Sunday, May 1, 2011
Post-draft grades: St. Louis Rams
By Mike Sando
Mel Kiper Jr. gave the St. Louis Rams a B grade for their efforts in the 2011 NFL draft.
Everything looks better with a young, ascending quarterback in place.
The Rams used three of their first four picks on weapons for Sam Bradford. All three fit the mold for new coordinator Josh McDaniels, who prefers big receivers. All three should help the Rams improve in the red zone, where they struggled badly last season.
First-round choice Robert Quinn added pass-rush help to a defense that wasn't hurting in that area, but still had longer-term concerns. Kiper thought Quinn could have been a No. 1 overall selection on raw talent. Quinn went later after serving a one-year suspension in 2010. A benign brain tumor was another potential concern.
The Rams' calculated gambles went beyond Quinn. Receivers Austin Pettis and Greg Salas do not seem to add the speed element the Rams could use on the outside. General manager Billy Devaney cautioned against overvaluing speed at the expense of finding good players. Those warnings are fair. Also, the most dynamically talented receivers tend to go earlier in the draft. Receivers available after the first round tend to have holes in their games. The Rams went for bigger, physical, more reliable targets. They weren't going to get A.J. Green or Julio Jones.
Later in the draft, the Rams took chances with players carrying injury histories. Seventh-rounders Mikail Baker and Jonathan Nelson come to mind. There are no perfect prospects in the seventh round, of course. Teams are making educated guesses and hoping for some luck.
The Rams still have work to do, but it's low-pressure work. While division rivals search for quarterbacks, the Rams can target free agents at defensive tackle, guard and possibly linebacker. Oh, and there's always the now-annual search for a complementary running back. They took tight end Lance Kendricks at No. 47, nine spots before McDaniels' former team, New England, took running back Shane Vereen. They took Pettis, the receiver, five spots after New England selected another running back, Stevan Ridley.
Eleven running backs came off the board between the Rams' fourth- and fifth-round selections.
"It was probably close a couple of times and we didn’t force it," Devaney told reporters. "There were running backs that we were thinking about taking and they went before our next pick came up. But we didn’t react by saying, 'OK, we lost the back, now we've got to drop down in value in this round and take a back no matter what [even] if he doesn’t warrant going there.' It didn’t work out."
That was true for teams across the league. The Rams weren't going to fill every need.