Where the Rams stand after defining day

April, 28, 2012
4/28/12
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Brian QuickBrian Spurlock-US PRESSWIREAppalachian State's Brian Quick gives the Rams a prototypical No. 1 receiver.
No NFL team entered Friday in better position than the St. Louis Rams.

No team owned more picks on the second day of the 2012 NFL draft. No team owned better picks. No team stood to gain more than the Rams and few, if any, had as much ground to cover in becoming competitive again.

This day, more than any other during the 2012 draft, will define the Rams' immediate outlook under first-year coach Jeff Fisher.

But this remains a long-term rebuilding process. The Rams have four first-round picks over the next two drafts. By 2014, the Rams' figure to feature at least a dozen young first- and second-round picks on a roster that was among the NFL's oldest only last year.

By trading back and adding picks, the Rams bought the ability to take risks while also affirming this remains a rebuilding situation. They were not a Justin Blackmon away from winning the NFC West. They needed bodies and got them, with five more picks Saturday.

But if the Rams are going to accelerate the process, being right on cornerback Janoris Jenkins would certainly help.

Perhaps no player in the draft carries more boom-or-bust potential than Jenkins. Arrested once for resisting arrest and twice for marijuana possession, Jenkins squandered his career at Florida and wound up at North Alabama. This pick can't break the Rams' draft, given where Jenkins was selected, but could make it.

The Rams knew the risks.

"We did combine interviews, we had a top-30 visit, we had a member of our organization go down to Florida and spent several days down there, spent time in North Alabama," Fisher told reporters in St. Louis. "We talked to many, many, many people that crossed paths with him since he was a young boy growing up in Pahokee, Fla. So we did our work and every person we talked to said, 'Take him.'"

Jenkins is a Pro Bowl talent as a cornerback and a dynamic threat with the ball in his hands, having averaged 21.7 yards per punt return with three touchdowns last season.

Fisher wasn't around when Arizona's Patrick Peterson crushed the Rams with a 99-yard punt return in overtime last season, but he knows those types of plays can turn a game and even a season -- particularly for a team with an offense as limited as the one St. Louis has fielded recently.

[+] EnlargeJanoris Jenkins
Cliff Welch/Icon SMI"I'm not anticipating any issues whatsoever with Janoris," Jeff Fisher said.
That offense has the potential to improve now that the Rams have finally found a wide receiver with prototypical No. 1 size. Brian Quick of Appalachian State reminded Rams coaches of Terrell Owens from a physical standpoint: 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. Quick is a former high jumper with a flair for acrobatic receptions.

The Rams aren't horrible at wide receiver. They have simply lacked top-end talent at the position. Quick stands out physically from the rest.

"That was a pick I didn’t like," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "He just doesn't run that well for such a high pick, but you are right, they don’t have a body type like his."

Williamson was higher on running back Isaiah Pead, the Rams' third pick of the second round. Pead projects as the young change-of-pace runner the Rams have lacked. He adds to the position without threatening Steven Jackson.

There was some thought before the draft that St. Louis would select Alabama running back Trent Richardson sixth overall if given the chance, but how much better would the Rams have become with Richardson phasing out Jackson, who is coming off seven consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards?

Back to Jenkins for a moment.

The Rams didn't flinch when they lost defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to a season-long suspension because they knew Fisher, assistant head coach Dave McGinnis and secondary coach Chuck Cecil had been coordinators previously. Now it's up to those veteran coaches to help Jenkins enjoy more staying power than he managed at Florida.

But don't make comparisons to Pacman Jones, the troubled player Fisher's Tennessee Titans once selected in the first round. Jenkins was chosen 39th. Jones went sixth. Big difference.

"I’m not anticipating any issues whatsoever with Janoris," Fisher said. "OK, I'm not. The issues, Pac was, he checked out pretty good on all our background checks. He had one minor incident as a freshman. His issues came after he got into the league. Janoris is -- again we’re not concerned about him. He’s a first-round talent, he’s a good football player. He’s got one of the best in the room in [cornerback] Cortland Finnegan and he’s going to be a great talent for us."

Adding another corner with character concerns (Trumaine Johnson, third-rounder from Montana) might have tipped the Rams' hand from a scheme standpoint.

"This all makes me think that they want to be very aggressive with their blitzing and defensive scheme," Williamson said.

The Rams suddenly have young depth in the secondary. They have a potential No. 1 receiver. They have a change-of-pace running back. All those areas were problematic last season. Their defensive line is a strength with first-rounder Michael Brockers joining a group featuring Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Kendall Langford, all in their early 20s or mid-20s.

St. Louis failed to upgrade a linebacker, which remains a concern, but again, this isn't a one-year rebuild.

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