St. Louis Rams 2011 NFL Draft Review


Now that the Rams have a franchise quarterback and two high picks at offensive tackle (Roger Saffold, Jason Smith), they are ready to start building a winner around their cornerstones. The Rams showed last year under Bradford that they could be an explosive offense, but as is the story with any rookie or young quarterback, there will be inconsistencies. The thing with Bradford is, though, he really does carry himself like a veteran.

Even leading up to the draft, he added some 20 pounds to his frame and showed at his pro day that he was all business. Bradford is a high character guy who I was very high on leading to last year’s process, and he did not disappoint.

So, the key for the Rams in 2011 had to be putting the necessary pieces around Bradford to make this offense great, right? St. Louis realized that, saw a plan of attack, and executed it almost perfectly. The Rams added some of the best pass catchers in the draft to put around Bradford, and also improved their defense significantly. I love what the Rams did on draft day, and I think they might be my leading candidates this season to come out of the NFC West.

1. First Round, 14th overall: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

St. Louis head coach Steve Spagnuolo is known for his ability to put together an elite pass rush, and in order to put together an elite rush, you have to have good personnel. Well, the Rams certainly are on their way to accomplishing that with the selection of Robert Quinn, probably the most gifted 4-3 defensive end prospect in the draft. The aging James Hall led the team last year with 11 sacks and six forced fumbles, and Chris Long finally showed some life in the pass rush department, finishing with nine sacks and three forced fumbles. Add Robert Quinn to the mix, and you have the makings of a potent defensive line. Quinn is a guy who could come in and start right away, or they could put him in a rotation. Between Long, Quinn, C.J. Ah You, and George Selvie, this has the makings of a solid young defensive end rotation. Quinn is extremely talented as a pass rusher and could be a double digit guy in the near future.

Pick Grade: A+

2. Second Round, 47th overall: Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin

Outstanding selection here, and a guy who will be an excellent outlet for Sam Bradford. Big, fast tight end that can really stretch the field, and coming from Bret Bielema’s offense, he is well versed in blocking as well. In fact, Kendricks is a very willing and capable blocker, and his skills are very underrated in that area. Where Kendricks will help the Rams is as a receiver. He was one of the top receiving tight ends in the draft, and they view him as an “Aaron Hernandez” to Michael Hoomanowanui’s “Rob Gronkowski”. Kendricks will be a nightmare on third down, and could start for the Rams right away.

Pick Grade: B+

3. Third Round, 78th overall: Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State

Swinging for the fences with this pick, and I think they hit it out of the park. Let’s think about this pick in comparison to a player I really liked in Josh McDaniels’ offense, Denver receiver Jabar Gaffney. Essentially, Pettis is a bigger, faster version of Gaffney, who was extremely productive in this offense. Pettis was a great, productive player in a pass oriented offense in college, and he will be the same in the NFL. Josh McDaniels’ offense is perfectly tailored to his skills. It takes time for any rookie–especially receivers–to adjust to the speed of the NFL, but he is a big, physical guy who can make plays in the red zone as well.

Pick Grade: A

4. Fourth Round, 112th overall: Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii

Three straight great picks for the Rams, but this might be the best one. Salas is a guy who when I reviewed the Hawaii tape, I absolutely loved. Again, he is coming from a pass oriented offense in college and understands how to get open against guys who are more physically gifted than him. Still, at 6’2″ 215 pounds, he is the ideal size for the NFL, and simply makes plays. What I love most about him is his toughness, his ability to create separation, and his physicality. Salas is quicker than fast, and I honestly believed after watching a bunch of his plays that he was worthy of second round consideration. I was shocked he fell this far, and he’s going to an excellent situation. Bradford will get him the ball, and he could be an elite level possession receiver in the NFL. I love this pick, and can’t wait to see it pay dividends.

Pick Grade: A+

5. Fifth Round, 158th overall: Jermale Hines, S, Ohio State

Big, strong, physical safety prospect here for the Rams, but I’m surprised they waited this long to add someone at the position considering it’s probable that they need two new starters at those positions. The defensive backfield is one of this team’s serious weaknesses, which is why the pass rush is going to be so critical. If the Rams cannot upgrade the safety position in free agency, it could be ugly. Hines is a solid player, but probably more of a special teamer early in his career.

Pick Grade: C+

6. Seventh Round, 216th overall: Mikail Baker, DB, Baylor

A lot of people probably have never heard of Baker, a converted receiver who came to Baylor in 2005, and to say he’s battled injuries would be an understatement. Broke his collarbone in 2007 and was granted a medical hardship in 2009 after he tore his ACL and lateral menisci. On the field, he will contribute to the Rams immediately as a kick or punt returner and really in all areas of special teams. His first year as a defensive back yielded great results as he finished the year with 49 tackles, three passes broken up, two forced fumbles, and an interception. This is a risky pick because baker is so injury prone, but he could make an impact on special teams right away. Will be a 24 year old rookie.

Pick Grade: C

7. Seventh Round, 228th overall: Jabara Williams, OLB, Stephen F. Austin

Had 108 tackles last year for SFA, and is a smaller (6’2″ 225) linebacker with speed and athletic ability. The Rams really are looking at guys at this point that can contribute right away on special teams with athleticism and upside. I like this pick because at this point in the draft is when you start to look at the really productive small school guys, and Williams seems like a keeper.

Pick Grade: C+

8. Seventh Round, 229th overall: Jonathan Nelson, CB, Oklahoma

Nelson is a very high character player with some upside at this juncture of the draft. Smart guy who will be a good fit as a nickel or dime defensive back right away, and could contribute–as has been the theme–on special teams right away. Not a flashy athlete, but was productive at Oklahoma and one of their defensive leaders. Had five picks over the last two seasons, and is a solid tackler, finishing out his last two seasons with 148 total tackles (102 in 2010), and also had seven passes broken up. This is a guy who did it all for the Sooners, and was a nice find at this point in the draft.

Pick Grade: B

Overall Draft Grade: A

I wasn’t wowed by the Rams’ picks after the fourth round, but those first four guys could all contribute immediately, and pay dividends. I love the way they stacked the group of receivers to put around Bradford, and I love what they were able to do in the first round with Robert Quinn, who I thought was a top five graded player. This was a great draft, in my opinion.