The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

A Ram named Suh?

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The best reason that any team has to lose this weekend is named Ndamukong Suh.

So while other teams with playoff berths wrapped up decide how hard to play for a higher seed or how long to rest regulars, the St. Louis Rams play for Suh. Sure they'll probably lose to San Francisco anyway and if they do, they finish 1-15, get the first pick in the draft and access to a player most scouts consider the best defender to come along in at least a decade.

Actually, the Rams probably still get the first pick if they win. If Detroit loses to Chicago, they'd be tied at 2-14 and the tiebreaker is the softer schedule based on record, which probably still is St. Louis. But the outcome of some of Sunday's other games could change that and the Rams might not want to take the risk.

How important can a player like Suh be?

In 1998, the Colts were 3-13, the worst record by one game over San Diego and a couple of others. They took Peyton Manning, the Chargers took Ryan Leaf and...

You get the picture. Although there were a lot of people who thought Leaf had a better future than Manning, I don't think Bobby Beathard, San Diego's GM, was one of them. He had too good a track record -- he usually traded draft picks, but two of his No. 1s in Washington were Art Monk and Darrell Green, who were just inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Go back even farther, to 1981. The Giants picked No. 2, behind New Orleans.

Every coach and GM in the league but one believed the best player in the draft was a linebacker from North Carolina named Lawrence Taylor. The "but one'' was the Saints' Bum Phillips (father of Wade), who thought George Rogers, a running back from South Carolina, was the next Earl Campbell. Phillips turned down all offers for the pick and took Rogers, allowing the Giants to grab Taylor.

Result?

The Giants made the playoff for the first time since 1963 in Taylor's rookie year, kept making the playoffs and won two Super Bowls with him. To be fair, that was two years into the reign of George Young as general manager, who built a system that continued through Ernie Accorsi and Jerry Reese and kept New York competitive for three decades. But picking Taylor got it started.

Can Suh be Lawrence Taylor or Peyton Manning for the Rams?

No one ever knows. It's part of the uncertainty of drafting.

But Chris Long, the No. 2 overall pick last year, is starting to come along at defensive end and playing with Mr. Suh should make him come along even faster. Steve Spagnuolo, the head coach, is one of the best defensive minds in the game and there is no quarterback who's a sure shot.

Yes, Suh could be a defensive version of Ryan Leaf but no one thinks he will be.

So does it really matter if St. Louis finishes 1-15 or 2-14?

Why risk Mr. Suh with a tiebreaker ? Go for it.

By Dave Goldberg  |  January 1, 2010; 4:17 PM ET  | Category:  St. Louis Rams Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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