-I, like most other red-blooded football fans, get pretty wound up about the NFL draft each year. For those who aren't red-blooded football fans, this year's draft is Saturday, beginning at around 11am St. Louis time.
This year's high-stakes crap shoot and meat market is particularly intriguing because there are 9 or 10 players who are labeled "can't miss" and they play at all different positions. And, nobody seems to know what's going to happen after Houston takes USC's Reggie Bush with the first pick. And, even that has been somewhat in question due to the Texans saying they aren't sure whether they'll take Bush or defensive end Mario Williams. (Many think that's a negotiating ploy to keep Bush's price down). But either way it goes, the rest of the top ten, before the Rams pick at 11, seems to be a matter of who you talk to.
Of course, you have two teams that are picking ahead of the Rams who have been known to come up with a silly first-round surprise over the years. The Lions at #9, and the Bidwill Boys at #10, pick right in front of the Rams. So, who knows what mayhem their picks might cause.
Many of the mock drafts I've seen have the Rams going for a defensive back. Michael Huff of Texas seems to be the most highly regarded DB that could be available at #11. Other prognosticators have defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley of Florida State as the likely choice for the Rams, even though they've busted on several other defensive tackle first-rounders over the last several years. (Damione Lewis, Ryan Pickett etc.) Jimmy Kennedy is still in town...but hasn't exactly been the superstar they thought they were getting.
Then, there's the quarterback scenario. Other draftniks have the Rams braintrust opting to draft a replacement for the oft-injured (under Mike Martz's minimum protection offense) Marc Bulger and drafting Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler. Cutler is one of three quarterbacks expected to go in the first round....the others being Matt Leinart of Southern Cal and Vince Young of Texas. Many seem to think Cutler may turn out to be the best pro of all of them. Apparently his size and arm strength are eye-popping.
So, obviously, there is no real concensus on what the Rams might do Saturday. We haven't even talked about a possible trade up, or down, or other teams trading in front of them. The Rams choice at 11 will go a long way to determine what happens in the next several picks after them too. So, the interest level is high. And the pre-determined nature of many previous drafts is totally absent.
I might as well make my prediction as to what the Rams will do. Because, it doesn't hurt anything. And, after all, I was the only one in the press corps to correctly predict that the old Gridbirds would take UCLA kicker John Lee (and essentially waste their pick) in the second round of the 1986 draft. You might remember they stretched and wasted their first round pick too on linebacker Anthony Bell from Michigan State. He was the guy who showed up at his initial press conference in St. Louis and said he had had no contact from anyone with the Cardinals prior to the draft. Oh, don't we long for the draft-day pain of those good old George Boone days! Naaahhh.
So, here we go. I'm thinking the agressive nature of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is going to have more influence on this Rams draft than anything else. The defense is definitely the area of most need. And, unless there's an offensive player (TE Vernon Davis, or possibly Cutler) that becomes available and is just an overwhelming value, I think they'll go with defense. That brings about a number of possiblities because of the Rams many needs. But, they seem to be weakest right now at corner and defensive tackle. Because I think Michael Huff will likely go to the Lions at #9, I'm predicting the Rams will pick--
Brodrick Bunkley--Defensive Tackle, Florida State.
Height: 6-2 3/4 Weight: 306 40-Time: 4.94
Strengths:Very solid and compactly built...Extremely strong...Holds his ground and will not get pushed around...Has tremendous balance...Is very quick and explosive...Does a pretty good job of penetrating and makes a lot of plays in the opponents backfield...Has a motor that never stops...Plays with good leverage...Locates the ball well...Gets a great push up the middle...Had an outstanding senior campaign. Weaknesses:Does not have great size or bulk...Durability is a concern and he has a history of knee and ankle problems...Has not been the hardest worker throughout his career...His lack of size might become more of a problem at the next level...Is on the ground too much...Was arrested for stealing a video game in 2003. Notes:Tore the ACL in his left knee while in high school and then tore the MCL in the same knee in 2002...Potential nose tackle...Could end up being one of the best defensive tackles the Noles have produced, which is really saying something.