NFC West: Joe Klopfenstein

NFC West teams pounced on tight ends in the 2011 NFL draft.

The St. Louis Rams made Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks the 47th player and second tight end selected. The Arizona Cardinals were the next team to draft a tight end, making Florida Atlantic's Rob Housler the 69th overall selection.

Since 2006, NFL teams have drafted only 10 tight ends higher than the Rams selected Kendricks. Two of those 10 start for the Rams' NFC West rivals: Vernon Davis, chosen sixth overall by San Francisco in 2006, and John Carlson, chosen 38th overall by Seattle in 2008.

Davis has become a Pro Bowl-caliber threat in the passing game even though the 49ers have suffered multiple scheme changes on offense. Carlson's production has fallen off amid similar changes, although he emerged as a threat off play-action during the playoffs last season.

Adding Kendricks and Housler to the NFC West should upgrade the position within the division. For that to happen, they'll have to outperform some of their disappointing predecessors. Since 2006, NFC West teams have missed on multiple tight ends, including three -- Joe Klopfenstein (Rams), Leonard Pope (Cardinals) and Dominique Byrd (Rams) -- in the second or third round.

Draft analyst Rob Rang pointed to Kendricks in particular as a good fit for his new team. Rang called Kendricks "a matchup nightmare with the reliable hands to take advantage of Sam Bradford's accuracy down the seam."

The Rams could certainly use one of those.


Rodgers, Matthews & Driver US PresswireGreen Bay's Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Donald Driver are all playing in Super Bowl XLV, but how might they have fit into the NFC West's draft plans?
DALLAS -- Every Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass and playoff victory makes the San Francisco 49ers look worse for drafting Alex Smith over Rodgers back in 2005.

A victory for Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 45 would only sanction additional mutilation of this rotting equine carcass.

Some criticism is justified, obviously, but with Rodgers and key Packers scheduled to make their Super Bowl media debuts Monday afternoon, another line of thinking occurred to me. The 49ers weren't the only ones to bypass Rodgers and other key players in this Super Bowl. Why should they absorb such a disproportionate amount of the blame?

The Green Bay players making Super Bowl media appearances Monday -- Rodgers, Donald Driver, A.J. Hawk, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson -- all qualify for analysis and reflection.

Let's take a look at them through NFC West lenses, beginning in chronological order:

1998 Draft: Charles Woodson, CB, Michigan

Round: First (fourth overall, by Oakland)

NFC West spin: The Cardinals passed over Woodson to select defensive end Andre Wadsworth third overall. The decision seemed defensible at the time. Wadsworth was a freakish talent at a premium position, but chronic knee injuries prevented him from approaching his potential. Wadsworth underwent microfracture knee surgery after only his third NFL season. He never played again, despite a 2007 comeback attempt.

First-round selections in the division:

  • Cardinals (third overall): Wadsworth, DE, Florida State
  • Rams (sixth overall): Grant Wistrom, DE, Nebraska
  • Seahawks (15th overall): Anthony Simmons, LB, Clemson
  • 49ers (28th overall): R.W. McQuarters, CB, Oklahoma State
1999 Draft: Donald Driver, WR, Alcorn State

Round: Seventh (213th overall, by Green Bay)

NFC West spin: Good for the Packers. They found a steal in the seventh round. Driver developed into a full-time starter in 2002, his fourth season. He has 698 career receptions. Driver reflects well on the Packers, but not negatively on anyone in the NFC West.

Seventh-round selections in the division (Seahawks did not have a pick): 2005 Draft: Aaron Rodgers, QB, California

Round: First (24th overall, by Green Bay)

NFC West spin: Only the Seahawks, who held the 26th choice that year, escape second-guessing for this one. To be fair, however, the Rams' Marc Bulger was coming off a breakout 2004 season in which he had thrown 21 touchdown passes while leading St. Louis to the playoffs. There was no reason for the Rams to target a quarterback in the 2005 first round. Rodgers might have wilted in St. Louis while the organization crumbled around him (a fate that might have awaited him in San Francisco as well). The Cardinals could have used a young quarterback to build around, but they signed Kurt Warner to a free-agent contract that offseason. Warner went 2-8 as a starter in 2005, but the Cardinals eventually went to the Super Bowl with him under center. Warner even edged Rodgers in the playoffs following the 2009 season.

First-round selections in the division:

  • 49ers (first overall): Alex Smith, QB, Utah
  • Cardinals (eighth overall): Antrel Rolle, DB, Miami
  • Rams (19th overall): Alex Barron, T, Florida State
  • Seahawks (26th overall): Chris Spencer, C, Mississippi
2006 Draft: A.J. Hawk, LB, Ohio State

Round: First (fifth overall, by Green Bay)

NFC West spin: The 49ers in particular were monitoring this choice closely. They were picking sixth overall that year and trying to find weapons for their second-year quarterback. Tight end Vernon Davis, chosen sixth overall, is becoming a perennial Pro Bowl choice. Hawk was an all-rookie selection, but he has not played well enough overall to cause much second-guessing in NFC West circles. The Cardinals ultimately whiffed on a quarterback that year, but no one is telling them they should have drafted Hawk instead.

First-round selections in the division:

  • 49ers (sixth overall): Davis, TE, Maryland
  • Cardinals (10th overall): Matt Leinart, QB, USC
  • Rams (15th overall): Tye Hill, CB, Clemson
  • 49ers (22nd overall): Manny Lawson, OLB, North Carolina State
  • Seahawks (31st overall): Kelly Jennings, CB, Miami
2006 Draft: Greg Jennings, WR, Western Michigan

Round: Second (52nd overall, by Green Bay)

NFC West spin: The Cardinals and Rams passed on Jennings in the second round, but that was understandable. Both teams were already strong at receiver. Looking back, however, the Rams certainly would have gone in another direction. They whiffed on tight end Joe Klopfenstein six spots before the Packers took Jennings.

Second-round selections in the division (49ers traded their pick):

  • Cardinals (41st overall): Deuce Lutui, G, USC
  • Rams (46th overall): Klopfenstein, TE, Colorado
  • Seahawks (63rd overall): Darryl Tapp, DE, Virginia Tech
2009 Draft: Clay Matthews, OLB, USC

Round: First (26th overall, to Green Bay)

NFC West spin: This draft hurts. Surely the Seahawks and Rams could have put Matthews' pass-rush ability to use even if he didn't fit their schemes precisely at the time. Both teams passed on him. Worse, the Packers used an additional 2009 first-round choice, this one ninth overall, for another key contributor, B.J. Raji.

First-round selections in the division:
Hope you enjoyed the exercise. I'll be heading to the Pittsburgh Steelers' media session in the not-too-distant future, with plans to check back at the next opportunity.


Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass and playoff victory makes the San Francisco 49ers look worse for drafting Alex Smith over Rodgers back in 2005.

A victory for Rodgers and Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 45 would only sanction additional mutilation of this rotting equine carcass.

Some criticism is justified, obviously, but with Rodgers and key Packers scheduled to make their Super Bowl media debuts Monday afternoon, another line of thinking occurred to me. The 49ers weren't the only ones to bypass Rodgers and other key players in this Super Bowl. Why should they absorb such a disproportionate amount of the blame?

Rodgers' case isn't the only relevant or interesting one along these lines. The Green Bay players making Super Bowl media appearances Monday -- Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver, A.J. Hawk, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson -- all qualify for analysis and reflection.

Let's take a look at them through NFC West lenses, beginning in chronological order:

1998 Draft: Charles Woodson, CB, Michigan

Round: First (fourth overall, by Oakland)

NFC West spin: The Cardinals passed over Woodson to select defensive end Andre Wadsworth third overall. The decision seemed defensible at the time. Wadsworth was a freakish talent at a premium position, but chronic knee injuries prevented him from approaching his potential. Wadsworth underwent microfracture knee surgery after only his third NFL season. He never played again, despite a 2007 comeback attempt.

First-round selections in the division:

  • Cardinals (third overall): Wadsworth, DE, Florida State
  • Rams (sixth overall): Grant Wistrom, DE, Nebraska.
  • Seahawks (15th overall): Anthony Simmons, LB, Clemson
  • 49ers (28th overall): R.W. McQuarters, CB, Oklahoma State.
1999 Draft: Donald Driver, WR, Alcorn State

Round: Seventh (213th overall, by Green Bay)

NFC West spin: Good for the Packers. They found a steal in the seventh round. Driver developed into a full-time starter in 2002, his fourth season. He has 698 career receptions. Driver reflects well on the Packers, but not negatively on anyone in the NFC West.

Seventh-round selections in the division:

  • 49ers (23rth overall): Kory Minor, OLB, Notre Dame
  • Cardinals (239th overall): Chris Greisen, QB, Northwest Missouri
  • Rams (252nd overall): Rodney Williams, P, Georgia Tech
2005 Draft: Aaron Rodgers, QB, California

Round: First (24th overall, by Green Bay)

NFC West spin: Only the Seahawks, who held the 26th choice that year, escape second-guessing for this one. To be fair, however, the Rams' Marc Bulger was coming off a breakout 2004 season in which he had thrown 21 touchdown passes while leading St. Louis to the playoffs. There was no reason for the Rams to target a quarterback in the 2005 first round. Rodgers might have wilted in St. Louis while the organization crumbled around him (a fate that might have awaited him in San Francisco as well). The Cardinals could have used a young quarterback to build around, but they signed Kurt Warner to a free-agent contract that offseason. Warner went 2-8 as a starter in 2005, but the Cardinals eventually went to the Super Bowl with him under center. Warner even outplayed Rodgers in the playoffs following the 2009 season.

First-round selections in the division:

  • 49ers (first overall): Alex Smith, QB, Utah

The Arizona Cardinals could have had Rodgers, but they drafted cornerback-turned-safety-turned-New York Giant Antrel Rolle. The St. Louis Rams could have had Rodgers. They selected tackle Alex Barron, a player St. Louis sent to the Dallas Cowboys for Bobby Carpenter.

Ghosts of the 2006 first round

March, 16, 2010
3/16/10
3:30
PM ET
Tye Hill's release from the Falcons makes him the only 2006 first-round draft choice without a job with an NFL team.

The Rams made Hill the cornerstone of an ill-fated 2006 draft class featuring Joe Klopfenstein, Claude Wroten, Jon Alston and Dominique Byrd in the first three rounds. The fate of that class helps explain why the team will be picking first overall in 2010.

Hill, chosen 15th overall, has company among disappointing first-round corners from the 2006 class.

Antonio Cromartie (19th), Johnathan Joseph (24th) and Kelly Jennings (31st) were the other first-round corners that year. Cromartie flashed ability early in his career before fading. Joseph has lived up to expectations. Jennings could be on his way out after a tough run in Seattle, particularly with the team's new leadership valuing bigger corners.

The Rams traded Hill to the Falcons for a 2010 seventh-round choice.
Nick from Phoenix writes: I know it's early, but with the Cardinals all but locking up the division last week, I have a question about their offseason. With Antrel Rolle's cap number soaring, impending free agency for Karlos Dansby, and Darnell Dockett wanting Albert Haynesworth money, who can they keep and how good can their defense be next year? Since they locked up Adrian Wilson, can they afford to give a big contract to another safety? Are Will Davis, Cody Brown or Rashad Johnson progressing towards stepping in as a starter next year if they lose Rolle or Dansby? I can't see the Cardinals keeping more than one of Dansby or Rolle, and with two years left on Dockett's deal, I see him making a lot of noise this offseason and am wondering what your opinion is on the situation?

Mike Sando: Dansby's situation is the most pressing one in the immediate term. The Cardinals do not have adequate young depth at linebacker to feel good about their situation if Dansby leaves. They certainly missed Dansby when the Titans were marching down the field for the winning touchdown a couple weeks ago. I'm not convinced the organization will pay Dansby huge money on a long-term deal, but neither am I convinced the team has a good fallback option if Dansby does not return.

At safety, Johnson will have to prove he can be a hard-nosed player and a consistent one. It's a stretch right now to say he would be ready to fill Rolle's shoes. Brown and Davis look like they have good potential. Brown was quite raw when healthy, and now he is dealing with rehabilitation from a serious wrist injury.

The Cardinals were able to get Calais Campbell ready quickly, mitigating Antonio Smith's loss in free agency. It is possible to plug in young players. But Campbell might be an exception more than the rule.

The situation with Rolle is tough because the team is already paying so much to its other safety. Can a team really justify having two highly paid safeties? Might that money be better spent elsewhere if it's true the team cannot realistically pay everyone?


Chris from Surprise, Ariz., writes: If the Cardinals and the Vikings meet in the playoffs, do you think that the Vikings' loss last week will have a greater effect on the Cardinals or Vikings? I.e. will it give the Cardinals the confidence to know they can beat them, or do you think it will fuel the fire of the Vikings and make them play with greater intensity? Or possibly cause doubts within the Vikings and make them play out of their comfort zone?

Mike Sando: The Cardinals strike me as a team that doesn't really care about what other teams might be thinking. They are an unapologetic team. Flash back to Sunday night. Brett Favre tried to get in Calais Campbell's face after what he thought was unnecessary roughness. Campbell didn't even notice him. Typical Cardinals, and I mean that in a good way. Darnell Dockett already said he was anticipating people coming out of that Sunday night game wondering what was wrong with the Vikings, not what was right with the Cardinals. Arizona seems to find a way to have a chip on its shoulder when it matters.


Klaas from Phoenix writes: Hey Mike, longtime die-hard Seahawk fan here. I have a few questions for you. One, do you think the Seahawks can win out and with a little help make the playoffs? Two, what direction do you think the Seahawks go in the 2010 draft? Three, how strong do you feel about Mike Holmgren coming back as GM and when do you think they will hire and announce him or the new GM? Love reading your articles. Keep it up. Thanks.

Mike Sando: You're welcome. The Seahawks have no realistic shot at winning out and earning a playoff berth this season, based on what I have seen from them and the other NFC contenders. If the draft falls right for Seattle, the team will bolster its pass rush and its offensive line. Those two areas jump out to me. Quarterback could be a consideration as well. On Mike Holmgren, I think the Seahawks will consider him, but initial indications suggest the team will not just hand the job to him.

No one knows what owner Paul Allen is thinking. CEO Tod Leiweke seemed to suggest that the Seahawks would not necessarily be seeking a high-profile candidate. He said the GM would be joining the Seahawks (as opposed to the Seahawks joining the GM). At the very least, that means the next GM will not be immediately shaking up the football operation with sweeping changes.

The Seahawks know Holmgren wants the job. I think they can afford to interview multiple candidates and make sure the person they hire takes the job on their terms, even if it is Holmgren.

(Read full post)


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Among the things I'll want to see when the Rams conclude their exhibition season Thursday night against the Chiefs:
  • Prominent holdovers. Parting with recent first-round cornerback Tye Hill had to put other disappointing high draft choices on notice. After pushing out aging vets a few months ago, the Rams have targeted young underachievers, including Brian Leonard, Joe Klopfenstein and Hill. If the Rams valued Hill only as much as they valued a 2010 seventh-round choice, how much do they value, say, Adam Carriker?
  • Backup receivers. The final exhibition game often helps shake out the final one or two spots at receiver. That appears true for the Rams. They sounded high on veteran Tim Carter earlier in the offseason. They acquired Ronald Curry from the Lions. Neither seems to have made a strong impression. Where do they stand?
  • Special teams. The Rams had some problems defending returns in their previous exhibition game. Punter Donnie Jones can help solve that with better punts. Still, lapses in coverage could raise red flags.
  • Jason Smith. The No. 2 overall draft choice gets another chance to prove he belongs in the starting lineup for Week 1. He could play extensively at right tackle.
NFL Network is replaying this game Friday at 7 a.m. ET.

Around the NFC West: QB beauty contest

September, 2, 2009
9/02/09
8:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando



Reed Albergotti of the Wall Street Journal
says Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Hill and Kurt Warner rank among the 10 most handsome quarterbacks in the NFL, based on research showing a relationship between facial symmetry and perceived attractiveness. Albergotti: "Scientific research overwhelmingly points to facial symmetry as an indicator of success. Studies show infants with more symmetrical faces are given more attention. Symmetrical workers also tend to earn more. Football is supposed to be egalitarian, of course. The players with the strongest and most accurate throwing arms should become the quarterbacks while the biggest, most powerful players should be linemen. Somewhere along the way, it seems, good-looking kids are steered toward the glamour position."


Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic
says the Cardinals want second-year cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to become more disciplined in adhering to his assignments. The Packers had fun at Rodgers-Cromartie's expense in the Cardinals' most recent exhibition game. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "I would say he's a young player that at times is undisciplined, and it's our job, and it's our defensive leaders' job, to get him on the same page. I think he was disappointed in the way he played, embarrassed, and he worked in practice a lot harder. Hopefully, that will translate to a better game. I still like the young man as a football player. He's got tremendous talent and we're going to continue to work with him to see if we can establish more consistency."


Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic
says Whisenhunt's anger over his team's performance against the Packers has subsided. Expect the Cardinals' starters to get limited work in the final exhibition game.


Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind
tackles competition for spots on the Cardinals' roster.





Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers cornerback Nate Clements took notice upon seeing Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald posing shirtless on a magazine cover (left). "I thought you had to have abs for that," Clements joked. Brown: "Clements might want to be careful with his quips, considering he’s going to have to cover the coverboy in the 49ers’ regular-season opener in Arizona on Sept. 13. Fitzgerald is coming off a dazzling postseason and a trip to the Super Bowl; Clements is in his ninth season and still searching for his first postseason appearance. Moreover, Clements has endured some rough patches during the preseason games, including allowing a few big gainers against Dallas on Saturday."


Also from Brown
: 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye would like to run the ball 60 percent of the time. More on that in a bit.


Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat
projects the 53-man roster for the 49ers. He keeps J.J. Finley at Bear Pascoe's expense and expects the 49ers to pick up a free-agent fullback, which makes sense after the team lost Zak Keasey to injury.


Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee
says the 49ers' starting offensive line worked together for the first time since left guard David Baas suffered a torn plantar fascia Aug. 4.


Also from Barrows
: Nate Davis needs more reps to better grasp the 49ers' offense.


Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma
News Tribune forecasts the Seahawks' initial 53-man roster for the 2009 season. He puts Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu on the team at receiver, releasing Jordan Kent. Joe Newton is the choice over Cameron Morrah as the third tight end. Kyle Williams makes it at tackle.


Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times
says Michael Bumpus' release from the Seahawks shows how much more depth Seattle has at the position this season. Injuries forced Bumpus into the starting lineup for a game last season.


Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
doesn't hesitate to affix blame for the Rams' roster predicament. Miklasz: "These drafts were conducted by head coach coach Scott Linehan and GM Jay Zygmunt. Both are gone from Rams Park. Horrible personnel decisions were a substantial part of their demise, and the impact is still reverberating. The new regime of GM Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo inherited a stripped-down roster and will need plenty of time to clean up the mess caused by Linehan and Zygmunt."


Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo asked players to support the team's personnel decisions after St. Louis traded 2006 first-round choice Tye Hill to the Falcons for a 2010 seventh-round pick. Accepting so little in return for Hill suggests the Rams might have released him anyway. Spagnuolo stopped short of endorsing Jonathan Wade as a likely starter now that Hill is gone. Spagnuolo: "Wade's play has improved this preseason, but he's the first to admit he needs further improvement across the board. When asked what he liked about Wade, Spagnuolo sidestepped the question, perhaps another indication he's keeping his options open."


Also from Thomas
: Joe Klopfenstein's excellent measurable skills never translated to production on the field.


More from Thomas
: a chat transcript featuring questions about the Rams' depth at cornerback after the team traded Hill. Thomas: "I do question the depth behind Hill. Like the draft picks and free agents he has brought here, Devaney will be judged over time."


Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
backs the Rams as the new football leadership parts with high-profile players from the past, including Hill. Burwell: "The people whose fingerprints are on the crime of this century are long gone, and here was all the stark evidence why."


Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com
translates the message Rams management sent through its recent moves. Gordon: "Everybody has to earn their job here. Hill’s first-round draft status didn’t help him whatsoever."
Roster counts by position for NFC West
Pos. ARI SF STL SEA NFL Avg.
QB 4 4 4 4 3.7
RB 8 7 7 7 7.2
WR 10 8 8 10 9.0
TE 5 4 4 4 4.4
OL 13 13 14 14 13.0
DL 9 9 13 12 11.9
LB 11 12 9 8 9.9
DB 12 13 12 13 13.3
ST 3 3 3 4 3.5
Totals 75 74 74 76 75.9
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams apparently felt they did not have the luxury of waiting for rookie receiver Brooks Foster to recover from ankle surgery over the next couple of months, so they placed him on injured reserve.

That comes as no surprise. Roster spots are precious and Foster, a fifth-round choice, faced a transition even without the injury. With a flurry of moves featuring Tye Hill's trade to Atlanta and Joe Klopfenstein's outright release, the Rams complied with the 75-man roster limit with room to spare.

The Seahawks have yet to announce how they plan to clear one roster spot. The chart shows roster counts by position, not counting unsigned 49ers rookie Michael Crabtree. How long will Seattle carry two kickers?

Sounding off: NFC West on the airwaves

September, 1, 2009
9/01/09
2:48
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


The latest in our periodic spin around the NFC West radio dials:


Cardinals

XTRA910: Coach Ken Whisenhunt via sportsradiointerviews.com

Seahawks

ESPN710 Seattle: Linebacker Aaron Curry

KJR950: Former NFL quarterback Hugh Millen

ESPN Radio: Coach Jim Mora with Colin Cowherd

49ers

KNBR680: Reporter Matt Maiocco

KNBR680: Coach Mike Singletary

KNBR680: Chief operating officer Andy Dolich

Rams

ESPN101 St. Louis: Tight end Joe Klopfenstein



The interview with Klopfenstein was interesting in that he alluded to a wrist injury that bothered him early in camp. He said he's been catching the ball better lately.
Draft-chart value retention rates, 2004-2007
Draft ARI SF STL SEA NFL Avg.
2007 .905 .977 .757 1.000 .897
2006 .971 .933 .032 .998 .832
2005 .641 .980 .916 .865 .477
2004 .946 .244 .769 .132 .377
Totals .873 .851 .570 .687 .678

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


If the Rams no longer acknowledged their 2006 draft class, would that mean it never existed? As the team seeks ways to conserve resources, will it omit from future media guides all references to the ill-fated class?

In looking for ways to assess the carnage, I compared draft-choice retention percentages for NFC West teams to NFL averages. All draft choices are not valued equally, however, so I chose to look beyond simply how many players remained on their original teams from various draft classes.

Instead, I used the draft-value trading chart to assign values for each choice exercised from the 2004 through 2007 drafts. I then totaled values associated with players who remained on their original teams. By dividing this total by values for all choices each team exercised, I arrived at a retention percentage for those four drafts.
Round Overall 2006 Rams Pick Point Value for Pick Still on Team?
1 15 Tye Hill
1,050 No
2 46 Joe Klopfenstein
440 No
3 68 Claude Wroten
250 No
3 77 Jon Alston
205 No
3 93 Dominique Byrd
128 No
4 113 Victor Adeyanju
68 Yes
5 144 Marques Hagans
34 No
7 221 Tim McGarigle
4 No
7 242 Mark Setterstrom
1.2 Yes
7 243 Tony Palmer
1.1 No

The results show up in the second chart. The Rams, after parting with early 2006 choices Tye Hill and Joe Klopfenstein to comply with the 75-man roster limit, retained only 3.2 percent of their original draft investment for 2006.

That was easily the lowest figure in the league for the 2006 draft (Denver was next at 21.2 percent). Hill was the 15th overall choice, worth 1,055 points on the value chart. Klopfenstein was the 46th choice, valued at 440 points.

Overall, the Rams used 2006 picks worth 2,181.3 points on the draft-value chart. They have 69.2 points remaining on their original investment -- the combined draft-day value of No. 113 overall choice Victor Adeyanju (68 points) and No. 242 overall choice Mark Setterstrom (1.2 points).

The league-wide totals will shift as teams trim rosters, but there's no getting around the futility of that draft for the Rams. It's also worth noting that the players were only partly at fault. Failures at the organizational level complicated some of those players' efforts to succeed.

No surprise as Rams cut high 2006 pick

September, 1, 2009
9/01/09
12:05
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams released second-round choice Joe Klopfenstein as they moved toward the 75-man limit and no one should be surprised. Every time I noticed Klopfenstein at Rams camp, he seemed to be dropping a pass.

More Rams moves here. I'll update NFC West rosters shortly.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams' roster requires additional study after a thorough house-cleaning this offseason. With so many new faces, I feel less familiar with the Rams than with the other teams in the division. This initial look at the roster will hopefully help bring some focus.

Donnie Avery's injury and overall health concerns at receiver could influence how many players the Rams carry into the season at the position.

Marc Bulger's broken pinky shouldn't affect the roster as long as he recovers on schedule. Teams must reduce to 75 players by Sept. 1 and 53 players by Sept. 5. Those initial 53-man rosters sometimes change by Week 1 kickoffs. For that reason, I've been focusing on Week 1 rosters when setting baseline expectations for each position.

St. Louis Rams
Week 1 Roster
Counts since 2003
QB RB WR TE OL DL LB DB ST
Fewest 2 5 5 2 9 8 5 8 2
Most 3 7 6 4 10 9 7 11 3
Average 2.8 5.5 5.5 3.0 9.2 8.3 6.3 9.7 2.7
Currently on roster
4
7 10 5 15 13 9 14 3

T
he chart provides a framework for how many players the Rams might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Seahawks.

Here's a quick look at which Rams players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:

(Read full post)

Rams Player Pos. Drafted By Round
C.J. Ah You
DL Bills 7
Ronald Curry
WR Raiders 7
Larry Grant
LB 49ers 7
Billy Bajema
TE 49ers 7
Donnie Jones
P
Seahawks 7
Josh Brown
K Seahawks 7
David Vobora
LB Rams 7
Chris Chamberlain
LB Rams 7
Mark Setterstrom
OL Rams 7
Chris Ogbonnaya
RB Rams
7
Chris Massey
LS Rams 7
Derek Stanley
WR Rams 7
Kenneth Darby
RB Bucs 7

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams certainly never set out to amass 13 seventh-round draft choices, three more than any other team in the league. It just worked out that way.

Ronald Curry, a seventh-round choice of the Raiders in 2002, became the lucky 13th when St. Louis acquired him from the Lions by trade Wednesday.

Rosters are at their fattest this time of year, so the total will certainly shrink.

The Rams' failure in the early rounds of past drafts -- before the current regime took over -- has probably left more room for later-round players.

Billy Bajema's addition could help cost 2006 second-rounder Joe Klopfenstein a roster spot. At linebacker, the Rams have parted with 2003 second-rounder Pisa Tinoisamoa, 2004 fourth-rounder Brandon Chillar and 2006 third-rounder Jon Alston, creating room for seventh-rounders David Vobora and Chris Chamberlain. At running back, the Rams practically gave
away 2007 second-rounder Brian Leonard, making it more likely for seventh-rounder Chris Ogbonnaya to stick.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

CHICAGO -- Recollections from the Rams' morning practice Friday, delivered from Gate L2B at O'Hare Airport on my way back to the West Coast:

  • Tim Carter is faring well. Can the former Giants receiver sustain it after being out of the game? The Rams hope so. Carter caught an intermediate-depth pass toward the right sideline working from the slot. He has caught the ball well and surprised with his speed. Carter is the closest thing the Rams have to a veteran wideout.
  • Jonathan Wade is among those competing for the cornerback spot opposite Ron Bartell. He batted away a deep pass for Carter. Rookie Bradley Fletcher is also a factor, but some of the better cornerbacks Steve Spagnuolo has coached emerged in their second seasons. Spagnuolo pointed to Lito Sheppard.
  • Rookie Jason Smith welcomes contact. "77 jacks 99" was what I scribbled on my notepad after watching Smith, No. 77, take on Antwon Burotn, No. 99. Smith is physically impressive already, but he appears capable of adding weight.
  • Rookie James Laurinaitis moved from third team to second team after the Rams' rookie camp. Laurinaitis: "That first mini-camp I was just trying to line up at the front. I was not even paying attention to what the offense was doing. I was just running to the ball. Right now it's getting more of where I'm making calls, I'm communicating to the guys, getting comfortable and I'm starting to pick up on the offensive formation. Noticing little things in the wide receiver splits that gives you a way of [knowing] whether it's a play-action or what not. When you're able to get comfortable within the defense, then you can start paying attention to what the other guys are doing and I'm starting to make that transition now."
  • Second-year defensive end Chris Long lit up when asked about starting with a "blank slate" on a young team with a new coaching staff. His rookie season was a tough one. Long is looking forward to a fresh start. He is also making an effort to connect with rookies. He chatted and laughed with Smith and Laurinaitis while seated on the grass for stretching exercises after practice.
  • The one time I noticed tight end Joe Klopfenstein was when he bobbled a pass that linebacker David Vobora intercepted.

The Rams' camp ends Saturday.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

ST. LOUIS -- The first 500 words that came to mind after watching the Rams practice on a bright, sunscreen-recommended morning at Rams Park:

  • It's quiet out there. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said they've installed about 60 percent of the defense. There's a lot to learn. I was with the 49ers this week and they have a veteran defense playing in the same system. There was lots of chatter. Here, the coaches are the ones you hear, not players.
  • Saw a pass slip through Joe Klopfenstein's hands. One play during a June minicamp isn't going to determine much, but Klopfenstein can't afford to give the Rams any additional reasons to part with him.
  • First-round choice Jason Smith looks the part. They're working him at backup left tackle. Alex Barron is still the favorite to start there. Smith will presumably start on the right side and eventually move to the left side. Spagnuolo said he believes in making the rookies earn it. That's why James Laurinaitis remains buried on the depth chart. Expect both to start this season. The Rams are too young to leave their best young players on the bench.
  • Adam Carriker is healthy and it's making a difference. He looks quicker. Spagnuolo's defense features left and right defensive tackles. They've got Carriker working at left tackle only. He'll move from the nose to the three-technique spot depending on what the offense does. Carriker thinks there's benefit to settling on one position -- left tackle -- and staying there all season.
  • The offense might be new to the Rams' offensive players, but it's familiar to the rest of the division. It's a West Coast-style system with West Coast terminology. Coaches called out the same personnel-group names Mike Holmgren's staff used in Seattle. Calls of "zebra" had nothing to do with the officials in striped shirts monitoring practice. That's the West Coast call for one back, one tight end and three receivers.
  • Why haven't the Rams done more to shore up the situations at receiver and running back? They're tight against the cap and evaluating younger players. It appears as though they're saving what little cap space remains while they evaluate positions. They could always add a player later in the process.
  • Steven Jackson's sense of humor shined through as he ran past reporters on his way to the locker room after practice. "I'm the one buying the team," he joked.
  • Play of the day: Marc Bulger threading a touchdown pass to tight end Randy McMichael in the back of the end zone. McMichael isn't a great receiver or a great blocker, but he's good enough at both to stay on the field -- if he can bounce back from a broken leg and stay healthy this season.
  • Honorable mention: Third-round pick Bradley Fletcher picked off a pass from Brock Berlin over the middle. Safety Craig Dahl picked off Kyle Boller. Receiver Laurent Robinson made a leaping grab in the end zone, but he might have been out of bounds.
  • Spagnuolo moves quickly and always looks like he's got somewhere to be. Elapsed time for his post-practice interview session: 3 minutes, 37 seconds.
The Rams have another practice this afternoon. I'll be there.

Vet on the hot seat: Alex Smith

May, 13, 2009
5/13/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The assignment sounded simple enough: Identify and elaborate upon a veteran NFC West player "on the hot seat" this season.

 Smith

The hard part was settling on just one.

I chose 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, with Rams quarterback Marc Bulger earning honorable mention, even though other candidates also seemed worthy.

The stakes are always highest for quarterbacks.

Smith is probably feeling less heat after accepting a reduced contract and the reduced expectations that came with it, but his career is unmistakably at a crossroads. That's a big deal for the first player chosen in the 2005 NFL draft.

Smith is one of 21 players remaining on the 49ers' roster from the most recent regular-season game he played, a 24-0 defeat to Seattle on Nov. 12, 2007. While the 49ers promised Smith a chance to battle Shaun Hill for the starting job in return for Smith accepting a significant pay reduction, they won't wait forever.

The agenda for Smith, still only 25, should include the following priorities:

Rookies, Vets on the Hot Seat
ROOKIES ON THE HOT SEAT
• AFC: N | S | E | W
• NFC: N | S | E | W

VETS ON THE HOT SEAT
• AFC: N | S | E | W
• NFC: N | S | E | W

  • Getting healthy. Smith still isn't 100 percent following shoulder surgery. He should be much closer to full strength by training camp.
  • Staying healthy. Smith described his most recent shoulder injury as "freaky" because nothing seemed to cause it. Injuries suffered for no apparent reason fail to inspire confidence in future health.
  • Asserting himself. The college scouting reports described Smith as a terrific leader by words and actions. Smith is smart, amiable and a sympathetic figure. Those traits aren't enough. Perhaps a return to health will help Smith assert himself in other ways. He'll have to step forward to win over the team and coach Mike Singletary.
  • Having fun. Smith is newly married and sounds at peace with his personal situation. He likes the new attitude Singletary has brought. Football needs to be fun for him and others need to see that he is having fun.

Smith will have gone 671 days between regular-season starts if he beats out Hill for the No. 1 job heading into the 2009 opener. The future is now for Smith.

Bulger, trying to bounce back after three poor seasons, was arguably more qualified than Smith for the NFC West veteran's hot seat. Two main reasons:

  • New blood: The Rams have remade their front office and coaching staff since Bulger signed his current deal before the 2007 season, with Chip Rosenbloom taking over for his late mother as principle owner. Fewer people in the organization have a stake in whether Bulger succeeds.
  • Old money. Bulger's inflated salary -- $6.5 million this season and $24 million over the next three -- carries inflated expectations. Salary-cap ramifications made releasing Bulger nearly prohibitive in 2009, but less so after the season.
The Rams' irrelevance after posting a 5-27 record over the past two seasons made Bulger less appealing than Smith as my hot-seat choice.

Additional hot-seat candidates from the NFC West, arranged by team:

Arizona

  • Alan Branch, nose tackle. Second-round choice has shown little in first two seasons.
  • Matt Leinart, quarterback. The Cardinals gave raises to fellow quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brian St. Pierre, even offering St. Pierre a chance to compete with Leinart for the No. 2 job.
  • Deuce Lutui, right guard. The Cardinals weren't always happy with Lutui last season.
San Francisco
  • Mark Roman, free safety. The 49ers have already benched him and let him seek trade opportunities. There were no takers.
  • Arnaz Batt
    le
    , receiver.
    Will the 49ers have a roster spot for him? Prospects could be dim if the team keeps five receivers instead of six.

Seattle

  • Patrick Kerney, defensive end. He is coming off another shoulder surgery while carrying a massive contract into his third season with the team.
  • Kelly Jennings, cornerback. Adding Ken Lucas affirmed where Jennings stands, particularly while he recovers from a shoulder injury.
  • Chris Spencer, center. First-round pick enters the final year of his contract with rookie second-rounder Max Unger onboard as a potential successor.
  • Deion Branch, receiver. Adding T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deon Butler gave the Seahawks options. Branch needs to justify his contract this season.
  • Nate Burleson, receiver. Burleson is more affordable than Branch, but he is also coming off knee surgery.
  • Mike Wahle, guard. Unger is working at left guard. The Seahawks might need him there if Wahle's health troubles him again. [Thanks for the suggestion in the comments, Fourty_five_circa_84.]
Rams
  • Tye Hill, cornerback. Has yet to play like the 15th player chosen in his draft class (2006).
  • Alex Barron, tackle. How he performs in 2009 will determine whether Barron finds riches in free agency after the season.
  • Joe Klopfenstein, tight end. Hasn't lived up to second-round draft status.
  • Jacob Bell, guard. The Rams invested heavily in him last offseason. Time to see some results.
  • Everyone predating the current staff. The Rams are remaking their roster. Tis better to be a newcomer than a holdover in St. Louis.

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