I have been talking a lot about the draft over the last few weeks, and I think it might be good to get a slightly different opinion on this blog. I was sent a Rams draft article by another fan, and I thought I would post it on here since it is a very well written piece and holds a few different ideas than I do. So here ya go, and thanks again to Patrick for thinking of us here at Ramblin’ Fan.
Rams Draftspot 2010
By Patrick Muldowney
The 2009 season can be summarized pretty easily for the Rams: one of the worst in NFL history. When a team wins only one game, fandom becomes an endless series of false hopes. For example, the brief delusion of grandeur when Kyle Boller took his first snaps as a Ram, until we realized that one can change uniforms, but not intelligence. Also, the belief the Rams would beat the Skins until Donnie Avery fumbled his only catch of the game. Of course, this season could not have been unexpected for any true Rams fan. In fact, I could have predicted within one game (would have guessed two) how many they would win during training camp because my first glance at the depth chart garnered an involuntary “Oh No!” The season did look as bad on paper as it did on the field. Even still, some 2009 bright spots included:
- the emergence of rookie James Laurinaitis
- Steven Jackson leading the NFC in rushing
- the punting of Donnie Jones (got plenty of chances)
- finding Danny Amendola (an Eagle throwaway) as a punt return specialist/receiver
- Steve Spagnuolo seeming like a quality coach (hard to truly tell with dearth of talent)
Playoff teams require much more in terms of positivity, and that is why we are reflecting on a team with the #1 pick in 2010.
The Rams have never been a team to make big free agent splashes, so quality draft picks are essential. 2009 is just the most recent installment in a series of poor drafts dating back to the beginning of the Martz era. If you are going to give millions of guaranteed money to any player other than, at times, a skilled position player, he should be plug and play, and Jason Smith is turning out to be a complete concussive wreck. I know that every draft pick is risky, but the brass owes Ram nation a sincere apology for not seeking a leader in 2009 (and possibly 2008) with arm like Mark Sanchez and Matt Ryan within reach. Sure, either would have struggled on this team, but I would take that future over the quarterback possibilities in this year’s draft, which may become a battle between the injured and the drunk. James Laurinaitis was a great pick, and should patrol the middle of that defense for years to come, but the rest of the picks were out of place and perplexing. They tried a receiver, Brooks Foster, late and got nothing, suffered a bit of bad luck with Bradley Fletcher’s injury, and went with Keith Null, who most likely would have been a free agent, to solve a problem that begins with QB1, not QB3. Basically, the 2009 draft made a weak team weaker because they only filled one need successfully, and even executives with average drafts fill three needs.
As far as 2010, Mel Kiper recently listed QB, WR, OLB, and DL as their top needs draftwise. Honestly though, did he make a list of all the possible positions, throwing out middle linebacker and running back, and pull their top needs out of a hat? They have so many holes their most successful approach to this draft would involve going “best available player” each time. Even if they do approach the draft clearheaded, they cannot pass up the opportunity to get a quarterback or receiver with upside. The release of Marc Bulger drew a collective sigh of relief from Rams’ fans that could no longer bear watching his annual collapse; he must even be disgusted by his own fragility. In fact, they really cannot afford a quarterback without feet or an effective way of falling, given their porous pass blocking (stronger run blockers). Jon Gruden was most likely thinking about the Rams’ line when he lectured Sam Bradford on how to get hit properly last week. They also cannot pass up a playmaking receiver, which made their lack of interest in Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr. perplexing. One is not great off the field, and the other not great on the field, but both are as good as anyone they currently have, and a 5thround pick is a small price. Their only potentially significant losses from last year’s roster are DE Leonard Little, the only pass rushing threat, to retirement, the Redskins, or his hometown Panthers, and LT Alex Barron, who has drawn more flags than accolades, and no interest as trade bait. Free agency has been slow this offseason, so it looks like QB AJ Feeley, as backup or stopgap starter, DT Fred Robbins, and G Hank Fraley are as good as it’s getting. These players will provide more in veteran leadership than production, so NFL-ready draft picks will be essential to any improvement for 2010.
Realistically speaking, the Rams should, and will, be looking for a leader. They did not bite on any opportunity this offseason to bring in a Quarterback, so anyone with sense would have to deduce that is their first order of business. The Rams should also be able to fill their need at Outside Linebacker early in the draft. This is a weak class, but unless someone reaches, the weakness may play into the Rams’ favor. Although this is not a good draft for a #1 Wide Receiver, there is little distinction between the top 12 receivers, so this draft will provide some playmaker options, even in the middle to later rounds. The 2nd and 3rd day should also feature some Senior Bowl worthy lineman they can key on to help improve Steven Jackson’s chances of reaching pay dirt and the quarterback’s chances of keeping his head on straight. Finally, this draft and all the late round compensatory picks the Rams have accumulated should give them the opportunity to find depth in the secondary and backfield.
The dominant Nebraskan, Ndamukong Suh, is my #1 pick, but Sam Bradford of Oklahoma will be the Rams’ #1 pick. Last month the idea of Bradford going first really irked me, because his recent injury should be a major concern with their current line, but that is my only concern with him. His poise, ability to read progressions, and accuracy allow St. Louis a great opportunity to secure their future. The desire of other teams to possibly position themselves to draft Bradford also shows that many of the best NFL minds believe in his ability, and future as a starter. Of course, executives love to snow job each other, but when that happens it is always followed with media intimations that all may not be as it appears. With Bradford, everyone seems to be drinking the juice, and I’m starting to like the taste. As much as this seems a foregone conclusion, Suh with #1, and Texas’ Colt McCoy at #33 would be a screwball that could prove genius. A move I would not suggest, but would respect for its gutsiness.
Looking at the other rounds, the Rams should first be looking to continue their defensive mindset. The only problem may be deciding which character issue they can accept. It is highly possible that Carlos Dunlap (Florida) will drop into the 2ndround, and he certainly has the ability to fill Leonard Little’s shoes as a player and a problem. More importantly, Dunlap’s work ethic has come into question. Navorro Bowman (Penn State) also should be there as a highly rated Outside Linebacker. His attacking style would be exciting, but his legal issues would not. Instead of the previously mentioned, for his speed, strength, consistency, and character, let’s all hope Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri) drops out of the first round. Based on Wide Receiver needs, if Golden Tate (Notre Dame) is there with the first pick in the 2ndround, he will be hard to pass up because his hands and leaping ability may be the best of the receivers, but the Rams could pick up Jordan Shipley (Texas) or Mardy Gilyard (Cincinatti) early in the 3rd or 4th and the decrease in quality is dubious. Shipley may be a better route runner, and Gilyard gets better separation and possesses some of those intangibles of a “go to” receiver. Someone is also going to take a late round chance on WR Mike Williams (Syracuse), who is one of the best receivers in the draft, but the most questionable of characters. He is the most physically gifted, so may be worth one of those compensatory picks.
Some other late round thoughts:
Sam Young (Notre Dame), Offensive Tackle. Not a great run blocker, but solid in pass protection and played well in Senior Bowl.
Jeff Byers (USC), Offensive Guard. Stayed healthy all year and earned 3rd Team All-American.
Okwasi Owusu-Ansah (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Cornerback. Love the size, speed, and special teams play. Could immediately become starter and impact kick returns.
Rafael Priest (TCU), Cornerback. Opposing teams passed the other way. That’s a nice quality.
Kyle McCarthy (Notre Dame), Safety. His only speed is slow, but his heart and ability to read plays as they develop are excellent. Would be great tackling on special teams.
Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith (UTEP), Free Safety. You can never have enough players who put helmets on the ball, and he does.
Late round running backs tend to present one of the better values in drafts, and they are not entirely crapshoot picks. Select someone who has had experience, success, and may even be a notable name from college, and they may provide quality carries in the NFL. Here is a list of some for this year: Joique Bell (Wayne State), LeGarrette Blount (Oregon), James Starks (Buffalo), Stafon Johnson (USC).
The 2010 season is not going to be a good season to come off a poor campaign because the problems looming between the players and owners will cause little turnover and less parody leading into the coming season. It would be ridiculous for Rams fans to expect more than five wins even if this was not the case. It is not ridiculous though, to expect a markedly improved defense and a group of solid contributors from this draft. In fact, the 2010 draft should leave the Rams looking toward a 2011 push to the playoffs, and if all works well, the 2011 draft may provide that additional threat at Wide Receiver Sam Bradford will be desperately seeking this year: A.J. Green (Georgia), Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), Julio Jones (Alabama).
Topics: Bradley Fletcher, Brooks Foster, Colt McCoy, Danny Amendola, Donnie Avery, Donnie Jones, James Laurinaitis, Keith Null, Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Ndamukong Suh, NFL Draft, Sam Bradford, Steve Spagnuolo, Steven Jackson