Saturday, August 31, 2013
Recapping #NFLRank from Rams' perch
By Nick Wagoner
ESPN’s #NFLRank project offered its final reveal Friday and no St. Louis Rams cracked the list as a top-30 player on either side of the ball.
Not that the rankings are an end-all, be-all, but there is obvious progress to be found in the fact that four Rams -- No. 40 Chris Long, No. 57 James Laurinaitis and No. 63 Cortland Finnegan on defense and No. 61 Jake Long on offense -- made the list is a sign that the roster is headed in the right direction.
Although there’s no actual honorable-mention category, ESPN Insider Mike Sando had defensive tackle Michael Brockers listed as one who could break into the mix next year.
The quartet for the Rams is a somewhat respectable showing, but a glance at the numerous players their NFC West division brethren put on the list shows just how far the Rams still have to go to get their roster up to speed.
San Francisco placed 15 players on the lists, including three of the top 11 defensive players and a top-20 offensive player. Seattle wasn’t far behind, with 13 players on the lists, including a top-10 and top-20 defender.
Even Arizona didn’t lag behind the Rams, placing four players on the list with a top-20 defender and a top-10 offensive player.
My take: It’s no surprise that the Rams had some catching up to do in terms of the overall roster when coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead took over in 2012. Chris Long and Laurinaitis were already in place and Finnegan and Jake Long were signed as free agents.
The key for the Rams is for their many talented youngsters to translate potential into production and reinforce the build-through-the-draft mantra St. Louis has installed. Brockers seems like the most likely to land on this list’s next iteration, but the Rams aren’t lacking for other future candidates. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, end Robert Quinn, receiver Chris Givens and tight end Jared Cook have flashed glimpses of top-100 ability and the team expects rookies Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree to develop in similar fashion. One way for the Rams to speed up their ascent in the division would be for quarterback Sam Bradford to have the type of breakout season that would enter him in the conversation. As always, a franchise quarterback can cover a lot of holes on any roster.