Unless you spent the last 5 years holed up in a compound in suburban Pakistan without phone or internet, you know that the NFL lockout and all the uncertainty around it had a big impact on the 2011 NFL Draft. The St. Louis Rams' draft results contained a few surprises, and ESPN's Chris Mortensen is saying those plot twists were in part due to concerns about the lockout.
Appearing on St. Louis' 101 ESPN today, Mortensen suggested that players got extra consideration based on how "football smart" they were. He was referring specifically to the Rams' second-round pick, Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks. The same would seem to apply to Boise State WR Austin Pettis. Spagnuolo admitted that Pettis wowed them with his acumen for the game in pre-draft conversations.
Hmm, that the Rams picked players who brought an ability to contribute early shouldn't surprise, lockout or not. Expectations are high for a team that went from 1-15 to one game away from the division title with the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year at quarterback.
Last year's rookie receiver, Mardy Gilyard, failed to make an impact in part because he missed offseason workouts thanks to the NFL's arcane rules. Despite the kind of athletic ability the Rams could have used at WR last year, Gilyard never got enough of a grasp on the playbook to make a difference. Injuries evenutailly conspired to give him a forgettable rookie season. Lesson learned.
The lengthy injury history of the top three receivers on the roster, Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton and Danario Alexander, likely also factored in to any decision based on a player's ability to get up to speed in the offense. Having some reliable depth if/when any of those guys go down with an injury will be a big help.
How much the lockout itself factored into the Rams' draft decisions we may never know. I can't imagine a successful lobbying effort to go off the draft board would have left out that argument.