May 13, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams first-round pick defensive tackle Aaron Donald and first-round pick offensive lineman Greg Robinson talks with the media during a press conference at Rams Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Evaluating Rams' First Round Draft Picks with Draft Guru Ben Allbright

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By all accounts, the St. Louis Rams were the big winners of the 2014 NFL Draft. Of course, it takes a few years to properly evaluate a team’s draft, but the Rams received an ‘A’ grade from just about every draft pundit. According to Football Outsiders, the Rams received an ‘A’ grade from every reputable analyst. While he hasn’t yet made Football Outsiders’ list of reputable analysts, Ben Allbright is a respected draft pundit and a co-host at 94.1 FM Mile High Sports in Denver, Colorado, and I had a chance to speak to him after the first round of the draft to get his take on the Rams’ first two picks. Among other things, he shared his thoughts on the Rams’ ‘dream scenario’ heading into the draft, where second overall pick Greg Robinson fits along the Rams’ offensive line, how 13th overall pick Aaron Donald gives the Rams a formidable pass rush, and what other needs the Rams needed to address during rounds two through seven.

Our full interview with Ben Allbright can be heard here:

While we’ve already addressed how Aaron Donald can help the Rams recreate the ‘Fearsome Foursome’, let’s review exactly what the Rams are getting with both Donald and Robinson, and what Allbright thinks about the Rams’ selections. Here is a sampling of scouting profiles for Greg Robinson:

Robinson Profile 1 (CBS)

 (Courtesy of Rob Rang at NFLDraftScout.com)

Robinson Profile 2 (NFL Draft Geek)

(Courtesy of NFLDraftGeek.com)

Robinson Profile 2 (Sports Illustrated)(Courtesy of Doug Farrar at SportsIllustrated.com)

The bottom line is that Greg Robinson has the potential to be an elite offensive lineman, but the question is whether or not he’ll ever develop into an elite tackle. According to Ben Allbright, the Rams hope to start Robinson at left guard–next to left tackle Jake Long, whom they expect to be at full strength by the beginning of the regular season. While the Rams had Robinson ranked higher than offensive tackles Jake Matthews (drafted sixth overall) and Taylor Lewan (drafted 11th overall), one of the other perks to drafting Robinson was that he could play guard, whereas the Rams didn’t believe that they could move Matthews or Lewan from the tackle position, according to Allbright. With the emergence of Joe Barksdale at right tackle last season, and Rodger Saffold transitioning extremely well from right tackle to right guard, having Robinson start at left guard–and play at a high level–would not only solidify the offensive line, but also give the Rams what could be one of the top-5 offensive lines in the NFL. To get a visual sense of what the Rams are hoping to get out of Robinson, take a look at this pre-draft scouting video and highlight reel:

Turning our attention to Aaron Donald, the Rams were apparently licking their chops when he was available with their second first round pick (13th overall). According to Ben Allbright, Donald (along with Robinson) was one of the top six players overall on the Big Board. Allbright also believes that the Rams were smart to add to their already stacked defensive line–seemingly following the paths of the Chicago Bears’ and New York Giants’ three combined Super Bowl teams during the past eight seasons. During his final three seasons at the University of Pittsburgh, Donald started 30 games and played in a total of 38 games. During that time, he had 27.5 sacks and 63 tackles for loss. After the 2013 season, he won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman (offensive or defensive), the Chuck Bednarik Award for being the defensive player of the year, and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for being the nation’s most outstanding defensive player. Past winners of the Outland Trophy include Orlando Pace, Jonathan Ogden, Ndamukong Suh, Joe Thomas, Bruce Smith, and Rams 2011 draftee Barrett Jones. Past winners of the Chuck Bednarik Award include Warren Sapp, Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Ndamukong Suh. Past winners of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy include Warren Sapp, Charles Woodson, Terrell Suggs, Brian Orakpo, Ndamukong Suh, Luke Kuechly, Champ Bailey, and Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. In other words, Donald is in pretty good great company.

Here’s a sampling of scouting profiles to explain why Donald is so highly regarded:

Donald Profile 1

Donald Profile 1 (CBS)

 (Courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com)

Donald Profile 1 (SI)

 (Courtesy of Chris Burke at SportsIllustrated.com)

When you see draft pundits routinely comparing Donald to the likes of John Randle and Geno Atkins (a comparison that Ben Allbright endorses), you have to feel pretty good about adding a player like that to a defense that already led the league in sacks over the past two seasons. Donald’s statistical production at the University of Pittsburgh supports those lofty comparisons.

Donald College Stats

(Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh Athletic Department)

To get a visual sense of what the Rams are hoping to get out of Donald, take a look at this pre-draft scouting video and highlight reel:

It’s abundantly clear that the Rams attacked the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft with the motto ‘games are won in the trenches‘. While it could take at least a couple of seasons to fully evaluate the Rams’ selections of Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald, the team already looks poised to take the next step toward becoming a perennial playoff participant. If come week 1, both Robinson and Donald have earned their way into the starting lineup, or at least earned significant minutes in the rotation–in Donald’s case–then the Rams will have to feel pretty good about that next step being taken sooner rather than later.

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Tags: Aaron Donald Greg Robinson NFL NFL Draft St. Louis Rams

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