Rams win big in Robert Griffin III sweepstakes; Colts left to wonder what if they dealt No. 1 pick
By dropping down just four spots in April’s NFL draft (from second overall to sixth), the St. Louis Rams landed the Washington Redskins’ second pick in 2012 and their first-round picks in 2013 and 2014.
That’s four players for the price of one and, by any definition, a haul.
St. Louis remains committed to quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall selection in 2010. It didn’t need expected No. 2 overall selection Robert Griffin III, the quarterback out of Baylor. So the Rams dangled the trade bait and got the desperate Redskins, who had to hold off the desperate Cleveland Browns, to hand over plenty.
That’s the price of someone who is expected to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL – and the Rams are suddenly resetting with a new coach in Jeff Fisher and a stunningly bright future. To say there is joy in St. Louis is an understatement.
It also means there has to be a pang of wonder in Indianapolis.
The Colts let Peyton Manning walk this week – news you, perhaps, heard about. Indy is going to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck first overall in a move to rebuild its franchise. Luck is a tremendous prospect. It’s a sound move.
Except that if Griffin is worth three firsts and a second, what would Luck have fetched on the open market? They could’ve demanded at least a fifth good draft pick.
If Manning is healthy and capable of returning to form, as a number of teams now believe as they court him in free agency, then did the Colts walk away too quickly?
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This is a bar argument with no clear answer, of course.
The No. 1 variable is whether Manning is actually a) healthy and b) will hold up for a few more seasons. That’s the ultimate gamble. Indy has its plan and is sticking to it and there is no sense for the franchise to look back. It stands to reason they already thought through all of this.
Then again, for fans, it’s worth wondering if they knew the market would get that heated for the RG3 pick? If – again if – Manning is something close to the old Manning, would the Colts have been better off with No. 18 behind center and a package of draft picks even better than what the Rams just got?
They had a core that got them nine consecutive playoff appearances, only to fall to 2-14 with Manning hurt. Now you bolster it with all of that young additional talent (for the present and the future). At that point, another shot at a Super Bowl is not out of the question.
It’s why down Interstate 70 in St. Louis there is euphoria about the future. Like the Colts, the Rams’ 2011 record may not be indicative of its actual standing in the league.
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Just two seasons ago the Rams made an unexpected run at the playoffs, losing the division (the weak NFC West, but still … ) on the final weekend to the Seattle Seahawks. Bradford had great promise. The defense ranked in the top half of the league. Steven Jackson still had something to give.
St. Louis dealt with a brutal early schedule in 2011, saw Bradford battle injuries (he played in just 10 games) and the team score an anemic 12.1 points a game, all while the defense regressed.
It was one of those wheels-fall-off seasons. The team played with limited passion. Coach Steve Spagnuolo was fired.
Still, this was a team on an upward trajectory. As uncompetitive as the Rams were, there are still some positives. And while Fisher’s record in Tennessee wasn’t perfect, he’s a proven coach. The Rams aren’t starting over (again) with an unknown coordinator.
And now here comes a shot at an incredible rebirth.
St. Louis has three of the top 39 picks in April’s draft (6, 33, 39).
The sixth pick is actually more valuable than it looks. Since the Rams don’t need a quarterback and the top two picks will be that position, they actually have, at worst, a shot at the fourth-best position player.
There is plenty of opportunity for a game-breaking wide receiver, a difference maker on the defensive line or perhaps another talent on the offensive line to help preserve Bradford. They could wind up with all three.
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They can also move up for a specific talent, back for additional needs and pretty much run what they want in different parts of the draft. Then over the next two years they have two first-rounders. Considering how far Washington has to go, that pick is probably going to be strong.
They fell into the right spot in a draft with two vaunted quarterback prospects that they didn’t need. So they smartly shopped it to a cadre of teams with acute interest in finding a young quarterback to build a franchise around.
They demanded and got one steep price. It’s a decision that produced a day of celebration in St. Louis. And an equal and opposite decision that bears watching as the years play out for Indianapolis.
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