The preliminary order for the 2012 NFL Draft is set and it has been widely assumed since the beginning of the NFL season that Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford) would be the number one overall pick.
Each passing Sunday the losses started to accumulate for the Colts, the Rams and the Vikings as the three teams battled for the top spot. With two weeks left in the regular season, Indianapolis was in the driver’s seat with one loss, while Minnesota and St. Louis were each at two losses a piece.
The Colts got their elusive second win against Houston 19-16 at home on Thursday to begin week 16 play, followed by a Vikings defeat of the Redskins 33-26 in Washington, and the Rams were shut out by the Steelers 27-0. With Minnesota essentially out of the Andrew Luck Lottery with three wins, the number one overall pick would come down to the final week of regular season.
St. Louis hosted San Francisco, losing 34-27 to the NFC West Champs, and Indianapolis fell 19-13 to division rival Jacksonville as both teams ended their seasons 2-14. Due to tiebreaker rules which state the team that faced the easiest schedule during the year (opponent’s win/loss record), the Colts held on to the number one pick, and the Rams stayed at number two.
The biggest question surrounding the Colts is what they do with Peyton Manning, who sat out his 14th season after having neck surgery, his third procedure in 19 months. If Manning stays with Indianapolis he is due a $28 million option bonus on March 8th that triggers the final four years of his five-year, $90 million contract. If the Colts opt to not pay it and Manning declines to push back the date, the NFL’s only four-time MVP becomes an unrestricted free agent. News has circulated that a couple of organizations would be interested in Manning. According to the Miami Herald, the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and Washington Redskins would be among the teams looking to sign the Super Bowl XLI MVP. If the Colts choose to retain the veteran quarterback, they will most likely have two starting QBs on their roster – one being the rookie Luck who has been compared to Manning throughout his collegiate career.
So what happens with the number two pick? Sports Illustrated’s Peter King has said several times the Rams’ head coaching job is the best in the NFL for three reasons: 1) Incumbent quarterback 2) more money to spend in free agency than any team in 2013 and 3) because of the second overall pick this year when a very good quarterback will be on the board means you can use the pick to ransom to the highest bidder. Congratulations to Jeff Fisher, who was announced the new head coach of St. Louis on January 17th, after signing a 5-year contract believed to be worth $35 million. Fisher will have his hands full filling several positional needs the squad requires. Protecting Sam Bradford will be one of them. In 2012 Bradford was sacked 36 times while completing 53.5% of his passes for six touchdowns and six interceptions in 10 games.
Wide receiver was a busy position in St. Louis this year: in October Bradford lost Danny Amendola for the season after bicep surgery, Mike Sims-Walker was released after signing with the team in July, and the team acquired Brandon Lloyd in a trade with Denver, reuniting 2010’s league yardage leader with Josh McDaniels his former head coach. The following month, Bradford lost Mark Clayton to the IR and in December Austin Pettis was suspended for violating the league’s performance enhancing substance abuse policy. To say the Rams are in need of a main target for Bradford is an understatement, although Lloyd told ESPN 101 re-signing with the Rams is a more attractive option now that Fisher is at the helm.
Another position the Rams will be interested in is cornerback. When all was said and done, St. Louis placed 11 cornerbacks on IR since the start of training camp, and another, Josh Gordy, was limited with an abdominal injury. That makes three possible positions very appealing to Fisher and his coordinators Brian Schottenheimer (offensive) and Gregg Williams (defensive). Williams left New Orleans to rejoin Fisher’s staff after holding the same position under him from 1997-2000 with Tennessee. Schottenheimer was not retained by the New York Jets and was rehired by St. Louis after serving as an offensive assistant under Dick Vermeil in 1997. Now that the bulk of the Rams’ coaching staff is in place, the organization will look to replace Jim Delaney, who was fired along with Steve Spagnuolo, as general manager.
Depending on the analyst, one of three things has been proposed in regards to the Rams’ second overall pick.
- Draft Matt Kalil – OT, USC
- Draft Justin Blackmon – WR, Oklahoma State
- Trade the pick to a team willing to pay a premium to draft Robert Griffin III – QB, Baylor
One way to get a better grasp of what Fisher could possibly do is to look at his draft history as head coach of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. I am including the first three rounds, but each full draft is available by clicking on the year, and 1994 is left out since Fisher took over as head coach with six games remaining in the season. Coordinator changes have been noted as well.
1995 – OC: Jerry Rhome / DC: Steve Sidwell
Rd. 1 – Steve McNair, QB, Alcorn State
Rd. 2 – Anthony Cook, DE, South Carolina State
Rd. 3 – Chris Sanders, WR, Ohio State
Rd. 3 – Rodney Thomas, RB, Texas A&M
Rd. 3 – Torey Hunter, DB, Washington State
Rd. 1 – Eddie George, RB, Ohio State
Rd. 2 – Bryant Mix, DT, Alcorn State
Rd. 2 – Jayson Layman, OG, Tennessee
Rd. 3 – Terry Killens, LB, Penn State
1997 – OC: Les Steckel / DC: Gregg Williams
Rd. 1 – Kenny Holmes, DE, Miami
Rd. 2 – Joey Kent, WR, Tennessee
Rd. 3 – Denard Walker, DB, LSU
Rd. 3 – Scott Sanderson, OT, Washington State
Rd. 1 – Kevin Dyson, WR, Utah
Rd. 2 – Samari Rolle, DB, Florida State
Rd. 3 – Dainon Sidney, DB, UAB
Rd. 1 – Jevon Kearse, DE, Florida
Rd. 2 – John Thornton, DT, West Virginia
Rd. 3 – Zack Piller, OG, Florida
2000 – OC: Mike Heimerdinger
Rd. 1 – Keith Bulluck, LB, Syracuse
Rd. 3 – Erron Kinney, TE, Florida
Rd. 3 – Byron Frisch, DE, BYU
2001 – DC: Jim Schwartz
Rd. 2 – Andre Dyson, DB, Utah
Rd. 3 – Shad Meier, TE, Kansas State
Rd. 1 – Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee
Rd. 2 – Tank Williams, DB, Stanford
Rd. 3 – Rocky Calmus, LB, Oklahoma
Rd. 1 – Andre Woolfork, DB, Oklahoma
Rd. 2 – Tyrone Calico, WR, Middle Tennessee State
Rd. 3 – Chris Brown, RB, Colorado
Rd. 2 – Ben Troupe, TE, Florida
Rd. 2 – Travis LaBoy, DE, Hawaii
Rd. 2 – Antwan Odom, DE, Alabama
Rd. 3 – Randy Starks, DT, Maryland
Rd. 3 – Rich Garner, DB, Penn State
2005 – OC: Norm Chow
Rd. 1 – Pacman Jones, DB, West Virginia
Rd. 2 – Michael Roos, T, Eastern Washington
Rd. 3 – Courtney Roby, WR, Indiana
Rd. 3 – Brandon Jones, WR, Oklahoma
Rd. 1 – Vince Young, QB, Texas
Rd. 2 – LenDale White, RB, USC
Rd. 1 – Michael Griffin, DB, Texas
Rd. 2 – Chris J Henry, RB, Arizona
Rd. 3 – Paul Williams, WR, Fresno State
2008 – OC: Mike Heimerdinger
Rd. 1 – Chris Johnson, RB, Eastern Carolina
Rd. 2 – Jason Jones, DE, Eastern Michigan
Rd. 3 – Craig Stevens – TE, California
2009 – DC: Chuck Cecil
Rd. 1 – Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
Rd. 2 – SenDerrick Marks, DT, Auburn
Rd. 3 – Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina
Rd. 3 – Ryan Mouton, DB, Hawaii
Rd. 1 – Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
Rd. 2 – Damian Williams, WR, USC
Rd. 3 – Remie Curran, LB, Georgia
Specifically, Fisher has drafted four defensive lineman, four defensive backs, two wide receivers, two quarterbacks, two running backs, one linebacker, and one tight end with his first pick. In 16 drafts as a head coach, Fisher has never taken an offensive lineman with the first selection. Looking at the prospects at this stage, a defensive lineman going second overall is unlikely and can probably be ruled out.
Both Blackmon and Morris Claiborne (DB, LSU) could be available a little later if the Rams wanted to trade back to a team that desperately wants and/or needs Griffin III. St. Louis’ salary cap situation is estimated at approximately $10 million next year, but could improve if a few contracts are renegotiated. Most of the free agents signed in 2011 to one-year deals, which could help free some space as well. With that said, the Rams could address several needs using the value of the draft, and still come away with a top ten player on virtually everyone’s big board.
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Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc