by Russ Bliss, NFL/Fantasy Football Analyst (and long time Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams fan)
 

It started so promising. I was ecstatic to see DE Robert Quinn fall to the Rams at 14th overall in round one.


Then things took a turn for the bizarre.


Let's look at the picks and what the Rams should have done instead.


Round 1 (14): DE Robert Quinn.

I had no problem with this pick at all and think they got lucky. Considered by many to be one of the elite pass rushers in this draft, questions about his knee is the only reason he fell to 14. He got checked out and approved by Dr. James Andrews before the draft and that's good enough for me. Quinn will step in and become a real rushing force as part of the rotation Steve Spagnuolo likes to run on his DL.


Round 2 (47): TE Lance Kendricks.

Did I miss something? Like I wrote about in my pre-draft TE preview, Kendricks is a fine athlete and pass catching TE, but the Rams drafted 2 TE's last year and one of them (Michael Hoomanawanui) actually performed really well when healthy. With the questions surrounding the WR corps, and still facing a need to continue to get strong interior defensive lineman, there were other, BETTER, options here. WR Greg Little has the upside to become a true #1 WR in the NFL and would have made sense. Either of DT's Marvin Austin or Stephen Paea could have been a great young addition to the DT rotation as Fred Robbins can only play for so many more years. How about an interior OL like Benjamin Ijalana to help protect Sam Bradford? Heck, you could even say Mikel Leshoure as a second battering ram RB to finally take some of the pressure off of Steven Jackson would have made sense. But a TE? NO. This was a lost opportunity as each of those 5 players I listed was available at the time and each went within the next 12 picks in round 2.


Round 3 (78): WR Austin Pettis.

OLB Justin Houston would have been nice but he went before the Rams picked this round. A DB would have also been good here as they have to replace O.J. Atogwe. The DT, OL, or RB spots could have been addressed, especially if they had taken Little in round 2 instead of a TE. But WR was also an area that could use some competition. Problem is that Pettis is a tall, lanky, possession style WR who lacks speed or playmaking ability. The Rams already have a guy in Danny Amendola who can catch 50 passes for an average of 8 yards each. If taking a WR, a speedster like Jerrel Jernigan or a higher upside guy like Leonard Hankerson would have made more sense. Going DT, Kenrick Ellis would have been a great space eating run stuffer for two downs or if they wanted more speed at DT in passing situations Drake Nevis would have filled that role nicely.


Round 4 (112): WR Greg Salas.

Nothing quite like making up for the mistake of passing on Greg Little in round 2 by taking WR's in both rounds 3 and 4. This was idiocy. Especially considering that Salas is practically a mirror image of Pettis. Instead of taking advantage of the fact RB's Delone Carter, Kendall Hunter, Tawain Jones, and Bilal Powell were all available with their pick in round 4, the Rams foolishly wasted their pick this round. Carter and Powell would have perfectly addressed the need to have a RB who can take some of the early down load off Steven Jackson, while Hunter and Jones would be in line to take some of the 3rd down duties off Jackson's plate and provide nice change of pace types of RB's to his bruising style. But that's me making sense. What the Rams really needed was another WR! Salas is a nice sized WR with decent speed, but not a guy who is an elite talent or ever likely to be a team's #1.


Round 5 (158): S Jermale Hines.

Finally, the Rams got back on track by addressing their need at Safety. I liked Tyler Sash better (whom the Rams passed on at this pick)  as I think Sash is more of an overall Safety who is good both in run defense and in coverage, but Hines provides excellent size and hitting ability as an extra man in the box. In round 5, RB was again a consideration, but Safety needed to be addressed and this pick made sense. I liked it a lot better than their picks in rounds 2, 3, and 4 anyway.


Round 7 (216): DB/WR Mikail Baker.

Great. Just EXACTLY what the Rams needed (insert sarcasm). A WR converted to DB in 2009 who also has a slew of injury issues. Raw as a DB, and not exceptional as a WR, I didn't understand this pick at all. The only thing that got him noticed was a 40 yard dash time in the mid 4.3 range at his pro day. Baker does bring some return capabilities, but if he doesn't excel at that, he won't be making the roster. If the Rams really wanted a speedster, they again blew it by passing on Maryland RB Da'rel Scott, who also has some return experience and would have at least filled a need for an electrifying scatback to compliment Steven Jackson. There were a couple of other RB's that at least the Rams could have drafted here instead of Baker who would have made more sense.


Round 7 (228): OLB Jabara Williams.

Many rounds later than I thought the Rams would try to get an OLB, they wait until round 7 and get small school stud Williams. Williams was great at Stephen F. Austin, but at 6'2", and only 223 lbs, he is way too lean to be more than a situational OLB. Maybe the Rams are thinking a move to Safety if he doesn't pack on 15-20 lbs? At least he's got speed, but if he doesn't bulk up and add some strength, he's a rotational player at best.


Round 7 (229): DB Jonathan Nelson.

With back to back picks, and having taken a Safety in round 5, I thought for sure the Rams would take a RB here, if for no other reason just to make sure they brought one in that could compete with uninspiring Ken Darby and Keith Toston to be Steven Jackson's backup. I guess the Rams are willing to just wait until free agency begins so they can sign a couple of RB's who didn't get drafted, and/or bring in some veteran free agents to compete at the position. Instead they took the same approach they did with WR's: get quantity at a position and hope somebody sticks. Without any special traits about his game other than he's played both CB and Safety in college (excelling at neither) this was just another in a draft full of head scratchers for St. Louis.


Overall:


I firmly believe that you really can't grade a draft right away as everything we know right now is based on the speculation of what type of pro player these rookies will become. That said, I really struggled watching the Rams execute their 2011 NFL Draft. When Quinn slid to the Rams in round 1 I was ecstatic in having such a talent fall right into their laps. But after that, wasting a pick on a TE in round 2 was an opportunity lost when they could have gotten a potential #1 WR in Greg Little. Then trying to make up for that mistake in both rounds 3 and 4 by drafting Jabar Gaffney clones robbed them of opportunities to get solid players at DT and RB. A smart draft could have placed this team squarely in position to take hold of a weak NFC West in 2011, but instead the Rams chose to rebuild their WR's and TE's in a new image more befitting Josh McDaniels vision. A vision that apparently doesn't include trying to get a quality RB to backup and take some of the load off Steven Jackson or an interior OL to help protect Sam Bradford. I'm not saying I don't like Lance Kendricks, or Austin Pettis, or Greg Salas for the types of players they may become, but the Rams didn't need to spend their picks in rounds 2, 3, and 4, to grab a TE and 2 WR's when they had other directions they could have gone in that would have netted them solid players and filled much greater needs. Just to compare:


Rams took:                                                                                         Rams could have taken:

2nd round TE Lance Kendricks                                                    2nd round WR Greg Little

3rd round WR Austin Pettis                                                         3rd round DT Kenrick Ellis/Drake Nevis

4th round WR Greg Salas                                                              4th round RB Delone Carter

5th round S Jermale Hines                                                           5th round S Tyler Sash


I personally like the way the second column looks more than the first. And it would have addressed needs with quality players. But like I said, we simply don't know whether the Rams scored a hit in this draft for a few years. But I think they dropped the ball in a big way after the Quinn selection in round 1. Quinn saves this draft from being a complete failure on the surface.


Russ's Grade: D+