- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The St. Louis Rams have a glaring need at offensive tackle after releasing Orlando Pace, making that position a natural for the second overall pick of the NFL draft.

Jason Smith of Baylor or Eugene Monroe of Virginia appear to be the best options to fill that void. The safe picks.

Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry also has made an impression. Or they could take a shot at reloading at wide receiver, a position weakened by the release of Torry Holt, with either Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech or Jeremy Maclin of Missouri.

“There’s certain times in the draft as it goes on where you want to be like Albert Pujols, you can swing for the fences, you try to hit a home run,” new general manager Billy Devaney said. “There’s other times where it makes sense to try to be a Tony Gwynn, put the ball in play.

“Actually, you know what, you can use Albert Pujols at any time I guess. Forget Tony Gwynn.”

Devaney, who has 24 years of NFL scouting and front office experience, is in charge on draft day for the first time in his career. Given the Rams have won only five games the last two seasons and their corresponding long list of needs, he seemingly can’t go wrong with the pick.

Not that he was willing to discuss individual players much, although he did admit Crabtree’s stress fracture in his left foot was a negative.

“There’s no perfect player in this group,” Devaney said. “For Crabtree that’s a red flag, but there’s not many red flags on the guy.”

The Rams also had the second pick last year and got a solid rookie season from defensive end Chris Long, with then-coach Scott Linehan making the selection. This year they’re leaning more on those behind the scenes, with Devaney recognizing college and pro scouts seated at the back of the auditorium at Rams Park before the team’s predraft news conference Monday.

“You guys, raise your hands,” Devaney said.

In past seasons, scouts submitted their reports and then walked away while the coaching staff assembled its draft board. This year, the scouts will prioritize the list.

“At the end of the day, that’s what these guys do for a living,” Devaney said. “They know these guys inside out, so we should lean on their opinions.”

Borrowing a saying coined by front office gurus of the past, Devaney added: “Coaches coach, scouts scout, players play, and I’m a firm believer in that.”

New coach Steve Spagnuolo appears content to take an advisory role on his first draft weekend. Of course, the scouts got a shopping list not long after Spagnuolo was hired in mid-January and know what the coaches want.

“The wealth of knowledge these guys gather is amazing,” Spagnuolo said. “It always amazes me what these guys have been able to find out, and we’ve dug deep.

“We’ve factored it all in and hopefully we’ll make those real smart decisions.”

Devaney said the Rams are open to trading down on draft day, if they can find a partner and the price is right. That might be difficult given popular opinion that there are no true standouts in this class, but instead a batch of interchangeable talent.

“There doesn’t seem to be any groundswell right now for one, two or three marquee guys teams are earmarking,” Devaney said. “I’m sensing that’s changing a little bit, so we’ll have to see how that plays out.”

Devaney believes the draft is deep in talent. But he pointed out he believes that every year and enjoys the challenge of picking long shots on the second day.

“We know darn well there’s going to be some guys taken in the sixth and seventh round that we missed on and a bunch of other teams missed on, and they’re going to have good years,” Devaney said. “There’s going to be college free agents that we all miss on that are going to come in and contribute.

“We want to be the team that hits on these guys.”

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