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History shows Rams will have tough choice with No. 2 pick

The St. Louis Rams are in a tricky spot.

With the second overall pick of the draft, they aren't under quite as much scrutiny as the Miami Dolphins, who own the top choice.

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Last 20 No. 2 picks

But it's extremely close.

Theoretically, the Rams -- who haven't chosen this high since trading to No. 1 for Orlando Pace in 1997 -- are in position to land the second-rated prospect of the entire college crop. In a year such as this, where there is no consensus No. 1, they could very well end up with a player that they (and many other teams) actually rated higher than the first one chosen.

They also could end up with the messiest of uncooked omelet facials.

Miss on the second overall pick, and you can count on receiving every bit of the harsh and endless criticism that the team picking at the top can expect if its selection flops, if not more.

Does the name Ryan Leaf ring a bell? He is the poster child for colossal draft busts. He also was a second overall pick (by the San Diego Chargers in 1998). Crazy as it sounds now, there were many NFL observers who actually believed that Leaf would become a better quarterback than the one taken ahead of him, Peyton Manning.

Maybe the name Tony Mandarich sounds familiar. Before Leaf came along, his was the face on the aforementioned poster. And, yes, he, too, was a second overall pick (by the Green Bay Packers in 1989). The player taken ahead of him, Troy Aikman, has a bronze bust in his likeness in Canton, Ohio.

Another historically poor No. 2 choice was Rick Mirer, selected by the Seattle Seahawks selected in 1993.

Of course, history shows that the second overall pick has produced its share of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees as well -- eight to be exact.

The general feeling around the league is that with highly talented prospects such as defensive linemen Chris Long (Virginia), Vernon Gholston (Ohio State) and Glenn Dorsey (LSU), offensive tackle Jake Long (Michigan), and running back Darren McFadden (Arkansas), a team with a top-five pick should feel confident about getting a quality player. The Rams are planning to have all five, plus 25 other potential draftees, visit them in mid-April, less than two weeks before the draft.

"The magic of drafting isn't so much filling the needs of your roster, but getting guys that are going to help you win," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "I think these guys are all going to be very good candidates for injecting some help to our team in some areas where I think we're going to need it."

The No. 2 spot also can be attractive to teams in the lower portion of the first round looking to trade up for a player who wouldn't likely otherwise be available to them. Such deals have happened three times in the past dozen years.

Still, the Rams can't be comforted by the fact the past dozen years have yielded mixed results for the team with the second overall pick.

Conclusions on the last three -- Calvin Johnson (wide receiver, Detroit, 2007), Reggie Bush (running back, New Orleans, 2006), and Ronnie Brown (running back, Miami, 2005) -- are pending. Then, again, after Mario Williams' breakout performance last season, there was plenty of talk that the Houston Texans -- who drew heavy ridicule for passing on Bush -- had it right all along when they used the No. 1 overall pick in '06 on the former North Carolina State defensive end.

By far, the best No. 2 choice since 1996 has been Donovan McNabb, the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The next tier from the last 12 years includes Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers (2002) and former Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington, each appearing in three Pro Bowls.

At the bottom are Leaf, Robert Gallery (offensive tackle, Oakland, 2004), and Charles Rogers (wide receiver, Detroit, 2003).

The Rams will do their best to avoid having their name attached to such players. It won't be easy. As Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian points out, there is "no such thing" as a can't-miss prospect. For proof, he points to a study of 27 drafts that showed about half of the picks failed to pan out.

"It never fails," Polian said of the invariable flops. "It's an inexact science … if you can call it a science."

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