Regardless of what James Carville thinks about the NFC West, St. Louis Rams GM Billy Devaney has captained a ship back from the abyss. His course has been a simple one: draft well. Over the last three years, Devaney and his staff has managed to acquire the cornerstones for a solid foundation, offensive tackles, defensive line and a world class quarterback. No team can really afford to miss on those early picks, especially the Rams, and it looks like those picks have worked out to keep the team moving the right direction. But what about the other picks, those day two and day three players where teams get needed roster depth, a few starters and the occasional superstar?
Jim Thomas has a look back at the Rams' 2008 draft, Devaney's first. Had it not been for Chris Long's break through to stardom, the 2008 draft class might have looked much like the others to preceded it. Outside of Long, results from rounds two through three seem to be filled with lost opportunities and players that just could not breakthrough for whatever reason, be it injury or getting lost in the coaching shuffle between 2008 and 2009.
Over the last three years, the Rams have picked 20 players in rounds three through seven. And what have those twenty picks produced?
To classify the players taken, I'm going to break it down in a few different levels, a mostly arbitrary grading system. Today's post is focused directly on the Rams results. Tomorrow, I'll take a look at how it compares with other teams in the league.
Breakouts (maybe not a superstar, but definitely better than average)
Picking Fletcher was a little bit of a surprise, in that he wasn't on the radar as a third rounder for a lot of fans and pundits. He played his way into the starting lineup as a rookie, and solidified his spot last year.
I probably shouldn't categorize Vobora as a starter, but I think we can all agree he's got starting chops...and showed that in starting duty in 2009. Na'il Diggs took his place last year. Putting Uh Oh here is a stretch too. It looks like he'll be the starter based on his limited performance as a rookie, but a new offensive coordinator presents something of an unknown.
Depth & Role Players
Chamberlain's a solid ST contributor that also gets time in the nickel package. Greco is at least a reliable backup who probably isn't getting the playing time he deserves, probably another gift categorization here. Selvie showed some promise as a situational pass rusher, and you wonder if he's capable of being a starter. Murphy played better later in the season, and looks to at least have played his way into the rotation, whether as a CB or S. The Rams moved to keep King, signing a contract extension before the lockout, so they at least see him on their depth chart for the immediate future.
It's a little soon to proffer too much judgement on the future of the guys from the 2010 draft. This will be an important training camp for them. Onobun might be the odd man out in McDaniels' offense. Scott was a disappointment, but did struggle with injuries. Josh Hull never saw the field, hitting IR before the season started.
I'm actually a little surprised that only two of the eight picks from 2008 are gone. The rest are still on the roster, some in established roles (Chamberlain, Vobora) and some that need to prove that they belong this year (Avery and Greco). The 2009 draft actually looks a little worse for the later round picks with three of seven total picks already gone and a fourth on the bubble (the second and third round that year produced two bona fide superstars in James Laurinaitis and Fletcher and an above-average offensive tackle in the first).
The Rams' track record in rounds three through seven isn't as bad as what I had in mind when I sat down to do this. They've done okay getting depth, but the lack of players to emerge into starters is the biggest weakness, particularly in terms of the third round picks. The picture will get clearer and easier to judge this August and during the season as players like Greco, Murphy and Gilyard get a chance to make a statement about their future. Those three, out of all these players, really need to be more than just depth considering where they were picked in the draft.