The St. Louis Rams like Johnny Manziel.
That's the latest hot rumor this week, and the first of many draft rumors. The final few days before any draft are full of rampant speculation. Considering there are few picks in this draft that anyone can pinpoint who is going where, get ready for a lot of people using clues to figure out what will happen on Thursday.
And the latest rumor is the Rams' interest in the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. Even if it's just people putting two and two together, this is one that makes perfect sense. Because the Rams should be looking to take Manziel.
Here's where the smoke started: MMQB's Peter King reported the team worked out Manziel in Texas on Friday and then coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had an 80-minute meeting with him afterward. And King reported Rams general manager Les Snead met with Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was Manziel's offensive coordinator at Texas A&M two seasons ago, and "came away thinking Manziel could adjust to life well as an NFL passer." King says the Rams "like him a lot" and wonders if they might take Manziel with the 13th pick.
Well, even King admits it's unlikely Manziel will be at No. 13. But the Rams hold a second first-round pick too. That's interesting. The Rams are doing quite a bit of homework on Manziel just to take Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson at No. 2.
ESPN's Adam Kaplan says it's a "popular theory" among NFL executives that the Rams will take Manziel second overall. And it makes sense. Sam Bradford has had four seasons and hasn't given the Rams reason to believe he's special. He's been functional at times. He was on his way to his best season last year before he tore his ACL, so there was hope that he was turning a corner. But Bradford has a salary cap number of more than $16.5 million next year, the last year of his contract. Are the Rams going to give him a Jay Cutler-like extension? Why would they, especially when they have an enticing Plan B?
St. Louis could draft Manziel and see what happens with Bradford. If Bradford is finally great in 2014, that's a good problem to have. Someone would trade for him. Or you make Manziel wait another year. If the worst-case scenario for St. Louis is "Bradford is too good to let Manziel into the starting lineup," the Rams would sign up for that.
On the flip side, what if Bradford is average again and you passed on Manziel, a potential franchise quarterback you like? The Rams have a very good roster; they won't be drafting in the top 10 next year. Now you're stuck with the core of a good team but still no quarterback to run it and no easy way to acquire a good one. Because the second pick comes from the Robert Griffin III trade, it's a unique situation for the Rams. They can still get a good tackle or impact defensive player at No. 13. The second pick of the draft can't be considered a "luxury pick" of course, but it is a very unusual opportunity that won't present itself again anytime soon.
There's the small matter of whether Manziel will be there with the second pick, and while folks assume he will be, nobody knows what the Texans will do at No. 1. There are still rumblings the Texans like Khalil Mack more than consensus top prospect Jadeveon Clowney. And they do need a quarterback. If Clowney falls to No. 2, the Rams have another interesting debate on their hands. They can take Clowney or trade the pick because there won't be any problem finding a team that wants to move up.
Or, the Rams can make the most interesting pick of the draft and select Manziel, if he's there. That would be a fun scenario. For the Rams, it would be prudent, too.
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