Rams draft rewind: Finding the starters

ESPN's Mike Sando had a 2009 draft retrospective, looking at the starters and impact players for the St. Louis Rams, and the other NFC West teams. Naturally, James Laurinaitis gets a mention as one of the most promising players. Jason Smith and Laurinaitis are both projected starters for the Rams this season. 

CB Bradley Fletcher, the Rams third round pick last year, played his way into the starting lineup last year, showing real potential and making himself the favorite to reclaim the starting CB job opposite Ron Bartell. That would give the Rams three starters from last year's draft, an impressive feat compared to the results of prior drafts. Let's take a look back at the starters manning the roster from previous drafts, going back to the 2004 NFL Draft, since no current member of the team comes from any draft prior to that, except for long snapper Chris Massey picked in the 7th in 2002. 

For all the turmoil that marked 2008, it really was a watershed year for the Rams, the start of the rebuilding process thanks in part to the arrival of Billy Devaney in the team's personnel office. The Rams first and second round picks from '08, DE Chris Long and WR Donnie Avery, are both starters. Third round pick John Greco is in competition for a starting job as the right guard this year. David Vobora, the second round pick, was a starter last year. At the moment, he's been replaced by offseason free agent addition Na'il Diggs, though it's not set in stone yet. You could technically count Justin King since he's working with the first team right now, but I'm going to default back to the 2009 lineups where appropriate for the purpose of this exercise. The number in parentheses is the total number of players selected.

2008 Draft Picks (8)
2010 Starters: Chris Long (R1), Donnie Avery (R2)
On the bubble: John Greco (R3), David Vobora (R7)
Role players: Justin King (R4), Chris Chamberlain (R7), Keenan Burton (R4)
Gone: Roy Schuening (R6)

2007 Draft Picks (8)
2010 Starters: Clifton Ryan (R5)
On the bubble: none
Role players: none
Gone: Adam Carriker (R1), Brian Leonard (R2), Jonathan Wade (R3), Dustin Fry (R5), Ken Shackleford (R6), Keith Jackson (R7), Derek Stanley (R7)

2006 Draft Picks (10)
2010 Starters: none
On the bubble: Mark Setterstrom (R7)*
Role players: Victor Adeyanju (R4)
Gone: Tye Hill (R1), Joe Klopfenstein (R2), Claude Wroten (R3), Jon Alston (R3), Dominique Byrd (R3), Marques Hagans (R5), Tim McGarigle (R7), Tony Palmer (R7)

* I put Setterstrom on this list since he's not technically out for the season due to injury. Were he healthy, he'd be competing for the starting RG job.

2005 Draft Picks (11)
2010 Starters: Ron Bartell (R2), Oshiomogho Atogwe (R3)
On the bubble: none
Role players: none
Gone: Alex Barron (R1), Richie Incognito (R3), Jerome Carter (R4), Claude Terrell (R4), Jerome Collins (R5), Dante Ridgeway (R6), Reggie Hodges (R6), Ryan Fitzpatrick (R7), Madison Hedgecock (R7)

2004 Draft Picks (7)
2010 Starters: Steven Jackson (R1)
On the bubble: none
Role players: none
Gone: Anthony Hargrove (R2), Brandon Chillar (R4), Jason Shivers (R5), Jeff Smoker (R6), Erik Jensen (R7), Larry Turner (R7)

Kind of depressing, no? This isn't anything we haven't already said before: bad drafts have put the Rams in a deep hole. Two consecutive drafts in which the team was able to find legitimate starters represent two important milestones on the long road back to respectability. 

Take a look at the draft picks no longer with the Rams that are starters. Hargrove, Chillar, Hedgecock...all those guys could have helped the Rams but for one reason or another were jettisoned. More alarming are the strike outs on picks from the first day of the draft: Adam Carriker, Brian Leonard, Tye Hill, etc. The Rams might have managed more than a single win last season if they hadn't whiffed on those picks.

Another note: the Rams should never draft players named Claude.

Again, nothing new, but I think looking at it from this perspective gives you an idea of the direction this franchise is headed. The 2010 draft class is a big one, and already two players - OT Rodger Saffold and QB Sam Bradford - are expected to be starters this season. How this latest group pans out has a lot to say about how soon the Rams establish themselves as a winning franchise. 

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