the draft, and its value was only enhanced by what happened here. And what happened is that Griffin dazzled scouts, coaches and general managers with his performances on and off the field.

Granted, he didn't throw, but he did pad his resume with an impressive workout -- including a blazing 40-yard dash -- to solidify his position as the second-best quarterback in the draft. More than that, he established himself as the second-best player in the draft, and that's where the Rams come in.

They have a quarterback they like in Sam Bradford, which means they're not interested in Griffin. It also means they're willing and able to deal their choice, and after what we saw in Griffin last weekend the price went up.

The question, of course, is what that price is. I've said before that it will start with two first-rounders, a second ... maybe two ... then go from there. One guy I trust told me he wouldn't be surprised if it cost the buyer three first-rounders.

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All I know is that the last time there were two quarterbacks this attractive at the top of the board it was 1998 when San Diego paid two first-round draft choices, a second and a three-time Pro Bowler to move one spot -- from the third position to the second -- so it could take Ryan Leaf.

"The market value is only what you can get," said former Colts' president Bill Polian, who had the first pick in 1998. "If you have more than one suitor, obviously, the value goes up. Then the question for the trading team becomes: What best fits our needs, in terms of the kinds of picks we can get and what our board might look like?

"You can say, 'Well, OK, if we can do this, it may net us the following players. And, if we do that, something else will develop.' That's how you evaluate the trade possibilities. Certainly, if there's more than one suitor, the odds of getting something pretty good go up."

Griffin is not the risk that Leaf was, but he does have his shortcomings. Some people think he may not have the bulk he needs to withstand body blows he'll absorb at the next level. Others wonder how long it takes him to adjust to a pro-style offense and make pre-snap reads.

But we're nitpicking here, people. The guy is, as more than one scout observed last weekend, "the complete package." He can run. He is extraordinarily accurate. He is smart, completing his political science degree in three years and working toward a law degree. And he is mature, far more mature than Cam Newton -- last year's No. 1 pick -- who arrived at the combine announcing that he wanted to become "an icon" and "entertainer" at the next level.

Griffin has no such aspirations. He wants to be a pro quarterback, period, and there is little doubt he will be a good one -- especially after a weekend workout that had some people wondering if he closed the gap between him and Luck.

He did not. Luck is the slam-dunk first choice, and he proved why with a workout that was so good it rivaled Newton's non-passing performances at last year's combine. Luck ran well. His vertical jump was three inches shy of Griffin. His standing jump was better. In fact, it was better than all quarterbacks.

"I think what was surprising to some people," said the NFL Network's Mike Mayock, "is how athletic Andrew Luck is."

Observers marveled at Griffin's 40-yard time, but, c'mon, what did you expect? The guy's a world-class track star.

"Fast guys run fast," said Mayock. "That's not a story to me."

Precisely.

Nevertheless, Griffin put up impressive numbers, and my only complaint is that he didn't throw. Of course, neither did Luck. But Luck is the top quarterback in this draft. Griffin is second. If he wanted to lessen the gap between the two he could have -- no, he should have -- taken advantage of Luck's decision not to pass by throwing himself.

He had nothing to lose.

Nevertheless, what he did do he did extraordinarily well. That means anyone interested in a top-shelf quarterback -- and there are two in this draft -- will pay dearly for Griffin, but to get him you can't afford to go any lower than the second pick.

Any doubt about his value ... or the importance of a quarterback ... should be resolved by looking at last year's draft. There were four quarterbacks taken with the first 12 choices, including Newton at No. 1, Jake Locker at eight, Blaine Gabbert at 10 and Christian Ponder at 12.

Now, is there any doubt that Griffin is better -- much better -- than those last three? Is there any doubt he's better now than Newton was at this time last year? That's why St. Louis stands to gain so much from what happened at the combine.

"This is the year to have the second pick," said one head coach Monday. "You can't go wrong, no matter what you do. You can sit still and take the quarterback or someone like (tackle) Matt Kalil, or sit back and let people make you an offer you can't refuse."

St. Louis will wait on those offers, and, trust me, they will be numerous and attractive. Cleveland should be interested. So should Washington, Miami and Seattle. Cleveland, Washington and Miami have top-8 draft picks; Seattle chooses 12th.

Of that group, the Browns have the most ammunition -- with two first-round choices, the fourth and 22nd overall -- but expect Washington to push hard. The Redskins must find someone better than Rex Grossman or John Beck to man the position; owner Daniel Snyder likes to make bold moves; and Mike Shanahan covets talented young quarterbacks, trading up in the 2006 draft to take Jay Cutler.

"It's probably unlikely that we go up," St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said, joking, "so we've got opportunities below us. It really depends on people's value and people's needs."

No, it doesn't. It depends on RG3. And the price just went up.

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