Blame Jay Zygmunt, blame Mike Martz, blame Billy Devaney, blame Scott Linehan, hell blame Les Snead. The history of Rams' draft picks since moving to St. Louis has not been very pretty. Sure, some players selected have been great but most have been awful (we are looking at you Lawrence Phillips, Jason Smith, Tye Hill, and Adam Carriker). These draft picks prematurely ended the Greatest Show on Turf and resulted in one of the worst stretches in NFL history. But even some of the worst drafts in recent Rams history have provided some solid and valuable draft picks that helped the team in the short and long term. I am sorry to say however Derek Stanley, Brooks Foster, and Eric Crouch will not make this list.
The Too Early to Tell Category:
Alec Ogletree: Ogletree is having a fine rookie season and is improving every game and will continue to get better. He has so far provided excellent value for being selected as an end of the 1st round draft pick. Can it continue?
Zac Stacy: The moment the Rams drafted Stacy in the 5th round this last April, I thought we had the next Frank Gore. Well since Week 5, Zac is proving me right. Stacy is improving game by game and is further proof that effective starting running backs do not need to be drafted in the first two rounds (see Gore, Alfred Morris, Arian Foster). The two main questions with Stacy moving forward is can be healthy enough to sustain a 16 game season and can he improve his pass-catching.
Stedman Bailey: Stedman came into this season knowing that he would be last on the wide receiver depth chart but that hasn't bothered him. Since day one, he has worked nonstop on his craft and has become a core special teams player. In recent games, his hard work has paid off and has been playing meaningful offensive snaps with some key catches. Stedman has been one of the team's MVPs this season and hopefully his role increases even more over time.
Trumaine Johnson: Johnson was not featured much in his rookie season until later in the season and during the offseason he overtook Cortland Finnegan's spot at outside corner along side with Janoris Jenkins. He has certainly had his ups and downs this season as well as Jenkins, but if he continues to grow and mature he will hopefully be a very effective starting CB, and not like bad 3rd corners like Bradley Fletcher and Jerome Murphy.
Chris Givens: Well at the end of last season, Givens totally provided his value as a 4th rounder by becoming the team's deep threat. Towards the end of the season he was starting to develop the other parts of this game and looked to continue that this season. That has not happened though. He is enduring a sophomore slump and is hoping for a bounce back third season to fully prove his worth.
Daryl Richardson: Daryl was similar to Givens last season. As the second-to-last player selected in the 2012 Draft, he was expected to just maybe be a special teams player. Well he was more than that. He passed Isaiah Pead as SJ39's primary back up and was a nice change of pace to Jackson. When Jackson left in free agency, Richardson became the primary back and looked to build on his strong rookie year. Well that hasn't happened in 2013. He lost his job to Stacy and has struggled with injuries all season. If he can have a role similar to what he had last year, he can still provide his value.
TJ McDonald: TJ makes this list just based on potential. He could be a steal for a third rounder if he stays healthy and becomes a strong, physical safety that the Rams hope he can be.
Best Value Picks from the Last Couple of Seasons:
Greg Zuerlein (2012: 6th Round, 171):
"Greg the Leg" has definitely been a great draft pick. The sixth rounder from a nowhere school took the league by storm along with Justin Tucker and Blair Walsh as the best young kickers in the league. Greg was heroic and clutch last season (see 49ers game) and has continued to be excellent. What a find by the Rams.
Robert Quinn (2011: 1st Round, 14):
Well at least Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney got something right! In a draft the year after where the Rams narrowly missed the playoffs, the team decided to draft the best available player instead of an immediate need (the team had Chris Long and James Hall). Quinn had not played a snap in over a year and had previously had heart issues. Well since then, Quinn became better and has taken the league by storm in 2013. Based on some of the names taken after him in the 2011 draft, Quinn was a great value pick.
Eugene Sims (2010: 6th Round, 189):
This 2010 sixth round pick did not prove a lot in two years under Spags but Jeff Fisher recognized his talent and has since made him a very effective and important defensive lineman on the Rams. Sims brings a certain attitude and speed off the edge in relief of the Mighty Quinn and was rewarded with a contract extension in the offseason. Not bad for a sixth rounder from West Texas A&M.
James Laurinaitis (2009: 2nd Round, 35):
Another pick Devaney didn't screw up! From the second James was selected in the second round in 2009, he has been the unquestioned leader of the defense. While he may not light it up with his stats, he has become a very important cog in the defense. An important thing with draft picks is to develop them and see that they are good enough to resign them. James has been resigned and is arguable the best middle linebacker in team history (sorry London Fletcher).
- I understand that these two seventh round linebackers played in the darkest ages of Rams football, but from where they were drafted, they still provided value. Chamberlain was a very important special teams player and was a starter in 2011 before signing with the Saints. Vobora was Mr. Irrevelant in 2008 and actually started a game that season. He was also important special teams player and received meaningful playing team on defense on the Rams' 7-9 team in 2010. Not bad for players picked by Scott Linehan.
Ron Bartell (2005: 2nd Round, 50):
- Bartell came from Howard, a small school in Washington D.C. He was instantly inserted into the lineup due to injuries to other corners and became an important player in the Ram's secondary. He was a very solid corner who had very decent seasons in 2009 and 2010 under Spags. He then suffered a major neck injury in 2011 and was released after the season. A solid value pick in the Rams dark ages,
OJ Atogwe (2005: 3rd Round, 66):
- OJ was known as one of the best ball hawkers for a short period of time. In 2006, he had 3 interceptions and forced 5 fumbles. In 2007, he lead the NFC with 7 INTs and had 2 forced fumbles. In 2008, he had 5 INTs and 6 forced fumbles. He has a very important player and leader in the secondary in 2010 for the Rams but was released after the season. OJ was never given the credit he deserved as a great NFL ball hawker alongside with Ed Reed and Charles Woodside at that time. Still, a great pick for the third round.
Steven Jackson (2004: 1st Round, 24):
- What a steal by the Rams in 2004. They took the best available player on the board even though they still had Marshall Faulk. Jackson has since become the team's all-time leading rusher. He dominated in such a bad period of Rams football that people will never truly recognize his accomplishments while in St. Louis. He is on this list because the players selected around him and how he just fell in the Rams lap. Players like Chris Perry, Marcus Tubbs, JP Losman, Michael Jenkins, and Kevin Jones.
Pisa Tinoisamoa (2003: 2nd Round, 43):
- Pisa lead the Rams in tackles for three straight seasons and was a constant force in the Rams linebacking core. He lead the team in tackles later but injuries forced his release in 2009. Pisa was a very solid linebacker in his time as a Rams, another valuable pick.
- These two provided the second coming of Ricky Proehl and Az Hakim. These two were paired with Rams greats Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt and along with Marc Bulger created a dynamic passing attack. Both were excellent value picks that made it seem like the GSOT was returning. Both later left on free agent deals with the Eagles and Lions respectfully but could never recapture the seasons they had with the Rams.
The Greatest Show on Turf Period:
Brandon Manumaleuna (2001: 4th Round, 129):
- The runner up to Michael Hoomanawanui in the hardest Rams' tight end name to spell since moving to STL, BM was a solid run blocking tight end from 2001 to 2005. In an offense that rarely threw to the tight end, BM was the starter for a number of years. He was later traded to the Chargers but to be the starting tight end on a prolific offense is big for a fourth rounder.
Leonard Little (1998: 3rd Round, 65):
- For all his faults (see DUIs), Leonard Little was a great rusher of the quarterback as a defensive end. He came onto the scene with 14.5 sacks in 2001 and his numbers grew from there. He became a one time Pro Bowler and one time All-Pro. Since Deacon Jones played in a era that sacks were not a statistic, Leonard Little leads the team all-time in sacks with 87.5. Not bad for a skinny outside linebacker picked in the third round.
Az-Zahir Hakim (1998: 4th Round, 96):
- Hakim was the fastest Ram in the Greatest Show on Turf era. He was part of a historic aerial attack along with Ricky Proehl, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk, and Kurt Warner. His 8 receiving TDs in 1999 was second only to Bruce. He is also one of the best punt returners in Rams history. His speed fit in perfectly with the astro turf at the Edward Jones Dome and was a very important cog in the machine until leaving in 2002.
Roland Williams (1998: 4th Round, 98):
- Taken just two picks after Hakim, the starting tight end of the '99 Super Bowl champions did not have a ton of stats during the GSOT. He did have 6 TDs in 1999 though. Roland was more known for his blocking for Marshall Faulk and Robert Holcombe and was known as a team leader. He left the team after 2000. He was known as a premier run blocker and a very positive and energetic teammate.
Torry Holt (1999: 1st Round, 6):
- I know, as a top six pick, how does Holt have high value? Well any player should have value when they become a borderline Hall of Famer and one of the top three best receivers in team history. Holt became one of the final pieces to the GSOT and enjoyed several awesome seasons with the Rams with some crazy numbers with 7 Pro Bowls. Based on some others drafted in his range, Torry should be on this list (Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Chris Claiborne, Cade McNown, Troy Edwards, David Boston, and John Tait).
Pre-Greatest Show on Turf:
Dexter McCleon (1997: 2nd Round, 40):
- Dexter was a very solid corner for the Rams from '97 to 2002. He was always consistent and was always steady. Not known in the second round in 1997, McCleon would become a very important player in the secondary during the GSOT days.
Fred Miller (1996: 5th Round, 141):
- Fred Miller was a late draft pick by the Rams in 1996. Miller started games at LG and tackle in 1997 and 1998 and became the full-time starter at right tackle in 1999. SInce Mike Martz's offense required minimum outside protection for the offensive lineman. Miller held his own at RT and started all 16 games. Miller did not allow a sack to phenom Jevon Kearse during the 1999 Super Bowl and signed with the Titans after the season.
Kevin Carter (1995: 1st Round, 6):
- The first ever St. Louis Ram draft pick was Kevin Carter. Carter started showing major flashes in 1998 and was a beast in 1999 with 17 sacks and was a Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection as well. He was the best pass rusher on a team that led the league in sacks in 1999. He had 10.5 sacks in 2000 and was traded to the Titans in 2001. He is on this list based on the players taken directly after him (Mike Mamula, Joey Galloway, Kyle Brady, JJ Stokes, and Derrick Alexander).
A Special Mention:
Orlando Pace (1997, 1st Round, 1):
- The Rams under new coach, Dick Vermeil, gave up their 6th overall pick, along with their 3rd, 4th, and 7th round pick to move up to the first pick from the New York Jets to select Orlando Pace from Ohio State. I view this pick as a high value and a steal since according to my research, the Jets didn't turn those picks into anything useful. Meanwhile, the Rams received a Hall-of-Fame left tackle, a 5-time All-Pro, a 7-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl winner, and the best important player on an offense that used only 5 men to block on pass plays. In my eyes, the Rams won this trade easily. Without Orlando Pace, Kurt Warner doesn't have that extra second to find Isaac Bruce up the seam or that extra running lane for Marshall Faulk.
A Los Angeles Ram Special Mention:
Isaac Bruce (1994, 2nd Round, 33):
- Little known receiver from Memphis is selected by the LA Rams. All he does is become one of the greatest wide receivers of all time. He catches the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl and is a four-time Pro Bowler and one time all-Pro. He leads the Rams in every receiving statistical category ever. I think the Rams made the right pick way back when.
This is my list. Please comment what you think!