St. Louis Rams NFL Drafts: Lost and Found

Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

The very interesting, often times unappreciated, beauty of the NFL draft is the art of finding value - not necessarily in a recognizable Day 1 name - but in a player in the latter rounds. The Rams did exceptionally well in 2012...but not so much in 2011.

Much of the NFL Draft - for the average fan - consists of two days. After that, it get's a bit iffy. Let's face it, the big names are going to occur on Day 1, and hopefully have the most impact on your NFL team in the near future. They're certainly going to be paid more, so the production should match, right?

It's not always the case. And that's ok. Finding value picks in mid-to-late rounds is a blessing. Honestly, the later you find productive players who can contribute and prove effective the better! As you move toward the end of the draft, they're referred to as ‘gems,' and for good reason. NFL stars like Tom Brady [selected 6th round; 199 overall] and undrafted free agents like Arian Foster define the term.

The Rams - in all likelihood - didn't draft a player of that caliber in 2012. But who's to say? Out of the ten selections in last April's draft, it's fair to say that only two or three of them didn't make ‘major' contributions. When young players like Chris Givens, Greg Zuerlein, and Daryl Richardson prove to be nearly as valuable as first and second round selections like Michael Brockers and Janoris Jenkins, then you've got to consider your draft a success. The same can't be said about Steve Spagnuolo's 2011 draft...


2011 St. Louis Rams Draft
2012 St. Louis Rams Draft

Rd.
Pick
Player
Pos.
Rd.
Pick
Player
Pos.
1
14(14)
DE
1
14(14)
Michael Brockers
DT
2
15(47)
TE
2
1(33)
WR
3
14(78)
WR
2
7(39)
Janoris Jenkins
DB
4
15(112)
WR
2
18(50)
RB
5
27(158)
DB
3
2(65)
CB
7
13(216)
DB
4
1(96)
Chris Givens
WR
7
25(228)
LB
5
15(150)
OG
7
26(229)
DB
6
1(171)
Greg Zuerlein
K
7
2(209)
Aaron Brown
LB
7
45(252)
Daryl Richardson
RB

*Shading Denotes Players No Longer With Rams Organization

As you can see, five of the eight players drafted in 2011 are no longer with the team. That could be due, in large part, to the ‘housecleaning' that occurred when the new regime took over. Or did it?

Fifth round selection Jermale Hines was released less than five months after being drafted. Mikail Baker was released four months after being drafted, on August 30th, 2011. Jabara Williams was drafted in the 7th round, and the now free agent was released six months after draft day. Finally, Jonathan Nelson was waived during final roster cuts on September 3, 2011, but was re-signed to the team's practice squad on September 4. He was released nine days later, on September 13th.

I think it's safe to say that attempts to shore up a woeful secondary with late-round picks was a failure. And to answer the previous question, no, Jeff Fisher, Les Snead, nor the new coaching staff had anything to do with the exodus of the aforementioned players. Four of the five players never played a down for the Rams.

Whoops! It looks like I skipped one; Greg Salas. Salas was a pick that most Rams fans were excited about. He was the tough, sure-handed, send-him-over-the-middle type receiver that the Rams could certainly could have used. Since the draft, Salas has caught 27 balls, tallied 264 yards, and has yet to score a touchdown...all of which occurred while playing for the team from St. Louis. He played all of six games for the Rams before being released. He was then signed by the Patriots, and didn't play a single down. He was subsequently picked up by the Eagles, where he replaced 2010 Rams bust Mardy Gilyard. His last reception was on November 6, 2011. Cecil Shorts [JAX] was drafted two picks later...he had 979 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2012.

As for the 2012 draft class, Chris Givens lead the team in receiving yards and had two TD's of over 50+ yards. He's got blazing speed that can - and has - taken the top off of NFL defenses...to the tune of five games in a row. Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein, a sixth round selection, tied for second in the league with seven 50+ yard Field Goals made, while also leading the team in scoring. Lastly, and nearly Mr. Irrelevant, Daryl Richardson [Abilene Christian] was able to provide a spark in the offense when Steven Jackson needed a breather. Not too shabby for 4th-7th round picks.

This, all while early-round selections Brian Quick and Isaiah Pead waited patiently on the sidelines. Honestly, you might as well consider these two rookies of the 2013 NFL Draft class who just so happen to have a year of quality NFL coaching under their belt. Both Quick and Pead - regardless of the retention of Danny Amendola and Steven Jackson - will be expected to contribute far more substantially in 2013, though. It's something to look forward to, as we've seen the least of what they can do.

I suppose, in summation, Rams fans should appreciate what was accomplished in the 2012 NFL Draft. Find solace in the fact that most of the draft picks have been able to immediately contribute [some, in a big way], and those who may not have had the impact you would've liked to see still have the opportunity to. This, all while knowing that - in just over two months - Jeff Fisher and Co. will be looking to replicate the hoarding of sustainable NFL caliber talent.

If the Rams' 2012 draft is indicative of ‘things to come' then do yourself a couple favors. Be ready to be completely caught off guard by what happens in late April. Then, collect yourselves and prepare to be wholly enamored with the results.

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