As the St. Louis Rams, and their fans, know all to well, analyzing players in the NFL Draft can be extremely difficult. Even selecting in the Top 10 can be hit-0r-miss, which can lead to years of mediocrity for the organization on the losing end of the selection. However, the 2011 “Golden Draft” was an outlier in the midst of that uncertainty, churning out 12 Pro Bowlers within the opening 16 selections, including QB Cam Newton, CB Patrick Peterson, OT Tyron Smith, and WR A.J. Green.
While there are certainly a number of notable players from a variety of positions comprising that elite grouping, the 2011 NFL Draft might be best known for the handful of dominant pass rushers it produced. Von Miller and Aldon Smith were immediately impactful, with Miller earning 1st-Team All-Pro honors and Smith taking home the Professional Football Writers of America’s (PFWA) Defensive Rookie of the Year award in their opening seasons. In the following year, another monster would “breakout” in the league…
In 2012, J.J. Watt, the No.11 overall pick, would record 21 sacks, 76 total quarterback disruptions, and 72 defensive stops on way to his first 1st-Team All-Pro designation, as well as the AP Defensive Player of the Year award. This morning it was announced that the goliath had set another, extremely-high bar for the members of the 2011 class.
JJ Watt’s new extension in range of jersey number plus zeroes – $99 million over 6 years, including $51 million guaranteed, per sources
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 2, 2014
Mario Williams had been the highest paid defensive player in the NFL, after signing a 6 year, $96 million contract back in 2012, which including $31 million in guarantees. However, much like on the football field, Watt demolished that total, securing a “2010 rookie wage scale, Sam Bradford-esque” contract as a 3-4 defensive end. With Von Miller and Aldon Smith struggling to stay on the field, it is unlikely that either will see an extension before the start of the 2015 offseason. However, J.J. Watt’s new deal should set up the No.14 overall pick from the 2011 NFL Draft for a big pay deal.
Robert Quinn was the late bloomer of the pass rushing class, forced to sit behind James Hall for much of his rookie year before being thrown into the starting lineup in 2012. In 2013, Quinn unleashed his inner beast, recording 19 sacks and 91 total quarterback disruptions, all while earning his first 1st-Team All-Pro designation and being named the PFWA’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Earlier in the offseason, the St. Louis Rams picked up his “fifth-year option”; a team-friendly amendment in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that would keep Quinn on the Rams pay role next season (i.e. 2015) for a mere $6.9 million. The Texans had picked up that same option on Watt, but, apparently, had been working behind closed doors on a long-term extension that would benefit both parties; J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans.
The same has likely been happening between Kevin Demoff, Robert Quinn’s agent, and the rest of the St. Louis Rams front office. The framework of the J.J. Watt deal will likely set a new bar for “elite” defensive end contracts in the future, meaning that Robert Quinn will probably be making upwards of $15 million per year in the very, very near future.
— Robert Quinn (@RQuinn94) September 2, 2014
You’re next, my friend. And it will be well deserved…