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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 16, 2010

NFL: Browns up the Rams’ anxiety with talk of a trade

By Bryan Burwell
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — With less than a week to go before the NFL draft, and with your destitute St. Louis Rams kicking off Thursday night's prime-time first round with the No. 1 overall pick, things certainly have gotten a little more intriguing, a lot more uncertain and great deal more entertaining.

We still have six more days of clever half-truths, provocative rumors and flat-out lies to sort through, dismantle, reconstruct and somehow use as clues for what general manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo plan on doing next week. Without a hint of exaggeration, what happens over the course of this three-day draft could be the start of something remarkable that sends the Rams hurtling toward championship contention, or something ghastly that keeps this organization staggering down its current disastrous path.

"Imagine this conversation now," said Brian Billick, the former NFL coach turned television analyst. "You have to go to your boss and say, 'Okay, we're going to take Sam Bradford — and that seems to be the conventional thinking now — and can you give me $40 (million) or $45 million guaranteed for a guy that history tells us at best is a 50-50 crap shoot?"'

Oh boy, it sure is fun having the No. 1 pick, isn't it?

A few months ago, we thought it was a cinch that the Rams would take Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska's wrecking ball defensive tackle. Then all of that changed when Bradford's medical reports came back clean and a healthy franchise-type quarterback dropped in the Rams' lap.

But this is proving to be a lot more complicated than that. The NFL world seems to have 1,001 opinions about what the Rams ought to do with the first pick. Take the big man on defense. OK, which big man on defense? Play it safe and go for the franchise quarterback. OK, which franchise quarterback? Keep the pick. No, trade the pick.

Then on Thursday, Cleveland Browns general manager Tom Heckert dropped this nugget to the local press. Heckert confirmed that the Browns have engaged in some level of conversations with the Rams about a trade for that No. 1 pick. If you have consulted your handy dandy NFL draft value chart, you'd know that the Rams' No. 1 overall pick could be worth a great deal, Cleveland's seventh overall pick in the first round, the 38th overall pick in the second and all three of the Browns' three third-round selections, plus a potential veteran Cleveland player just for starters.

That could leave the Rams — in critical need of plenty of impact players — with a shot at as many as six or seven of the first 85 picks in the draft.

What would you do if you were Devaney and that was suddenly on the table?

You think this stuff is easy? I don't know what I'd do when confronted with a choice of quality (Bradford) over quantity (a possible trade).

Just listen to Billick, one of the smartest football minds in the business who did a fairly good job of working with his general manager Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore, and you'll begin to scratch the surface on the complexities of the Rams' so-called "no-brainer" decision with that valuable first pick.

"Any time we're talking about the quarterback position, it's always going to be a little bit dicey," said Billick on my radio show on WXOS (101.1 FM) yesterday. "I have heard the logic before that you could get (Texas quarterback) Colt McCoy in the second round which would free you up if you're St. Louis to get an Ndamukong Suh, Russell Okung or a Gerald McCoy, and that the difference between Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy might not be that substantial as odd as that may sound for a guy who could conceivably go number one in the draft, compared to a guy who would go in the early second round or maybe the middle (of the second round).

"But that just underlines how subjective the analysis of a quarterback position is," Billick said. "Because Sam Bradford is no doubt going to be an excellent NFL quarterback and the same can be said of Colt McCoy. But the same thing was said about Ryan Leaf, David Carr, Andre Ware, Joey Harrington, Heath Shuler, and the list goes on and on."

Whoa, how's that for a sobering list of reasons to veer off the quarterback path and dart directly for one of the big fellas on the line?

Oh, but wait a minute. Billick wasn't finished. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and you can't win without a star QB, he said. So all the Rams have to do is figure out if one of those guys actually is in this draft.

"You don't want to miss on a quarterback that early because it will set your organization back and it will put you out on the street if you do miss on taking a first-round quarterback," Billick said. "But the only thing worse than that is (not drafting) a first-round quarterback that could put your franchise in the category of haves instead of have-nots. (The Rams) have already (done that twice), and it might be very difficult for them to pass on what could be a third."

Six days to go. Pass the Tums.