The bidding war for the Rams' second overall pick in April's NFL draft has already begun, and someone out there is primed to surrender a haul of selections for the rights to take Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
Griffin has elite arm strength and would immediately become one of the two or three fastest starting quarterbacks in the NFL after running a 4.41-second 40-yard dash. He's also extremely mature and engaging, which causes him to wow his interviewers.
Griffin's biggest concern will be his size (6-foot-2, 223 pounds). His build is more of an issue than his height, and there should be a legitimate fear of injuries when he escapes the pocket and takes a number of taxing hits. Over time, that durability will come into greater focus, as it has with Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
The other question is Griffin's adaptability to an NFL offense. Baylor's system was tailored for Griffin's strengths, and it was very successful against collegiate competition. However, he'll be asked to make quicker throws with more precision in the NFL, and scouts have to project his ability to do that — unlike Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who has excelled in a pro-style system for more than two years.
Again, there's more than enough to like about Griffin, but the gamble comes in the projection. The positive thing for inquiring teams is they won't have to mortgage their future by shipping in money from an offshore bank to pay for Griffin.
Thanks to the new salary scale, last year's second overall pick — Broncos linebacker Von Miller – signed a four-year contract worth a fully guaranteed $21 million. By comparison, the Lions signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a five-year deal reportedly worth as much as $68 million, including $40 million guaranteed, in 2010.
Since there's much less of a financial risk for the team that drafts Griffin at No. 2, the Rams can demand a ransom for the team that wants the pick. Take this for example: In 1998, the Chargers held the third overall pick but traded up to the Cardinals' spot at No. 2 to select quarterback Ryan Leaf. If possible, ignore Leaf's disastrous career and concentrate on the compensation to move up — that third overall pick, a second-rounder in 1998, a first-rounder in 1999, Pro Bowl punt returner Eric Metcalf and reserve linebacker Patrick Sapp.
That was all to improve their draft position by a single pick. The Rams of the present day, meanwhile, will absolutely garner a pair of first-rounders, at least one second-rounder and probably a third- or a fourth-rounder, too. It's a demand market, and the Rams will capitalize on it.
St. Louis might be best-suited to pull the trigger on the trade soon, too. While big-time trades involving draft picks don't usually play out until the day of the selection, it makes sense for the Rams to get it out of the way now to take advantage of an inquiring group of teams, which will shrink in the coming weeks.
Unless there's a miraculous resolution in Indianapolis, the Colts appear destined to part ways with Peyton Manning next week. Then, when free agency begins March 13, Matt Flynn is viewed as the only quarterback with serious potential. If both Manning and Flynn are signed before the Rams trade the No. 2 pick, the price will drop with the demand.
The Browns figure to be in the best position to pull the trigger because they've got two first-round picks in this draft (Nos. 4 and 22), and they're a young team that will struggle as they grow together in a very difficult division. It could be a harmonious fit for Griffin's learning curve. Plus, the Browns and Manning won't have any reciprocal interest, and they'll struggle to attract Flynn, too.
The Redskins should be next in line, and their sixth overall pick will be a starting point. Washington head coach Mike Shanahan has done well with mobile quarterbacks in the past — although anyone could succeed with John Elway – and for that reason, he could prefer Griffin. However, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder won't have any issues shelling out a huge contract for Manning or Flynn, so the Redskins would have a more realistic fallback plan if the Rams' trade demands get excessive. Lastly, the Redskins aren't far away from competing for the NFC East title, so a veteran could be their best option.
Similar to the 'Skins, the Dolphins — who have the eighth pick — should be in the market for all three quarterbacks, and new head coach Joe Philbin might prefer Flynn due to their time together with the Packers. But Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is starry-eyed to a fault and shouldn't have an issue going big for Manning or Griffin.
Aside from the Browns, Redskins and Dolphins, who should be considered the three leaders to target Griffin, the Jaguars (No. 7 pick) should at least kick the tires if they don't believe Blaine Gabbert is the answer, both in terms of on-field performance and franchise marketability.
The Chiefs (No. 11 pick), Seahawks (No. 12), Cardinals (No. 13) and maybe even the Cowboys (No. 14) could also be in the market for Griffin. Yet, since their first picks are outside the top-10, they'll have to surrender much more to convince the Rams to move down so far. It might require a pair of first-rounders, second-rounders and even third-rounders to sway St. Louis' opinion.
At the end of it all, the Rams will have enough assets to finally build around quarterback Sam Bradford. And if Griffin can morph into a franchise quarterback in his own right, his new team shouldn't have an issue making the sacrifice to trade up for his services.
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