GM says Rams could trade down in draft

2011-02-24T00:10:00Z 2011-03-25T15:01:57Z GM says Rams could trade down in draftBY JIM THOMAS • jthomas@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8197 stltoday.com

INDIANAPOLIS • Rams general manager Billy Devaney headed to Indiana on Wednesday for the NFL scouting combine secure in the knowledge that there will be a player worth getting excited about at No. 14 overall.

In fact, he thinks there will be several such players available when it's time to pick in the first round of the NFL draft April 28.

"No question," Devaney said. "We know that already. There's going to be a cluster of guys there — and really good players. That's a given."

So much so that Devaney and the Rams' front office already are playing "fantasy football" about the possibility of trading down from No. 14.

"Gosh, it'd be great if we get there and there's three or four guys that we really love," Devaney said. "Where we say we'd be happy with any of those guys and then we can move back a little bit, knowing that chances are you still may have a shot at one of those four guys. That's the best scenario to be in. Oh yeah, we've already started."

Obviously, there are a lot more variables when you're picking 14th as opposed to first or second, as has been the case the previous three drafts. So Devaney says the Rams have to be ready for anything.

"It'll start getting clearer and clearer as we get closer," Devaney said. "There'll be the obvious top five or top seven (prospects) — we'll see how that goes. At 14, there'll be a cluster of names. But we'll have a fairly good idea who's going to be there."

Conventional wisdom says the Rams should take Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones if he's still on the board at 14. Entering the combine, Jones is generally considered the second-best receiver in the draft behind Georgia's A.J. Green. And together, Green and Jones are considered the only surefire first-rounders at wide receiver this year.

"If Julio's there, I think they probably sprint up to the podium with the card," said draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. "I think he's a real logical fit and I think they have to start complementing Sam Bradford. They've got to get some talent out wide. So I think he's the most logical guy in the entire draft for them at 14. And to me, I think that's where he goes, somewhere between 10 and 18. He probably won't get past St. Louis if he's there."

But what if he's not? That's where Devaney's "cluster theory" comes into play. In a first round rich in defensive end talent — as many as eight or nine could go in the first round — there should be several possibilities for the Rams at 14. Possibilities include Iowa's Adrian Clayborn (from Webster Groves High), Cameron Jordan of California, Aldon Smith of Missouri and J.J. Watt of Wisconsin.

"The thing you've got to work through, are they 3-4 defensive ends?" Devaney said. "Are they scheme fits? Can they play in a 4-3? Are they basically oversized linebackers playing defensive end? Are they just designated pass rushers? This (combine) workout here, that'll help answer a lot of those questions. When we see body types. Growth potential. How they fit in. But yeah. There are a lot of good names, potential names."

Other non-Jones possibilities at No. 14 are Alabama running back Mark Ingram, UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers and Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget.

Overall, Devaney feels this is a pretty good draft pool at the top.

"We have them up by rounds right now in tentative order and, yeah, it goes way toward the bottom of the second round where there's really good quality," he said.

So when he looks at tape, Devaney said, it's not hard to get excited about potential picks at 14.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "I'm starting at the top and working my way down. And every time you put someone on, whether it's a running back, or a receiver, or a defensive end, you're like, 'Oh gosh, it would be awesome to get that guy.' And at the end you've got like 15 guys and you're lucky if you get two of 'em."

By "two of 'em," Devaney was referring to the Rams' first- and second-round picks. As a Tuesday guest on the Stltoday.com Rams chat, Devaney said he was drooling over a potential defensive back prospect in the second round.

Last year at this time, Devaney was almost obsessed with the quarterback position.

"The amount of time that we spent with Sam; I was talking to Pat Shurmur the other day, and we were kind of reminiscing about that," Devaney said. "All the time and hours that we put in. Not that we were complaining. But it was incredible. We knew there was a chance we were going to take a quarterback with the first pick, if not, then trade back and all those scenarios. That was a big part of our focus."

This year, Devaney's attention is more broad-based.

"I'm in better shape than last year," Devaney said. "I'll get down probably to the top 12 or 15 players, probably, at each position."

Devaney almost never names names, but in terms of pre-draft travel, he has done more than just attend the Senior Bowl since the end of the Rams' regular season. As has been the case in past offseasons, he has made a few clandestine trips to meet with potential draft picks.

"Doing some research," Devaney said with a sly smile. "Spending some time with some guys that we're kind of interested in already."

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