Kiper re-grades Rams' 2013 NFL draft

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
3:30
PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- On Thursday, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. took a break from looking ahead to the 2014 draft and stopped to reflect on last year's class.

In this Insider piece, Insider Kiper went team-by-team, provided his grades from immediately after the draft and altered them as he now sees fit. For the St. Louis Rams, Kiper changed the team's original grade, actually opting to drop it slightly.

Kiper's original grade for the Rams in 2013 was an A- but after factoring in the performance of this year's group, he decided to move it down to a B+. Here's a small sample of what Kiper thought of the Rams' rookie class:

"St. Louis moved up for [Tavon] Austin, and, although he was underused, he still had 40 catches and has star potential. [Alec] Ogletree wasn't perfect by any means, but he started, didn't come off the field, made some big plays and is going to get better. [T.J.] McDonald is a starter going forward, and he did OK before and after he got hurt. [Zac] Stacy looks like a steal, and nearly went over 1,000 yards. He'll be the starter going forward."

To be honest, I was a bit surprised to see Kiper adjust his grade using his criteria. In addition to first-year performance, Kiper also took into account each team's undrafted free agents and how much the rookie class helped the team win games.

I have to believe Kiper downgraded the Rams because they were unable to piece together a winning record and Austin didn't quite meet the lofty expectations many had for him.

However, this rookie group played a big part in the games the Rams did win and the team got production from its share of undrafted rookies as well, particularly on special teams. Receiver Stedman Bailey also emerged late in the season and was the team's most consistent receiver in the final month or so.

I'm of the belief that fully judging any rookie class before three years doesn't give a full picture but either way it appears at worst the Rams found some key contributors and at best found some potential stars (Austin, Ogletree, Stacy) who could be cornerstone players well into the future.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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