I'm a real Rams fan. I mean, I really love my team. I'm also a "homer". I wasn't a Rams fan before the move (although I did have a hat when I was a kid some 40 years ago). When they first moved to St. Louis, I remember watching every game with my then very young son. Whenever the Rams had possession, we'd toss a small Nerf-style football with the Rams' logo on it back and forth. We didn't do a lot of tossing those first few years, but then the magical season happened in 1999. We threw the ball around a lot! I thought we were going to need father/son rotator cuff surgeries. I also won my Fantasy Football League that year because I waited until the 13th round to select a QB (some former grocery store clerk named Kurt)! Anyway...
When you love your team, it's easy to believe the very best. I love the Fisher hiring (and Snead), and it feels like they're bringing a totally different attitude to the Rams. I can feel it. No more "same old Rams". It's POSSIBLE the Rams could realize a little magic again this year and win a wild card Playoff berth. It's more likely they're going to improve in almost every area of football, but still be mediocre at best. I'm thinking maybe 6-10 or 7-9. I can handle that. I think - judging from the massive purging of players from last year's roster - Fisher and Snead understand the Rams' reality.
The 2011 Rams were a disaster! But there are a few cornerstone pieces from that team to build upon...
Sam Bradford is a franchise QB and he's going to be really, really good given adequate protection and a stable full of weapons. Steven Jackson is a tremendous weapon, and he probably has one or two years left (based on age), but he's not going to be around much longer.
Chris Long is currently a beast and is developing into one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL. It's too early to predict a Hall of Fame career like his papa, but it very well could be.
James Laurinaitis should have made a couple of Pro Bowls by now and he is a great leader on defense and loves to play football and he loves to tackle. On a 53 man roster, that's not a lot to work with! But, with the addition of a few free agents so far this off-season, and our remaining players who haven't yet reached elite status, there are a handful of other players who are (or could be) really good players.
Robert Quinn improved throughout the season last year and there's no reason to believe that won't continue. Perhaps he's ready to be an every down starter, perhaps not. He could be poised to reach double digits in sacks.
Scott Wells is a pro bowl center who knows how to win and should anchor our offensive line for years to come. Courtland Finnegan is an excellent addition to our secondary and will add toughness and more leadership to our defense as a whole and our secondary specifically.
Kendall Langford I'm deferring to the Rams' brain trust on this one. Supposedly he's a great run-stopper and Fish believes he's going to clog up the middle. So, he's a fixture and he's young!
Quintin Mikell is supposed to be a stud. We didn't see much last year with the Rams, so I'm reserving judgment for another season and will trust the football minds that he is pretty good.
Bradley Fletcher is a very capable cornerback if he can stay healthy - or if he can even get healthy. I also like Jerome Murphy, but I just can't in good conscience put him on this list. Harvely Dahl is a big old mean dude who has a few good years left.
Rodger Saffold played excellently in 2010, but injuries and position swapping slowed him a little in 2011. If we could install him at RT and leave him alone, I think he would flourish. But we need a cornerstone left tackle first. (Jason Smith has the tools; maybe Fish can coach him up?? He's not on the list!)
Greg Salas played very well in Amendola's absence last year. Could be a valuable rotation guy but probably never a starter. So maybe he doesn't belong on this list. I like him though. Steve Smith here's hoping that his excellent workout with the Rams that led to his contract means that he can return to his previous (2009) form. 107 catches!! That's a really good receiver.
Lance Kendricks Okay, I get one player to stick my neck out for. He doesn't deserve to be on the list of "good players" on the Rams' roster, but I'm going to bat for him. He dropped a ton of passes last year. If he catches half of them, he probably would have had 40-50 catches and 5-8 TDs. That's a great year for a rookie TE! But he dropped a lot and he sat on the bench more than he would have and he was looked away from in critical situations. Let's give him one more chance. He was a beast at Wisconsin! I expect Lance to be really big this year - the ugly is over! Now, that's only 16 players on a 53 man roster.
There's probably another 10-15 who are decent rotation guys or important special teamers, but that still leaves at least 15-20 spots that will be filled by players from the draft, undrafted rookie free agents or low-level veteran free agents. (maybe a decent, aging pro who's cut by another team before the start of mini-camp.)
Bottom line: Even if the Rams select four or five immediate impact starters in the draft (even if they draft the offensive and defensive rookies of the year), they're still going to be going into the season with fewer good players than the really good teams in the NFL. We're going to like the Rams a lot more this season, but we're still not going to be winners - yet!
As I've studied zillions of mock drafts over the past few months, I've found myself being very envious of teams like New England and the NY Giants and the 49ers and the Packers and even the Bengals... because you think, "Man, they were really good last year." And to think that the Patriots, for example, who were in the Super Bowl - who've already upgraded by adding Brandon Lloyd - that they could also add Courtney Upshaw, Devon Still, Harrison Smith and Vinny Curry (See Walter Football Mock) in the first two rounds alone... it seems unfair! But that's the reality! The Rams are nowhere near where the upper-echelon teams are right now. We're a LONG way from being there. The reality is we're probably looking at next year before we can have any real hope of winning big.
BUT... the Rams had the perfect storm happen in 1999. They traded for Marshall Faulk, they drafted Torry Holt #6 overall (wink, wink) and Kurt Warner came out of nowhere to light up the scoreboard at a record pace! It's possible, but it's not probable.
It's no coincidence that the Rams also drafted Orlando Pace in 1997 and brought in an exciting new head coach at the same time who knew how to win! Pace went on to block for three consecutive NFL MVPs: Warner, Faulk and Warner (1999-2001).
Let's hope that something crazy happens in the first round this year and the Rams can get Kalil, but if that doesn't happen, I think the Rams WILL trade down. I believe that Fisher and Snead have been planning on that. I'm sure they love Blackmon, but even if he turns into the next Megatron (which he won't), he's not going to fix the Rams. So, load up on good picks, fill out the roster with four or five really good players who have tremendous long-term potential, and a few more decent backups and wait until next year. Perhaps in a trade-down scenario the Rams could even pick up an additional first and second round pick next year. Then I believe we can do it!
My son lives in another city now so we don't get to watch many games together... and my wife can't catch (and she throws like a girl!) But, my son has a seven year old son of his own so perhaps it's time to rekindle the old tradition. Anyone know where I can get a small Nerf-style football with the Rams' logo on it?