When Jeff Fisher accepted the job to take over a horrible franchise that in the previous five seasons compiled a 15-65 record, he knew he had to build a foundation that would lead to success. Previous attempts had failed by Scott Linehan, Jim Haslett, and Steve Spagnuolo to resurrect the franchise hungover since the Greatest Show on Turf days.
Fisher, along with new general manager, Les Snead, had to turn over a roster filled with incapable players, over-the-hill veterans, and players who were poorly coached. There were certain cornerstone players already in place, such as franchise QB Sam Bradford, team legend Steven Jackson, slot receiver Danny Amendola, defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn, and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis to build on.
Those two went right to work hiring quality coach after quality coach to help teach young players. They next brought in solid free agents including CB Cortland Finnegan to lead a revamped secondary, C Scott Wells to be the leader of the offensive line, OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, blocking TE Matthew Mulligan, and DT Kendall Langford.
The next issue was what were the Rams going to do with the 2nd overall pick in the upcoming April draft. Picks #1 and #2 were going to be Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. The Rams already had Sam Bradford who under the old CBA was due a ton of guaranteed money. So, Les Snead make a deal with the Redskins to give up their #2 overall pick for the Redskins' 2012 #1 and #2 draft picks, and the first round picks of the Redskins in 2013 and 2014. This move helped create a better chance of talent in multiple high picks rather than reaching for 1 player at #2 overall.
On draft day, the Rams traded the Redskins pick to the Cowboys for their 1st and 2nd round pick. That is where the true process began for the Rams to rebuild and create that championship foundation.
1st Round, Pick #14: DT Michael Brockers (LSU)
- In 2011, veterans Justin Bannan and Fred Robbins did not get the job done and the lack of youth in the position created a problem thus having both players released. Gary Gibson was also not brought back. This created a huge need for DT help. Former Dolphin, Kendall Langford was signed to one side of the DT position. Brockers was then selected by Fisher to fill the other side. Brockers had played a limited amount of games while at LSU with not great production in terms of numbers but the Rams saw the talent in the young DT. He was known as a run-stuffer at college and his pass-rush skills will develop. After missing the first 3 games due to injury, Brockers has since turned it on and is second in sacks by a DT by a rookie with 4. In recent games, his play has helped the run defense greatly. Brockers is now a part of a young and up-and-coming D-line that is tied for 3rd in the NFL in sacks. Brockers was an excellent pick and way better than Ryan Pickett, Jimmy Kennedy, Adam Carriker, and Damione Lewis ever were. He is turning into a new cornerstone for the Fisher-lead Rams.
2nd Round, Pick #33: WR Brian Quick (Appalachian State)
- The need for wide receiver is well documented since the departure of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. VERY well documented. It was a bit of a shock when the Rams opened Day 2 of the draft with the selection of Quick, a product of a small program. Other, more well known receivers were still on the board but the scouting department was so impressed with this young man that they selected him #33 overall. Quick has all the physical tools to be a #1 receiver in this league. He has the height, strength, quickness, and vertical ability to become elite. They knew however that the transition from App State to the NFL would be difficult and he is still adjusting. Rams fans have been disappointed with his lack of production, especially after some great plays such as his TDs against the 49ers and Vikings but I would rather look to 2013 for Quick to launch himself. Also, remind me how AMAZING Stephen Hill (on the awful Jets), Alshon Jeffery (falling Bears), Ryan Broyles (injured), and Rueben Randle (6th guy on NYG) have been this season? I still believe Quick is the best of all the receivers drafted in the 2nd round.
2nd Round, Pick #39: CB Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama)
- People should remember how many corners on the 2011 Rams went on the IR right? So there was clearly a need for CB on the 2012 squad. Cortland Finnegan was signed and Bradley Fletcher was coming off another torn ACL so another CB was needed. The Rams drafted the most controversial prospect in the entire draft with pick 39 in Janoris Jenkins. There is no doubting JJ's football skills but rather teams doubted his off the field antics. Fisher took a chance on JJ and he clearly has paid off. While he was suspended for a game and has struggled with consistency, he should be a favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He currently has 4 interceptions on the seasons, 3 for a TD, a fumble recovery for a TD in a key game vs the 49ers, 72 tackles, a blocked FG, and 14 passes defended. His 4 TDs actually tie him with Steven Jackson, the franchise runningback. I don't even remember the last time the Rams had such a playmaker and game-changer like JJ. He is also developing into a cornerstone player for the Rams. He was well worth the risk the Rams took on him in Round 2.
2nd Round, Pick #50: RB Isaiah Pead (Cincinnati)
- FINALLY, a change-of-pace RB to spell Jackson for a 1-2 punch! Pead has a lot of speed and quickness that works well with SJ39 but in 2012 that hasn't worked well with him. That change-of-pace guy has not been Pead, but rather a guy that we discuss later. This is not the fault of Pead but rather the other guy has outperformed him and when you have Jackson being the lead back and give another some carries there is not a work for Pead to do. Pead has a lot of ability and can be like Brian Quick, and be more utilized in 2013. Whether that means SJ39 does not return or give him less carries and more to the younger guys is to be determined. OC Brian Schottenheimer in his offseason will learn to see spots where Pead can contribute and succeed. Look for him to be better in 2013.
3rd Round, Pick #65: CB Trumaine Johnson (Montana)
- It seemed a little funny that the Rams also went corner in Round Three with the selection of Johnson. At this point in time, we had signed Finnegan, drafted Jenkins, had Fletcher returning, had Josh Gordy, the best corner from the previous year back, and had former 3rd round pick Jerome Murphy back as well. Why Johnson then? Well Fisher's son had played with him at Montana and he saw enough to draft him 65th overall. Johnson, like Jenkins, had character issues at Montana but had great ability. The Rams ended up trading Gordy and releasing Murphy. By Week 10, Johnson passed Fletcher on the depth chart. Johnson is more consistent than Jenkins and is not as much of a playmaker. Johnson to his credit has 2 interceptions, both that have changed the game where it happened. The 3 corners with having a solid, big corner like Johnson along with ball-hawker Jenkins, and strong, physical Finnegan covering the slot, will in time shut teams down. Johnson is a very solid pick for the Rams in the third round by the Rams.
4th Round, Pick #96: WR Chris Givens (Wake Forest)
- To start Day 3 of the draft, the Rams selected a speedster from Wake Forest that had questionable hands and poor route running ability along with injury problems. They said he was a 1-trick pony. Givens has been terrific for the Rams in his first season. His stretch of consecutive games with a 50+ yard catch is crazy when you think about it. His ability to stretch the field has been a great addition to the offense. He also is grasping the concept of short and intermediate routes. His performance vs SF at home was a great example of that. He has 40 catches which is 8th amongst rookies, for 644 yards (4th by rookies), 3 TDs (tied for 6th), and his average per catch (16.1) is third by rookies. He is transforming into a #2 receiver and can is very compatible to Quick and Amendola in the future. He was a huge steal for the Rams and his future is very bright.
5th Round, Pick #150: OL Rok Watkins (South Carolina)
- In the 5th round, the Rams finally addressed the offensive line. Rok Watkins was selected with the 150th pick and was seen as someone with potential and just a huge human being (6'3, 338 lbs). He came into camp overweight but returned to nearly win the starting LG job. He played in Week 1 due to the injury to Scott Wells but was also injured in that game and was placed on IR. Next season he will compete for a starting job on the line and if he is not a starter, he will provide solid depth along the line. An okay pick that could be very good next season.
6th Round, Pick #171: PK Greg Zuerlein (Missouri Western)
- Whoever discovered this guy deserves a huge bonus. Zuerlein, who came out of nowhere, was drafted in the early 6th round to be the new kicker and he became a total steal for the Rams. He won for the Rams the game vs Seahawks and kicked the Rams in the winning column vs the 49ers. He is 4-4 in kicks from 1-29 yards out. 3-5 from 30-39 yards out, 7-7 from 40-49 yards out, and 7-12 from 50+ yards out. He kicked a 60 yarder vs SEA and although he hasn't had many kicks lately, he is still a great weapon for the Rams in the future.
7th Round, Pick #209: LB Sammy Brown (Hawaii)
- The Rams selected Brown in hopes to compete for the vacant outside linebacker position and time for special teams, Brown, however, was cut after the preseason. He is the only real miss of the draft. Keep in mind this is the 7th round of the draft! There are certainly a lot of misses at this stage by all teams.
7th Round, Pick #252: RB Daryl Richardson (Abilene Christian)
- Richardson was selected to compete with Pead for the #2 RB position, even though there was not riding on him to do so since he was the second to last pick of the draft. Richardson then outplayed Pead in the preseason and became the backup to Steven Jackson and provided a spark behind him. Richardson has 96 rushing attempts for 475 yards with a 4.9 YPC average. Not too bad for a 7th rounder. It's a shame he hasn't reached the endzone this season but he definitely has done so much more than anybody asked of him. The future is bright for Richardson, like Pead. He is a total bargain for being the 2nd to last player drafted.
Undrafted Free Agents That Have Made An Impact:
- Cory Harkey (TE) - Solid blocking TE with a big catch and a few solid special teams plays. Has the mold to become the default FB with his blocking ability and surprising catching ability.
- Johnny Hekker (P) - Hekker has had a very up-and-down season by punting terms but has been a real asset in the grand scheme of things. He has been solid and has completed 3 passes and 1 went for a touchdown. Also, like Zuerlein, a nice find by the coaching staff.
- Rodney McLeod (S) - McLeod has arguably been the Rams' best special teamer. He has been called for a few penalties this season but is seen constantly during punts and kickoff coverage. For an UDFA, he was also another nice find by this coaching staff.
With the great 2012 draft class, Fisher and Snead have started the foundation for success. It has already been felt this season with 7 wins with the league's youngest roster. The Rams will keep assembling this young talent and become an even greater team.
The Youth in the Roster for 2013:
QB - Sam Bradford (4th season)
RB - Isaiah Pead (2nd) & Daryl Richarson (2nd)
FB/TE - Cory Harkey (2nd)
WR - Brian Quick (2nd), Chris Givens (2nd), Danny Amendola* (5th), Austin Pettis (3rd)
TE - Lance Kendricks (3rd)
OL - Rodger Saffold (4th), Rok Watkins (2nd)
LB - James Laurinaitis (5th), Jo-Lonn Dunbar (6th)
CB - Janoris Jenkins (2nd), Trumaine Johnson (2nd)
ST - Greg Zuerlein (2nd), John Hekker (2nd), Rodney McLeod (2nd)