Manziel a possible Rams bargaining chip

ST. LOUIS -- If indeed the St. Louis Rams are looking to continue perpetuating the deal they made with the Washington Redskins in 2012 by trading down and adding even more high-value future picks, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's declaration that he's entering the 2014 NFL draft does nothing but strengthen their position.

While it seems extremely unlikely that the Rams would draft Manziel or any other quarterback -- the team has repeatedly made clear its devotion to Sam Bradford as the starter -- the more quarterbacks capable of going in the top five, the better the trade market will be. There's no position in the game that draws more attention on the open trade market than quarterback.

As it stands, our NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay rate Manziel as a top-three quarterback in this draft, behind only Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida's Blake Bortles. Between now and the draft, that could change and, of course, teams place different values on different players.

Since it's clear the Rams don't necessarily want to draft a quarterback as high as the first round, they find themselves in the unique position of being surrounded by teams who are in desperate need of a franchise signal-caller. After Houston picks first, the Rams go second and they are followed by Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland, all of which could use a long-term quarterback solution.

Atlanta sits at No. 6 and is set at quarterback but right after that Tampa Bay at No. 7 and Minnesota at No. 8 could also be in the quarterback market. That means between picks three and eight, five of six teams could well be in the hunt to add a quarterback.

The early consensus seems to be that Bridgewater is the top quarterback prospect in the draft, though there's plenty of time for players like Manziel and Bortles to close whatever gap may exist. The more they do, the higher the price could go for the Rams' No. 2 pick. There's almost no chance that price will rise as high as what the Rams got for the rights to Robert Griffin III in 2012, but there could be a nice return awaiting the Rams should Manziel or Bortles begin to separate.

For the Rams, if Manziel can interview well and boost his stock between now and May, the better their position will be. With more pressing needs on the offensive line and at wide receiver, the chances for the Rams to move down only a spot or two, get some extra picks and still get the player they want at a position of need are only growing.