In the “dead period” between the first rush of free agency and the start of the NFL Draft, it is often very difficult to find quality content about your team. Pro Days breakdowns and Mock Drafts will be churned out by the dozens, drastically moving players up and down boards as more rumors, individual performances, and smokescreens start flowing in from around the league. However, as the NFL Draft approaches, one of the more creative concepts is the idea of “re-drafting,” or re-picking a past draft based off what we now know about the players from that class. That’s often a sore subject for St. Louis Rams fans, with countless examples of “misses” in the Top 50 over the last decade, including the likes of Alex Barron and Jason Smith.
However, if nothing else, the Rams did make one undisputably amazing selection over the last 10 years, albeit one that might have been somewhat perplexing at the time. The year was 2004, and the St. Louis Rams snagged Steven Jackson with the No.24 overall pick, handing him the keys to the Rams backfield for the next nine seasons as the heir to the Marshall Faulk throne. In that time, he would become the all-time leading rusher in Rams franchise history, stringing together eight-consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons, as well as a handful of visits to the Pro Bowl.
Recently, NFL.com took a look back at that 2004 NFL Draft, re-assessing how teams may have picked based on the performances of the players in the class. Who did the St. Louis Rams end up with…?
Daryl Smith, LB
In reality, Smith was taking with the No.39 overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Prior to an injury in 2012, Smith had strung together eight solid season in the NFL, proving to be one of the most consistent and reliable outside linebackers in the league. Playing in a small market on a losing team prevented Smith some accumulating many accolades, but few linebackers were as productive as Smith, highlight by a period from 2009-2011, when he recorded over 300 tackles and twice graded out as one of the Top 2 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Last year, after being moved to the Baltimore Ravens, Smith showed even more versatility, switching to inside linebacker in the Ravens’ 3-4 base defense. In his 11th year in the league, he put together arguably his best season, notching 123 tackles, 5.0 sacks, and three interceptions; all career-high totals. Smith would have been a fine addition to the St. Louis Rams front-seven, one that had been severely lacking at outside linebacker until the recent drafting of Alec Ogletree.
For those wondering about how Steven Jackson fared in the re-drafting… he ended up making a lot more money! This time around, Steven Jackson was taken No.7 overall by the Detroit Lions, who, at that point, were still in their “we must select a receiver in the opening round” phase. While the selection of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson would eventually pay off for the Lions, the dynamic, albeit one-dimensional, offense has been lacking a true, workhorse running back since Barry Sanders was gracing their backfield. However, maybe it is a good thing that the Lions’ “missed” on Jackson, since we know that he can (and has) single-handedly will a team to at least a couple of wins per season; that likely means no Calvin Johnson in 2007 or Stafford in 2009.
It is safe to say that most in Rams Nation are pretty pleased with the outcome of the original 2004 NFL Draft. Sadly, there have been few since then that fans would be equally as happy about…