St. Louis Rams 2009 NFL Draft grades

The 2009 NFL Draft has come and gone, and with that, the argument begins as to how the Rams, led by new GM Billy Devaney, came out of the first April affair of the post-Zygmunt era. How'd we do?

  • Here's a recap of the weekend with thoughts on each of the players taken and some discussion of the draft itself. 
  • Tackle Box posted a look at the how the new players impact the Rams roster for '09, what holes remain, and a look at what might be on the table for next year's draft. 
  • Finally, reading the national critics and the comments here, I think most were relatively pleased, if somewhat unexcited by the Rams draft. Here's a FanPost, with some good discussion going in the comments, with a counter, very critical view of the Rams draft. Be sure to weigh in. 

What are they saying about the draft elsewhere, what kind of grades are tehy handing out? Let's take a look.

Pete Prisco of CBSSportsline.com gives the Rams a B-. Here's what he said about the draft:

They couldn't miss with the second overall pick and they did some other nice things

Best pick: Getting linebacker James Laurinaitis in the second round is a nice move. He is a big hitter who has good instincts. Steve Spagnuolo will love him.
Questionable move: Passing on Eugene Monroe for Jason Smith. That's a move we'll watch closely for the next 10 years.
Second-day gem: Fourth-round pick Dorell Scott has talent, but he under-achieved last season. But he has talent to get into the rotation at defensive tackle.

From USA Today, where they gave the Rams a C:

OT Jason Smith has that "can't miss" aspect to him but there's not much going on on that O-line between him on the left side and Alex Barron on the right. Smith replaces Orlando Pace. LB James Laurinaitis kept dropping and Rams got him with the 35th pick. If he plays better than he has been working out, he will help their porous run defense. His success may hinge on whether DT Dorell Scott can become a run-stopper and keep RBs from getting to the second level.

Apparently they missed the Jason Brown signing, which was largely praised as a great free agent signing, for the Rams and others. I can't find anything dogging Laurinaitis for his workouts, and you can see his Combine results (not that workouts mean everything) compare well to other MLB prospects in this draft.

At ESPN Fan Nation, fans graded the Rams draft a B+.

Some notable quotables from the chattering classes...

Bernie Miklasz, from the Post Dispatch, will give it a couple years before making final grades. His list of likes include, Jason Smith, Dorell Scott, and Chris Ogbonnaya. He "sort of liked" the Laurinaitis pick, but preferred Maualuga with the Rams second rounder. He did not like the third round pick of Iowa CB Bradley Fletcher...calling it a reach, though he does note that draft guru Rich Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News had Fletcher ranked as his 66th overall prospect in the draft, the very spot where the Rams took him. Like everyone else, he panned the Keith Null pick.

Here's ESPN's Mike Sando on the needs the Rams did not address in the draft:

The team did address needs at tackle and linebacker early. The Rams had too many needs to address all at once. In a perfect world, they might have added a receiver and defensive tackle earlier. But the needs they addressed early were also real.

Here's SI's Peter King on the Rams:

I can't be happier for the fans of the Rams that this team did the right thing and took a 10-year tackle. Why? The tackle situation was as bad as any single position for any team in football, and getting Jason Smith to replace Orlando Pace was essential ... James Laurinaitis over Rey Maulaluga at LB? It has to do with the Rams' belief that the Ohio State kid can better run a defense. I'll be writing about the Rams' weekend more in-depth at the top of Tuesday's column, but I think it was a positive weekend for St. Louis.

NFL Network's Steve Wyche took a look at the teams with new GMs and coaches this season; here's what he had to say about Devaney's first draft as Rams GM:

New coach Steve Spagnuolo helped win a lot of football games with the New York Giants boasting a rugged and massive offensive line along with a dominating defense keyed by defensive ends and a bell-ringing middle linebacker. St. Louis has won just five games over the past two seasons because of a banged up and somewhat undersized offensive line and not enough WHAM in the middle of the defense.

Jason Smith, the left tackle out of Baylor, was chosen second overall to help remake the offensive line, which got a big boost with the free-agent signing of Jason Brown. If quarterback Marc Bulger and running back Steven Jackson can be shielded, the Rams can be an effective offensive team, although a significant threat at wide receiver is needed to help open the field. WR Donnie Avery had 53 receptions for 674 yards and three touchdowns is the most likely candidate.

Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is the three-down hammer Spagnuolo wants to be the tone setter on defense. With Chris Long, last year's second overall pick at one defensive end and veteran Leonard Little at the other, Spagnuolo now has some of the pieces to begin the turnaround of a roster that still has plenty of room for upgrades.

Here's Mel Kiper Jr. with ESPN:

GRADE: C If I were the Rams, I would have taken Mark Sanchez at the No. 2 spot, but I do like offensive tackle Jason Smith. Inside linebacker James Laurinaitis was a good selection in the second round. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher would've gone higher if he had better speed. There were better quarterbacks available in the sixth round, when they took Keith Null.

And Todd McShay:

Best pick: OT Jason Smith, Baylor (First round, No. 2 overall)
Worst pick: CB Bradley Fletcher, Iowa (Third round, No. 66 overall)
Bottom line: The Rams made the right call drafting an OT in their situation as a replacement for Orlando Pace at LT. I also thought cashing in on James Laurinaitis at No. 35 was a good move. He should provide leadership and upgrade the range of the Rams' LB corps. After that, though, things fell off for St. Louis. Fletcher was the biggest reach. While he's a big, physical corner, he lacks ideal range and is not an overly instinctive playmaker, so I'm not sure he'll ever be more than another sub-package DB on a roster filled with plenty of them already.

It's funny how divided people are on the Fletcher pick. There were similar issues with Justin King last year, with some seeing great value and others thinking he was just a workout guy; of course, the jury's still out on that one too. CBs are hard to judge, and even the top guys in the draft at that position stir much debate.

That's a pretty good analogy for the whole draft at this point, we'll just have to wait and see what we've got when the competition begins, or camp at any rate.

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