St. Louis Rams: #NFLRank 2014

#NFLRank: No. 6 Robert Quinn

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
3:00
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The annual #NFLRank project got underway last week as a panel of 85 NFL analysts across ESPN's many platforms went through the process of ranking the Top 100 players in the league on each side of the ball.

 Though Thursday, three St. Louis Rams -- linebacker James Laurinaitis (No. 93 defense), left tackle Jake Long (No. 63 offense) and defensive end Chris Long (No. 37 defense) -- had cracked the list. On Friday's final day, the list revealed the highest-ranked Ram, defensive end Robert Quinn.

Quinn made the biggest jump of any player in this year's rankings, moving from unranked last year to No. 6 on defense this year.

Defense, No. 6, Robert Quinn

Stats & Info: Quinn led the NFC with 19 sacks last season, the most by a Ram since sacks became official in 1982. Quinn's seven forced fumbles also led the NFC last season.

My take: Although Quinn made quite a leap in this year's rankings and being called the sixth best defensive player in the league is no slight, I can't help but feel like Quinn is too low on this list. I suppose you could make the argument that he needs a little more of a body of work before he can crack the top five, but these rankings are based on the here and now. I have the privilege of seeing Quinn every day so maybe that clouds my view, but I doubt there's a defensive player in the league that has the combination of production and upside that Quinn showed coming out of last season. I personally would have Quinn only behind Houston's J.J. Watt, who is at No. 1 on the list, and Seattle safety Earl Thomas, who is No. 3. I have little doubt that Quinn's trajectory will only continue to point him upwards as these rankings continue. What's scary for the rest of the NFL is he's only 24 and still scratching the surface of what he can do.

#NFLRank: No. 37 Chris Long

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
1:30
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The annual #NFLRank project got underway last week as a panel of 85 NFL analysts across ESPN's many platforms went through the process of ranking the top 100 players in the league on each side of the ball.

As of Monday, two St. Louis Rams -- linebacker James Laurinaitis (No. 93 defense) and left tackle Jake Long (No. 63 offense) -- had cracked the list. On Tuesday morning, another Ram made the cut, this time in the form of defensive end Chris Long. Long moved up three spots from his spot at No. 40 on last year's list.

Defense, No. 37, Chris Long

Stats & Info: Long has 33 sacks in the past three seasons, the eighth-most in the NFL, after he had only 17.5 sacks during his first three seasons. Long has never missed a game in his NFL career.

My take: The former No. 2 overall pick has been surpassed by teammate Robert Quinn as this team's premiere pass-rusher, but Long remains one of the better defensive ends in the league. He had just 8.5 sacks in 2013 but he also has 39 quarterback pressures and 20 quarterback hits according to coaches' review. There were plenty of times when Long missed a sack by a split second because Quinn simply beat him to the punch. At this point in his career, it's unlikely to expect Long, 29, to transform into a 15- to 17-sack per season player, but his consistency and durability make him a valuable piece of this defense and team. With Quinn garnering more attention than ever following his breakthrough 2013 season, don't be surprised if Long's sack total gets a bit of a bump this year.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The annual #NFLRank project got underway Monday morning as a panel of 85 NFL analysts across our many platforms here went through the process of ranking the top 100 players in the league on each side of the ball.

One member of the St. Louis Rams appears in today's initial reveal of Nos. 91-100. Linebacker James Laurinaitis checks in at No. 93 on the list as he appears for the second year in a row on the defensive side. Laurinaitis was No. 57 on the list in 2013.

Defense, No. 93, James Laurinaitis

Stats & Info: Laurinaitis has recorded 100 tackles in all five seasons of his NFL career. Only four other defenders have recorded 100 tackles in each of the last five seasons.

My take: Laurinaitis is never going to be the type of player to wow anyone with bone-rattling hits or uber-athletic splash plays. But he's about as solid as it gets in the middle. The tackle stats speak for themselves and also represent a nod to his durability as he has never missed a game in five NFL seasons. In some sense, Laurinaitis is taken for granted a bit by those who forget how poor the Rams were at his position in the years after London Fletcher's departure. Beyond the production, Laurinaitis is also the team's defensive leader and the guy other players turn to for help understanding the system. He's only 27 and though he counts a hefty $10.4 million against the cap this year, that number drops to a much more cap-friendly $4.025 million in 2015 and $6.175 million in 2016.

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