As the decade winds down, I'm going to follow ram_rod's lead and share my top ten Rams draft picks of the 2000's. Unfortunately, many of the Rams greats, like Orlando Pace and Tory Holt, were drafted in the previous decade, and were not eligible for this list. As ram_rod showed with his list, the 2000's were a great period to find lousy draft picks rather than good ones made by the Rams. This list is hardly perfect. That being said, I considered a great deal of things when making this list, including pick value, performance with the Rams and overall career performance. In some of these instances, the players had better careers elsewhere. In that case, I blame management for not keeping these players and assume they would have produced at the same level in St. Louis. With all of that out of the way, on to the fun part.
10: James Laurinaitis, LB Ohio State
2009, 35th Overall Selection
Picture via stlouisrams.com
Some of you might be surprised to see the rook on this list. However, I believe there's a strong case for the former Buckeye standout to be in the top 10. In his first NFL campaign, Laurinaitis is among the top 15 tacklers in the NFL, with 115 total. For perspective, that's just six less than Ray Lewis has this season. He also has a sack, two interceptions and a forced fumble to his credit. Rey Maualuga, the vaunted MLB from Southern Cal whom the Rams passed on for Laurinaitis, has only 63 tackles this year (partly due to a move to OLB in Cincinnati). Even this early in his career, James Laurinaitis looks like one of the better picks from the past few drafts and should be the heart and soul of this defense for years to come.
9. Madison Hedgecock, FB North Carolina
2005, 251st Overall Selection
picture from stlouisrams.com
This is the first pick that I struggled putting on here because of his short time with the Rams. For whatever reason, (one that I can't and probably won't ever understand) the Rams unceremoniously parted ways with Hedgecock during the 2007 season. The power blocking fullback went on to contribute to the fourth ranked rushing attack in the NFL in 2007 with the Giants - who oh yeah, won the Superbowl. The absence of a power-blocker led to Steven Jackson's lowest rushing total of his career, aside from his rookie campaign. We've all seen and heard from SJ what a blocking back can do for him, evidenced by his performance this year with Karney. Hedgecock continues to start for the Giants, and I place the blame solely on Scott Linehan for him being there and not in St. Louis.
8. Chris Massey, OL Marshall
2002, 243rd Overall Selection
picture from huntingtonquarterly.com
This is one that I'll probably get flak for, but here's what's up. Massey had been the long snapper for the team essentially since he was drafted seven years ago. There aren't any official stats kept for long-snappers, but unofficially I can't remember him ever causing a bad snap. He'd never missed a game in his career until he went down earlier this year. I don't care what position you play; to get drafted in the seventh round and stay injury free in the National Football League and consistently do your job well is pretty remarkable. Massey deserves to be on this list.
7. Clifton Ryan, DT Michigan State
2007, 154th Overall Selection
picture from stlouisrams.com
Ok, so I don't really have the stats to back this one up, so feel free to disagree. Ryan has played in every game in his career. That, coupled with the fact that he's had an increasingly important role on the D-Line makes me think he's a good player. The Rams really got value with this pick, and he's performed admirably, especially against the run.
6. Ronald Bartell, CB Howard
2005, 50th Overall Selection
picture from bleacherreport.com
Bartell has been a solid addition to the defensive backfield for the Rams. On his career, Bartell has eight interceptions and 230 tackles (with his highest total coming this year with 56 to date). Bartell earned one of the starting corner positions in part because of the Tye Hill flameout and has been a good cover corner during that time. The front office thought so as well, signing him to a big-time 4-year $25 million dollar deal. Bartell was one of the brighter spots in the 2005 draft.
See the top five picks of the decade after the jump.
5. Mark Setterstrom, G Minnesota
2006, 242nd Overall Selection
picture from stlouisrams.com
If I had one word to describe Setterstrom, it would be "solid". A seventh round pick never has any guarantees in the NFL, but Setterstrom has exceeded expectations. Through his three seasons with the Rams, (he was on IR all of 2008), Setterstrom has appeared in 18 games and started 11 of them. According to the official website, he entered 2007 as the starter at left guard, but suffered a season ending knee injury. Setterstrom always seems to play solid, fundamental football and plays within himself. Injuries have kept him out of the starting lineup and kept me from putting him higher on this list. However, the Rams recognized the value they got out of him in the seventh round and resigned him this year.
4. Kevin Curtis, WR Utah State
2003, 74th Overall Selection
picture from life.com
Kevin Curtis showed some flashes of greatness while in blue and gold. I for one remember his 57-yard touchdown against the Falcons in the 2004 playoffs (mainly because I was there). His best year as a Ram came the following regular season in 2005. That year, Curtis had 801 reception yards, caught 6 touchdowns, and averaged 13.4 yards a catch. Without a doubt, Curtis benefited from playing alongside two of the greatest receivers of all-time, but to his credit he made the best of what playing time he saw. He showed he could be his own man when he signed a big contract with the Eagles and proceeded to blow up for 1,110 yards, six touchdowns and an average of almost 70 yards per game. Curtis has caught the injury bug in the past few seasons, but his time with the Rams was very productive. Any player who made plays in the playoffs for the Rams get a vote from me.
3. Pisa Tinoisamoa, LB Hawaii
2003, 43rd Overall Selection
picture from bearsgab.com
Even though the defenses he played on were never stellar, Pisa Tinoisamoa always produced. While with the Rams, Pisa led the team in tackles (2008, 2005, 2004). Pisa was definitely undersized for his position but made up for it with intensity and grit that some players on the current team lack. His rookie year was a sign of things to come - Pisa had 4 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, 2 sacks and was second on the team in tackles. I personally was frustrated to see him go last year. I think the trio of Witherspoon-Laurinaitis-Tinoisamoa could have done some good things. But who are we to question the Rams front office? They always seem to get it right don't they? Pisa was a great pick by the Rams, and showed it on the field while he was in St. Louis.
2. Oshiomogho Atogwe, S Stanford
2005, 66th Overall Selection
picture from footballsfuture.com
The picture above is what Rams fans have come to expect out of O.J. - taking the ball away from the opposing offense. One of the few bright spots to come out of the 2005 draft. Through his five years with the team, Atogwe has racked up 275 total tackles and 19 interceptions. His best year by far came in 2007, when his eight int's led the NFC. When healthy, O.J. has been a consistent ballhawk and good tackler. And, since he was a third round draft choice (a point in the draft at which expectations for productivity begin to fall off), I had to put him right here at the top. Hopefully the Rams will decide to keep this guy around.
1. Steven Jackson, RB Oregon State
2004, 24th Overall Selection
Picture via stlouisrams.com
No intrigue here. Could number one really go to anyone else? This year alone, Jackson is second in the NFL in rushing 1,353 yards and four touchdowns. Most people know Jackson as a hard-nosed, between-the-tackles runner, and deservedly so. But it's also important to take notice of his speed too. This season, Jackson is third in the league with 10 rushes of 20 yards or more. 2009 will also mark the fifth straight season he's notched over 1,000 yards on the ground. Only two running backs in franchise history have gained more yards in their first five seasons - Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk. Pretty excellent company if you ask me. With a career rushing mark of 6,644 yards, Jackson only needs 601 more yards to eclipse Eric Dickerson and become the Rams all-time leading rusher. That, combined with his excellent hands and his less-than-stellar offensive line, Steven Jackson is a no-brainer at number one (perhaps top three or four Ram draft pick of all time).
So let's hear it. Agree? Disagree? How about your own lists?