Rams have several options with No. 2 overall pick in the draft

ST. LOUIS -- Last April, Billy Devaney had more podium time on Day 2 of the draft for the St. Louis Rams. This year, he carries veto power.

The change at the top sparks hope for a franchise that will again be in the spotlight on draft day, picking second for the second straight year. A total of five wins the last two seasons prompted a full-scale overhaul that leaves the Rams with a new coach, a roster minus two stars from its past glories and a front office that'll lean heaviest on those with football backgrounds.

In charge will be a general manager with 24 years of hands-on experience. Devaney, a former protege of Bobby Beathard, was personnel director last year in his first season with St. Louis.

Since taking over near the end of last year's 2-14 disaster, he's already made some hard choices.

Longtime stars Orlando Pace and Torry Holt were released to clear cap space for young talent. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe got the franchise player tag and cornerback Ron Bartell was re-signed after shopping the free agent market.

The first of three minicamps was held earlier this month, giving Devaney and new coach Steve Spagnuolo a better feel for their needs.

"That was one of the reasons Billy and I decided to have a camp before the draft," Spagnuolo said. "I think that will be huge."

Next weekend comes the biggest day yet.

"There's more to do, a lot more," Devaney said in a telephone interview during a break in draft preparations. "But this is awesome, it's the time you love."

The Rams follow the Detroit Lions to the podium on Saturday, so the choices are endless.

Most pre-draft speculation has centered on the offensive line, a weakness in recent years and weakened further by the recent release of seven-time Pro Bowler Orlando Pace. Tackles Jason Smith of Baylor and Eugene Monroe of Virginia could fill the void.

Then again, this is a franchise that needs help almost everywhere. The exception: defensive line, where they invested last year's No. 2 on Chris Long and their 2007 first-rounder on Adam Carriker.

Devaney will only say the Rams will take the best player on their board. If they decide a skill player is the best bet, he vowed cost will not scare them.

"No matter who you pick, it's going to be ridiculously expensive," Devaney said. "I don't know how every other place operates, but I know that's how it works here.

"In free agency, in hiring a coach, in the draft, it's doing what's best for the organization."

Thus far, trading down doesn't seem to be an option. Not with a draft pegged as one with several interchangeable options at or near the top of the heap.

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"No interest," Devaney said. "It's early yet, but that hasn't happened."

Scouts and the personnel department will have a lot more voice in who gets picked this time around. They'll set up the board, with input from the coaching staff.

"I don't want to discount the coaches, because they've done a great job in evaluating positions," Devaney said. "Spags is all for this setup.

"He's said, 'Hey, you guys do this all year long. We'll have our say and you'll use that information as you see fit."'

The final board might have no more than 120 names. Devaney thinks that'll be plenty for both days given widely differing philosophies franchises take into the draft.

"Everybody grades players differently," he said. "We'll have enough. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Linehan had the final say on picks last year, although Devaney said everything went very smoothly with no major differences of opinion.

"Scott and I kind of worked it together," Devaney said. "Honest to God, we were in total agreement."

This year, Devaney promises to be a team player. But he'll be the boss.

"Oh sure," he said. "Somebody has to be the tiebreaker."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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