- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- By now, it's pretty well known among Rams fans and followers that the team had designs on selecting Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner in the 2012 NFL draft.
In fact, that's ground we covered nearly a year ago at this time as the Rams prepared to play the Seattle Seahawks. What's always been left unsaid is just how close the Rams were to actually drafting Wagner.
On Tuesday, Wagner revealed that it was nearly an inevitability when chatting with St. Louis media via conference call.
"I remember everything was great," Wagner said. "I talked to them before I knew they were very interested and I felt like if I wasn't going to be in Seattle or whoever had the pick before that I was going to end there. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I could definitely tell through the conversations that we were having and just the vibe that they really wanted me to be there. I actually got a text right before I got drafted by the Seahawks from the (Rams) linebackers coach, but I'm happy where I'm at.”
For the record, the Rams linebackers coach at the time was Blake Williams, the son of current defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the then de facto defensive coordinator. And what, exactly, did the text say?
"Basically just be ready," Wagner said. "They were about to pick me, but Seattle came first. That's how the story's written.”
Of course, the story could have been written differently. Wagner recalled taking a pre-draft visit to St. Louis in which he met with the coaches, toured the facility and picked up the distinct vibe that the Rams were interested.
Unlike other near draft misses that happen to every team every year, the Rams actually had a say in this matter. Wagner was available when the Rams came on the board at No. 45 but instead of just pulling the trigger, they traded it to Chicago for pick No. 50 and a fifth-round selection.
During the 2011 season, the Rams had traded their own fifth-rounder to Denver in exchange for wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. In their efforts to recoup that pick, they moved down five spots thinking they could still land Wagner or the other linebacker prospect they coveted, Mychal Kendricks.
The Rams, meanwhile, ended up with two of the least productive players that coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have drafted since arriving in St. Louis in the form of running back Isaiah Pead and guard Rokevious Watkins. Watkins is no longer with the team and Pead is on injured reserve and figures to have an uphill climb to make the roster in 2015.
Wagner has turned into one of the league's best young linebackers and a driving force behind the NFL's best defense. He earned his first Pro Bowl berth on Tuesday despite missing five games with a toe injury. Wagner has 94 tackles on the season and the Seahawks have yielded just 33 points in the five games since Wagner returned.
Not that the Rams are taken aback at how well Wagner has performed.
"He puts them in position," Fisher said. "He's very instinctive, physical. He's a sideline-to-sideline player. When he decides to pressure he can do that, he's an outstanding tackler. It's no surprise to us that he's playing this way.”
Surprised, no, but the Rams would probably still greatly prefer he was doing it for them rather than against them when the teams meet Sunday in Seattle.
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