Our next interview in a series of expert interviews about the team and the N.F.L. draft comes couresty of the Turfshowtimes, a St. Louis Rams blog.
The beloved 3k took some time out of his schedule to answer some questions:
1) What are the Rams biggest needs to address this off-season? Springboarding off that….I’ve heard/read the Rams will be looking for an interior OL early in the draft is that correct?
I asked the Turf Show Times community to rank the team’s needs, and I think the results reflect the most obvious holes on the team. The two most obvious upgrades can come at WR and SLB, but I think the Rams can approach those needs differently. Since we have Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton coming back, that changes the WR corps pretty dramatically from where it was at the end of the season. The defensive line needs some young talent both inside and out. DT Fred Robbins and DE James Hall played wonderfully last year, but both are in their mid-30s. And yes, the RG spot especially is an issue. Adam Goldberg held that spot for most of last year. He was barely adequate in the passing game and wholly deficient in run blocking. The Rams’ 3rd round pick from the 2008 NFL Draft, John Greco, didn’t see the field much, and Ram fans are skeptical he’ll earn the coaches’ favor in the months ahead. The last position that is worth noting is backup RB. The Rams will likely pull a speed back at some point in the draft; GM Billy Devaney has gone on record suggesting that blocking and receiving are key traits the front office is looking for in that spot.
2). Young QBs love to throw to the football to good Tight Ends is that on the roster already or will the Rams possibly be looking for a TE like Rudolph, D.J. Williams, or Luke Stocker early in the draft?
I’d be surprised if they did. Michael Hoomanawanui played very, very well last year, although multiple injuries seriously limited his rookie campaign. The Rams will bring back Daniel Fells, although he’s certainly not a game changer. I think the wild card is Fendi Onobun. He was a basketball player at Arizona before transferring to Houston to play football. He’s as raw as raw can be, but the intent is to translate his athleticism to the field, a la Jimmy Graham.
3) How is Chris Long developing now?
He’s woefully underrated. He’s a constant pressure machine. I think with an improvement in interior pass rush, he’ll turn three or four hurries into sacks. He’s one of the real victims of the Rams’ anonymity.
4) Do fans feel the Rams made the right choice with Bradford over Suh?
Definitely, and I was on the Suh train. Personally, I was certain that Suh would be a beast from day one, and I wasn’t so confident in Bradford’s ability to transition to the NFL. In that regard, I was obviously wrong. In retrospect, it was the right call. If you need a franchise QB and you get a franchise QB, that’s inarguably the most important pick to any NFL team.
5) What’s a player Rams fans are coveting in the upcoming draft?
Julio Jones is the obvious answer here. Sam Bradford just didn’t have any playmakers throughout the season, but he was able to make the most of former OC Pat Shurmur’s system by spreading the ball to as many receivers as possible week in, week out. Jones gives us a much more dynamic threat than either Laurent Robinson or Brandon Gibson. Should he not be available (and should the Rams not trade up to snag Jones), most believe the Rams would spend the pick on the D-line. My personal choice for that value would be Missouri DE Aldon Smith. He and Illinois DT Corey Liuget seem to be popular options right now.
6) What’s your draft philosophy?
Honestly, I try not to pigeonhole myself that way. I think if you do, you risk avoiding obvious successful picks. I know “BPA” is one of those acronyms that gets thrown around without people really understanding the implications. NFL GMs know they can’t ignore needs unless they are a really, really solid team. I think the one aspect of my “strategy” would be to avoid running backs in the first two rounds. I just don’t see the value anymore. It’s a league that is dominated by teams that can pass the ball on offense and can pressure the QB on defense. I think regardless of your team’s makeup, your picks in the first two rounds (unless you’re the Pats and you’ve got a dozen picks…) should be spent in those two areas. Spending 1st round picks on guys like C.J. Spiller, Ryan Mathews or Jahvid Best don’t impact the team as heavily as a premier WR or D-lineman.
7). Last year the Rams drafted 3 DE in the draft..is Spags letting some of that Gmen-Eagles Philosophy creep into the Rams Front office?
Definitely. And if you look at which free agents we’ve brought in, about 80% or more came from either Philly or the Giants. I think the push on defensive ends last year was just a reflection on the uncertainty at the position a year ago. James Hall hadn’t been incredibly effective in pass rush situations, and his age certainly didn’t inspire confidence. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rams draft two or three defensive linemen again this year.
8). How are the rookie classes of the last two years developing (minus Bradford since ESPN covers Bradford, thus no one can escape what Bradford is doing)
Top to bottom, not spectacularly, but the Rams have been solid in the top rounds for the last three years. In 2009, the Rams’ first three choices (OT Jason Smith, MLB James Laurinaitis and CB Bradley Fletcher) were all hits. Arguably, Jason Smith has been the least successful of the three. Fletcher would be a bigger name had he not suffered a gruesome injury in his rookie season. Last year after Bradford, the Rams hit a home run by drafting Rodger Saffold at the top of the second round. He showed he has the makeup of a starting LT in his rookie campaign. Jerome Murphy was rookie-ish and Mardy Gilyard didn’t see much playing time which was a disappointment to many Ram fans, but the team is stronger than it was 2-3 years ago. They will both need to contribute meaningfully in 2011 to secure a future with the team. For a draft to provide a franchise QB, a starting LT and talent like Hoomanawanui or even George Selvie, who looks the part of a plug and play DE, it was an incredibly successful haul.
9). Overall how would you rate the Rams as drafters: Best and worst pick in recent memory
If we include the pre-Devaney era (and he took over for the 2008 draft), there are some serious, serious mistakes. Alex Barron in round 1 in 2005 was a costly pick for a tackle who isn’t very interested in playing football. The 2006 draft was amazingly bad. The duo of Tye Hill and Joe Klopfenstein is as big a bust as you can have in the first two rounds. And with three picks in the third round, somehow it went down from there. If ever a draft deserved an F-, that is it…unless it’s the next year’s draft. In their first three rounds, the Rams pulled Adam Carriker, Brian Leonard and Jonathan Wade. The biggest reason the Rams went 3-13, 2-14 and 1-15 prior to Bradford’s arrival is those two drafts.
Since Billy Devaney took over, it’s been a much, much better exhibition. For the top two/three rounds, I’ll give them a A-/B+, but C- seems appropriate for the latter rounds. We haven’t found many diamonds in the rough on day 3. I’d say the best pick as Rodger Saffold (Bradford was easier to identify and Saffold’s impact is huge) and the worst as Mardy Gilyard.
10) Personally, I know you’re a big draft follower who are a few of your most overrated and underrated players in this draft
Nick Fairley, Tyron Smith, Mark Ingram, Akeem Ayers and Torrey Smith.
Aldon Smith, Adrian Clayborn, Jordan Todman
11) Tell our readers a little bit about your site and why they should come visit
Why should they visit? Free bourbon and beautiful ladies. By “free bourbon” I meant “poor syntax” and “beautiful ladies” should read “incoherent weekend rants.” Sorry if that was confusing.
It’s the best site for Ram fans on the intertubes. Van and I have been running it for years, he since 2006, me since late ’07, and the emphasis was on building the community. We’re just about where we hoped we could be back in those days, so now we can do some things we couldn’t before since we have educated, passionate fans to rely on for material. So if there are any Ram fans left out there looking for a home, TST is the place. For fans who enjoy keeping their hair and not throwing glass bottles at televisions (that would mean you’re not a Rams fan), it’s a great resource to get a sense of what Ram fans are feeling on any given day. And Olivia Munn.
I’d like to take the time to thank 3k for agreeing to give us an insight into the Rams for us to keep in mind while we continuing make mock drafts.
A few other housekeeping notes.
. Check back this week as we’ll be posting a full 7 round team mock draft for the Rams as well as a few other interviews from prospects
-Brandyn Thompson, Will Rackley, and Mario Butler.
– A few new mock drafts.
-And more interviews from team experts (The Jets, Seahawks, Patriots, Chiefs, Panthers, and Eagles among others).