Sunday, February 12, 2012

What Does Jeff Fisher's History Tell Us About the No. 2 Pick?

With the 2012 NFL Draft still three months away, it's still far too early for coaching staffs to determine which players they covet more than others.

And with the NFL Combine three weeks away, there has not been ample time to evaluate or compare college prospects. Also, teams with new coaching staffs, such as the St. Louis Rams, have to review their own rosters before they can rightfully determine which positions are truly lacking.

However, even though the situation has not been completely analyzed, we can still hypothesize which direction the team will aim for.

Possibly the most popular draft day strategy that has been discussed calls for the Rams to trade their No. 2 overall pick to a team infatuated with Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

However, if the Rams are incapable of finalizing a trade, then it basically comes down to offensive tackle Matt Kalil (USC) or wide receiver Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State).

Even if the Rams can trade down to No. 4 overall with the Cleveland Browns, it still comes down to Kalil or Blackmon, depending on which player the Minnesota Vikings pick at No. 3.

The question is: Which player does coach Jeff Fisher prefer?

During his inaugural press conference on Jan. 18, Fisher said the following quote when discussing the team's offensive philosophy:

"It's a team that's going to run the football and protect the quarterback."

Obviously, both running the football and protecting the quarterback requires a stout offensive line capable of opening run lanes and forming a strong pocket.

On top of that, the Rams just signed star offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye of the Canadian Football League (CFL) in an attempt to find the next Cameron Wake (Miami Dolphins) or Brandon Browner (Seattle Seahawks), who were both CFL stars turned NFL Pro Bowlers.

At first sight, it seems as though Fisher's philosophy clearly favors Kalil with the No. 2 overall pick. But then again, history says otherwise...

Here is every first-round pick from Fisher's career as a head coach:

Defensive Line (Five): Derrick Morgan (2010), Albert Haynesworth (2002), Jevon Kearse (1999), Kenny Holmes (1997), Henry Ford (1994)
Defensive Back (Three): Michael Griffin (2007), Adam Jones (2005), Andre Woolfolk (2003)
Wide Receiver (Two): Kenny Britt (2009), Kevin Dyson (1998)
Quarterback (Two): Vince Young (2006), Steve McNair (1995)
Running Back (Two): Chris Johnson (2008), Eddie George (1996)
Linebacker (One): Keith Bullock (2000)
Note: Tennessee did not have a first-round pick in 2004 or 2001.

Even though Fisher's recent actions make it seem as though he's leaning towards an offensive lineman, you can see that he's never drafted one in the first round, not even once.

Meanwhile, six out of the 18 picks have been offensive skill positions, with two of them being wide receivers.

It's also worth noting that the receivers, Britt (6'3", 215 pounds) and Dyson (6'1", 208 pounds), are both similar in size to Justin Blackmon (6'1", 215 pounds), which means Fisher believes a receiver can succeed in the NFL without being 6'4", despite what Blackmon's critics say.

After the NFL Combine, we'll have a much better idea of where different prospects stand in the eyes of NFL personnel, as the combine is really the media's first chance to discuss the players in detail with various scouts and general managers.

Perhaps Blackmon is not viewed as such a big play receiver in the eyes of an NFL scout, or maybe Kalil is not the blue-chip left tackle he's thought to be.

But for now, we must assume that it's going to come down to one of the two, and history says Fisher will opt for the receiver.

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