RAMS EXTRAS

GM aims to fill Rams' 'wants,' not needs

2013-02-18T00:45:00Z 2014-01-08T16:28:31Z GM aims to fill Rams' 'wants,' not needsBy Jim Thomas jthomas@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8197 stltoday.com

In the world of Rams general manager Les Snead, there’s no such thing as a thin draft.

And when it comes to filling out a roster, there are “wants” not “needs.”

“Sometimes when you ‘need’ something, you become desperate,” Snead said. “When you’re desperate, you can make bad decisions.”

Even after what looks like a good offseason a year ago in player acquisition, the Rams can’t afford bad decisions this time around.

There won’t be as much roster turnover this time around. And there are fewer holes to fill.

But at minimum, the Rams need another good offseason in order to become a bona fide playoff contender.

In terms of the upcoming draft, the Rams reach a milepost in that pursuit with the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins Wednesday and runs through Feb. 26 in Indianapolis.

For Snead and the Rams, their draft board comes into sharper focus after the drills, timing and testing, interviews, and medical exams in Indy. In some cases, they’ll get a better idea of who’s draftable — and who’s not.

Some question marks will be answered in terms of injuries, attitude, or maybe off-field concerns.

“It seems like every year, the quote is: ‘It’s not a deep draft.’ ” Snead said. “I take the opposite approach. I’ve never seen a thin draft. This is your chance to go improve your football team. You take the glass half full.”

But obviously some positions are stronger than others.

“Just as a hint, I think last year was probably a thin draft in terms of safeties,” Snead said. “Off the top of my head, the Alabama kid (Mark Barron) goes to Tampa and starts.

“The Notre Dame kid (Harrison Smith) goes to Minnesota and starts. I’m not sure if anybody else did.

“This year, you could find a larger group of safeties come in and be starters (out of the draft). So it’s got ebbs and flows.”

Obviously, no hints are needed to realize the Rams need help at safety.

As another example, Snead said, “The rumor is it’s a thin QB draft. Last year, I know it was a strong QB draft. So, I don’t know, if you’re looking for a QB this year you may be disappointed.”

Snead prefaced those remarks by noting: “I’m not looking at quarterbacks. We don’t need a QB, so I could spend upwards of zero percent (of my time) on the QBs this year.”

There’s no doubt, however, that Snead and the rest of the scouting department — as well as the coaches — will be spending time looking at safeties, wide receivers, offensive linemen, tight ends and outside linebackers.

And there’s a lot of information to sift through before the draft, set for April 25-27.

“You say: ‘These are his strengths and weaknesses,’” Snead said. “‘Is there one reason that’s going to cause him to drown? And can we help him with that?”’

If the answer is “no” — it’s probably best to move on to the next prospect. When it comes down to players who can be immediate starters, part of the puzzle is deciphering if you can pick up a player in free agency or in the draft to fill that, uh, want.

“You’re almost like, ‘If we really want that (position filled), we’re gonna have to either get him ... in free agency or it’s gonna run dry after the second round (of the draft),’” Snead said.

As the pre-draft process hits high gear in Indy, the Rams must get by without two area scouts and assistant director of college scouting John Mancini, who were fired last month.

“Those guys — they’re professionals,” Snead said, referring to Mancini and the fired area scouts. They did the meat of their work before leaving.”

Their departure, “puts you a little bit behind, but you had to have a plan to adjust,” Snead added.

Shortly after he joined the Rams a year ago, Snead said he told the entire scouting department that if things ever reached the point that they weren’t going to be a part of the organization, he would let them know as soon as possible.

“So that they would have an opportunity (to look for work),” he said. “It’s tough going through a regime change. Long story short, the human side of a very tough decision outweighs whether we’re gonna be out-manned.”

Even it means some scouts will must pick up the slack from now through the draft.

“Maybe we’re playing (a little short), but at this point in the game I think we can run with it,” Snead said.

They’ll have to, because at the Combine alone, there are more than 300 players attending and lots of interviews to conduct.

The players the Rams consider the top prospects entering the Combine are interviewed in the team suite at the players’ hotel in downtown Indianapolis.

Teams are allowed a maximum of 60 players for the suite interviews. They get 15 minutes per interview at night. Present at these interviews will be Snead, coach Jeff Fisher, assistant head coach Dave McGinnis, director of college scouting Taylor Morton, the coordinator for that player’s side of the ball, the position coach, and the area scout for the player’s geographic region.

There are more informal interviews for other players held in a lobby area of the hotel, usually conducted by a position coach or scout.

And lastly, the NFL does a standardized interview of every combine participant and tapes it for all teams to use. And those tapes are used.

After Day 2 of last year’s draft, Snead recalls putting on the NFL standardized interview of a prospect as the Rams decided what to do with the first pick of Round 4 to open Day 3 the next morning.

“To refresh some memories,” Snead said. “We’re like, ‘OK, this could be the guy we take on Saturday morning,’ ”

It was Wake Forest wide receiver Chris Givens.

Follow Jim Thomas on twitter @jthom1

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