BTSC 2012 Community Mock Draft Pick No. 6 -- St. Louis Rams Select Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

The sixth pick of the 2012 BTSC Community Mock Draft is in, and this might be our first real surprise so far! Thanks go to Hines4theHall for the analysis and insight into Jeff Fisher's drafting history. Next up: Jacksonville Jaguars, and they'll be represented by Ben Balesverger. -barnerburner-

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Team Needs: Following a 2-14 season and no playoff appearances since 2004, it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to realize the Rams have multiple needs. In researching fan and expert opinion to support who I think the team will take with their #6 pick, I was reminded of that famous quote about opinions and everyone having one (you know the one I mean...I had to clean it up a bit). The latest mock drafts/opinion polls/magic eight-balls have the Rams going in any number of possible directions: wide receiver, running back, cornerback, defensive line, and offensive line are all being predicted.

The team made a very clear statement by trading their #2 overall pick to Washington this year: they're going all-in with 2010 first-overall draftee Sam Bradford at quarterback. It makes sense for the team to get him some help on that side of the ball this year. With only RB Steven Jackson as a legit weapon for Bradford, the Rams' 2011 offense finished last in the league in points per game (12.1) and next-to-last in yards per game (283.6). Their wide receivers were particularly ineffective, led by Brandon Lloyd, whose 51 catches for 683 yards ranked T-40th and 42nd among NFL receivers, respectively. To make matters worse, Lloyd bolted for New England in free agency and the Rams have so far only replaced him with the other-other-Steve Smith (11 rec, 124 yds, 1 TD in nine games with Philly in 2011). Despite adding free agent C Scott Wells (Packers) the offensive line could use some upgrading as well, as the unit allowed a league-high 55 sacks in 2011.

Compared to their offense the Rams' 2011 defense wasn't quite as stinky, ranking 22nd in yards per game (358.4) and 26th in points per game (25.4). They finished 15th in sacks (39) but only 29th in takeaways (18). DE Chris Long (second-overall pick in 2009) and MLB James Laurinaitis represented the Rams in the Pro Bowl. The team added CB Cortland Finnegan (Titans) and DT Kendall Langford (Dolphins) in free agency but there's definitely still room for improvement, especially at outside linebacker and defensive tackle. The indefinite suspension of new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams only adds more uncertainty to that side of the ball.

The Fisher Factor: Les Snead enters his first year as a GM this season, so it's difficult to predict what kind of strategy or influence he'll have in all things player-personnel for the Rams. Conversely, new Rams' head coach Jeff Fisher has a reputation as a guy who dominates the balance of power when it comes to roster decisions and I think he'll have a big influence in the team's war room. Fisher's sixteen-plus seasons as head coach of the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers (remember them?) provide a uniquely large cache of historical data to examine his drafting tendencies. Let's jump in the way-back machine to see who he selected in the first round while with the Titans/Oilers:

Year

Selection

Player

Position

1995

3

Steve McNair

Quarterback

1996

14

Eddie George

Running Back

1997

18

Kenny Holmes

Defensive End

1998

16

Kevin Dyson

Wide Receiver

1999

16

Jevon Kearse

Defensive End

2000

30

Keith Bulluck

Linebacker

2001

29

Pick traded to Rams for DE Kevin Carter

2002

15

Albert Haynesworth

Defensive Tackle

2003

28

Andre Woolfolk

Cornerback

2004

27

Pick traded to Texans for multiple picks

2005

6

Adam "Pac-Man" Jones

Cornerback

2006

3

Vince Young

Quarterback

2007

19

Michael Griffin

Safety

2008

24

Chris Johnson

Running Back

2009

30

Kenny Britt

Wide Receiver

2010

16

Derrick Morgan

Defensive End

Even though Fisher's background is defense, picks on that side of the ball are only slightly favored, by a count of eight to six. The first trend that jumped out to me is that Fisher loves him some defensive linemen. He`s selected four - more than any other position - and hit on a couple of studs in Kearse and Haynesworth (recent career meltdown not withstanding). Add the fact that Fisher traded his 2001 first rounder for DE Kevin Carter and selected DT Randy Starks (third round) and DE Ben Schobel (fourth round) with the picks he acquired from the Texans in 2004, and Fisher essentially acquired seven defensive linemen either directly or indirectly with his first round picks in total. Interestingly, Fisher's affinity for linemen doesn't generalize to the offensive side of the ball, as he never picked an offensive lineman in the first round.

And the Winner Is: As I said in my opening, there are a lot of ways the Rams could go here. I wouldn't be surprised by or argue with any number of other selections. Even though the team desperately needs help on offense, in the end I was heavily influenced by Fisher's historical drafting philosophy and think his partiality for defensive linemen will win out.

With the 6th pick overall, the St. Louis Rams select Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis.

Let's break down the Rams' options by team needs and other value prospects that are possible options here. WR Justin Blackmon would've been the perfect mix of need and value here if he hadn't already been taken by Cleveland, and no other WR merits the #6 pick. CB Morris Claiborne would've been a great pick here too but he's gone to the Bucs. The recent league-wide de-valuing of the running back position and the presence of Steven Jackson makes me think they won't take RB Trent Richardson. Any outside linebacker would be too much of a reach here, and Fisher's tendency to avoid taking offensive linemen in the first round made me rule out options like OT Riley Reiff and G David DeCastro, who would've largely been considered reaches at this point anyway. With two early picks in the second round (33 and 39), the team will still be able to address these other positions with solid players a bit later.

That brings us back to the defensive line. The Rams are set at the ends with Long and impressive 2011 first rounder Robert Quinn, and even after signing Langford the team still needs help in the interior. I'm sure many of my fellow Steeler fans' hearts sank when they saw the headline of this post, but after Poe's beastly combine performance (4.98 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 44 reps in the 225-lb bench press) there's no way he'll be available at no. 24. There's no expert consensus on the top DT available this year, but Poe's post-combine stock has risen to the point that many now consider him the best defensive tackle prospect and a legit top-10 selection. I'm sure others will disagree but personally I don't think Poe is too much of a reach at no. 6, and like most other teams picking in the top-10 I don't think the Rams as a franchise have the luxury to strictly go the best player available route.

I ultimately chose Poe over alternatives like Michael Brockers or Fletcher Cox due to his unique combination of size (6'4", 346 lbs) and athleticism, which make him a valuable asset against both the run and the pass. The most common knock on Poe seems to be his inconsistent work ethic, but if anyone can motivate him, it's Fisher (plus, the guy seemed pretty motivated at the combine to me). When he's at his best Poe has shown the ability to run around or over offensive linemen. He'll need to expand his pass-rush repertoire beyond his much-used bull-rush move, but again that's something that can be remedied with coaching and experience. At worst Poe will consistently command multiple blockers, freeing up teammates to make plays. Fisher's combo of Haynesworth, Carter, and Kearse helped define Fisher's consistently competitive teams and he'll be eager to recapture that dominating presence with a trio of dangerous young first-rounders in Poe, Long, and Quinn.




BTSC 2012 Community Mock Draft Picks:
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