ST. LOUIS – Jeff Fisher has lived in this city for a mere three months, and he still hasn't found a permanent residence. For now, he's crashing in an apartment once occupied by a former Rams executive in a high-rise building whose residents tend to turn in before he gets home from work.
Yet Fisher, the highly regarded coach hired by Rams owner Stan Kroenke last January and charged with turning around the moribund franchise, has already come up with a nickname for St. Louis that speaks to its recent football deficiencies.
"You talk about need," Fisher said Tuesday night while sipping a glass of red wine in the outdoor-seating area of a popular Clayton, Mo., eatery. "Hey, this is Need City."
Fisher, of course, was joking, but he was also goofing on the obvious: The Rams went 2-14 in 2011, finished with the league's worst offense and had zero Pro Bowl selections. The challenge for Fisher and his handpicked rookie general manager, Les Snead, is to restock a roster with talented contributors, and this week's NFL draft figures to provide them with a golden opportunity to do so.
The Rams own five of the first 96 picks and are open to trades that would allow them to acquire additional selections. Though the bulk of the attention is on the sixth overall pick in Thursday night's first round – which could net St. Louis a high-profile playmaker like Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon, Alabama running back Trent Richardson or LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne – Fisher believes he can come away with "multiple starters" by the time Saturday's seventh round is complete.
Fisher and Snead put themselves in position to be movers and shakers in this draft and those in 2013 and '14 by swinging a trade with the Washington Redskins last month, a move predicated on the notion that quarterback is not a position of need. Given the presence of 2010 offensive rookie of the year Sam Bradford, that year's No. 1 overall pick, the Rams felt comfortable dealing the No. 2 selection to the 'Skins, who were desperately seeking a shot at Heisman Trophy-winning Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The Rams came away with Washington's first- and second-round picks in 2012 (Nos. 6 and 39 overall, respectively) and the Redskins' first-round selections in '13 and '14. Because St. Louis rotates positions each round with the Indianapolis Colts, with whom it tied for the league's worst record in 2011, Fisher and Snead own the first picks on Friday (second round) and Saturday (fourth round), meaning they could spend hours fielding trade offers from teams targeting a specific player still on the board after the close of business.
Any potential deals that net the Rams additional 2012 picks in the second or third rounds are likely to be well-received in Need City, whose residents experienced their last winning NFL season in 2003.
Fisher, who sat out the 2011 campaign after a 16-year run as the coach of the Tennessee Titans (and, in their previous incarnations, the Tennessee and Houston Oilers), was lured to St. Louis in January by Kroenke after turning down a less desirable offer from Dolphins owner Steve Ross. Fisher has already developed a strong working relationship with Snead, hired in February after three seasons as the Atlanta Falcons' director of player personnel.
The two men appeared jovial and at ease with one another at a pre-draft press conference at Rams Park on Wednesday. At one point, a local TV reporter asked Snead whether teams had expressed interest in trading up for the sixth overall pick, and the GM replied, "Here's what I will tell you is, I'll keep our business with other teams in-house. But like in all drafts in the NFL, everybody weighs the quarterback position maybe more heavily than others and probably rightly so. Obviously, there will probably be two quarterbacks taken with the first two picks and there's a debate on whether there's a third one [Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill] who should be taken next and because of that situation, yes, there has been slight interest but I'm going to keep that in-house."
Cracked Fisher: "You just told her everything."
There may have been a little bit of truth behind the remark, for Bradford could be the gift that keeps on giving. According to a highly placed league source, the Rams have had discussions with at least one team interested in trading up for the No. 6 pick in an effort to get Tannehill – presumably to move ahead of the Dolphins, who own the eighth overall pick and are believed to be targeting the quarterback.
Realistically, Fisher and Snead aren't revealing much, which gives them something in common with every other NFL coach and GM. There have been a few clues: Fisher, Snead and other team officials traveled via private jet last weekend to hold individual workouts for three receivers: Blackmon, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd and Baylor's Kendall Wright. It was later reported by profootballtalk.com that the trip included a visit to Illinois for a workout with former Illini wideout A.J. Jenkins.
Does this mean the Rams aren't entirely sold on Blackmon as the it receiver of the draft, or are they trying to create confusion in an effort to conceal their effort to land him? Are they looking to trade down and grab a wideout in the second round? And how will they balance the need to provide Bradford with a talented target with their desire to bolster positions like defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, safety, guard and running back?
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As to the latter position, Fisher did his best Wednesday to shrug off rumors that the team might trade three-time Pro Bowl halfback Steven Jackson, who is reportedly seeking a new contract. Yet given that the team might be in position to draft Richardson or Boise State running back Doug Martin, and that Jackson, who turns 29 in July, has been one of the league's more heavily used backs in recent years, the suspicion remains that Fisher and Snead would at least listen to offers over the next several days.
Given Fisher's quest for additional picks, the action in the team's war room could be fast and furious. On Tuesday night, as he took in the temperate wind which blew through the restaurant's patio area, Fisher adopted a breezy tone about his rebuilding project.
"We were able to do some things in free agency that really improved our team," he said. "That's big."
Specifically, the Rams landed cornerback Cortland Finnegan, a former Titans standout who thrived during Fisher's time in Nashville, for a reported $50 million over five years. St. Louis also added ex-Dolphins defensive end Kendall Langford and former Packers center Scott Wells, each for a reported $24 million over four years.
Now, thanks to the trade with the 'Skins, Fisher and Snead have a chance to fill some additional needs – and they intend to make the most of the situation.
Asked Wednesday if he felt the team's current batch of selections were enough to address those areas of concern, Fisher told reporters, "With the eight picks, we feel like we have a pretty good chance of filling some holes. We've discussed that and it's going to take some time. We expect to pick up some starters in this draft.
"To answer your question specifically, probably not. There are needs on this roster."
Need City, you are now on the clock.
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