Since Jeff Fisher and Les Snead rolled into St. Louis there have been massive changes within the organization, not just with personnel, but also within the culture of the team and the attitude that the players exude. If you want to talk about starting off an era with a bang, there is no better example than the blockbuster deal with the Washington Redskins; one that sent the Rams a 2nd rounder in 2012, a 1st rounder in 2013, and another 1st rounder in 2014. With that bounty of picks, Fisher and Co. having “wheeled and dealed” their way into draft exactly the players that they wanted over the past two season. However, not all of them have panned out at his point in time. So, in this section, Ramblin’ Fan will be buying and selling our stock in players from the first Fisher and Snead draft class.
Michael Brockers: Buying
Brockers completely turned the Rams’ run defense around when he returned to the field at the one-quarter mark of the regular season. He was an instant presence in the middle of the field, setting St. Louis on a 2-0 streak in his first two starts. Within 10 starts, the Rams’ defensive tackle, who was flagged as “raw” and as a “non-threat” pass rusher, had already accumulated 5 sacks and 8 hits on the quarterback, along with 19 defensive stops (i.e. tackles that resulted in an offensive failure). With another year of experience, an offseason to regain his health, and a new, competent outside linebacker in the second level of the defense, Brockers might have the best chance of any 2012 St. Louis draftee to make the Pro Bowl this season.
Janoris Jenkins: Buying
Jenkins led the NFL in defensive touchdowns last year, sparked by a late-season boost in play. Jenkins did struggle in the middle of the year, especially during a three-game stint starting in Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins. However, after his benching in Week 10 against the San Francisco 49ers, Jenkins did not allow a single touchdown in coverage, and racked up three interceptions and one fumble recovery. To end the season, he played 62 of 65 defensive snaps against the Seattle Seahawks and did not allow a single reception. In fact, Russell Wilson did not even target Jenkins in coverage for the entirety of the game… “lock down”!
Brian Quick: Buying
Everyone has heard of the “three-year” development curve for wide receivers, and Quick is certainly on track in that department. While we have seen little outside of the occasional report from OTAs that the 2012 2nd rounder has improved enough to see time on the field, a majority of fans, coaches, and analysts all appear to be backing the small-school prospect for the upcoming season. Quick showed small glimpses of dominant play last season, and with time and experience, could certainly do more of the same in the near future.
Isaiah Pead: Selling
Marred by an unusual academic schedule at the University of Cincinnati, Pead has seemingly been behind the curve since he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2012. During minicamp as a rookie, Pead was beaten out by fellow 2012 draftee, Daryl Richardson, who would eventually man the backup responsibilities to Steven Jackson, at one point splitting carries with No. 39 in the backfield. Pead was unimpressive on both offense and special teams, but had hopes of working his way up this offseason. However, with news of a one-game suspension, the experience of Richardson, and the hype surrounding Zac Stacy, it seems unlikely that Pead will break through any time in the foreseeable future.
Trumaine Johnson: Buying
Johnson was limited to the dime package for a majority of last season, but caught a break in the second half of the season after Jeff Fisher moved him ahead of Bradley Fletcher in the depth chart. As the nickelback, Johnson played primarily on the outside, with Cortland Finnegan moving into the slot. He played relatively well in coverage, allowing only one touchdown in coverage after Week 10. Johnson was forced to man-up against top-tier players throughout the season, including Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson, and showed promising abilities in coverage. If Johnson can work on securing the football, he could easily lead the team in interceptions next season, and could certainly make a case for a “starting” role in a few years when Finnegan is on the backend of his massive contract.
Chris Givens: Buying
Being drafted in the 4th round, most probably did not predict Givens being the guy to step up last season in the receiving game. After Amendola sustained the gruesome SC Joint separation in Week 5 against the Cardinals, Givens emerged as the top target for Bradford. Aside from being a threat with the deep-ball, Givens showed on several occasions that he could handle the load as a down-by-down receiver, even posting 11 receptions in the win over the 49ers in Week 13. Now, with other viable, healthy option on the roster, Givens could see his numbers skyrocket into the upper-tier of receivers in the league. Bradford has mentioned that Givens has put in an unparalleled amount of work into his route running and his intermediate game this offseason. With his speed, talent, and work ethic the sky is the limit for the Wake Forest alum.
Rok Watkins: Selling
Much like Pead, Watkins was behind from the start, showing up at camp overweight and out-of-shape. After dedicating himself to offseason workouts, Watkins would eventually see his way into the starting lineup, after Rob Turner was moved to center to replace the injured Scott Wells. However, that was short-living, getting thrown on the IR the following week with an ankle injury. Watkins appeared to be the “front-runner” for the right guard spot after Tennessee signed Rob Turner this offseason, but his one-game suspension will likely slot him behind, at least, Chris Williams on the depth chart. With the semi-large, one-year deal being given to Williams, the drafting of Barrett Jones, and Watkins repetitive setbacks, the sky might be a bit overcast for the disgruntled 5th rounder.
Greg Zuerlein: Buying
Outside of Alfred Morris, Zuerlein might have been the “steal” of the 6th round in the 2012 draft, which is odd to say about a kicker. Zuerlein came into the league and instantly dominated with his leg, almost single-handedly (or single-leggedly) propelling the Rams to victory over the Seattle Seahawks at the beginning of the season. Zuerlein did struggle a bit with consistency towards that middle of the season… but, then again, was being asked to make ridiculously-long field goals in some less-than-ideal conditions (i.e. a 66-yard attempt at the end of the game in Miami). Greg “the Leg” should enter into 2013 as a Top 5 player at his position, and is poised to be a contributor on the St. Louis for as long as he can swing his leg.
Aaron Brown: Selling
That should really say “Sold” considering the St. Louis Rams had already cut Brown by the start of the 2012 season. You win some, you lose some…
Daryl Richardson: Buying
Most 7th rounders would be lucky to make the roster and see time on the field as a special teamer. Richardson defied those odds, beating out Isaiah Pead for the backup spot, then getting some significant carries in a handful of games while Jackson was nursing a groin injury sustained in Week 2. In games where Richardson saw more than five carries, he averaged an impressive 5.4 yards per attempt, including an 8.3 average on seven attempts in the tie against the 49ers. He was also a monster in the “check-down” game, tallying an impressive 137 yards after the catch when he snagged the ball behind the line-of-scrimmage. With the suspension of Pead, Richardon and rookie Zac Stacy look as though they will be splitting the bulk of the load in the backfield. Fisher has compared Richardson to a Chris Johnson-type player on countless occasions, and if he can be half of what Johnson was in his prime, this 7th rounder might be the steal of the 2012 draft class.