If you were worried about a dull draft, do you kind of feel silly now? Just two years on the job as the St. Louis Rams GM and Les Snead has already turned into one of the most aggressive front office men in the league. He traded up, he traded down, and the Rams came away with two players that will make this team very, very good.
"I would have to say that we're very excited, to say the least," Jeff Fisher said after the draft. "It was a scenario that we had been discussing for several days. In this particular draft, hard thing to accomplish, I think, the way it fell and what we were able to do. So, we're very, very excited. We got two very explosive, talented young players that are going to help us right away."
Every team says they came out of the opening round with everything they want. Few mean it. The Rams really did get the players they were targeting. There was no compromise, thanks in part to Snead's advance scouting of the trade market.
"This one's probably been in the works a little while," Snead revealed of the deal with Atlanta. "Let's call it over the last couple weeks."
Obviously, Snead has some connections inside the Atlanta front office, where he also learned the importance of dealing up for a valued receiver. Speaking of the deal for Austin, that one too had its genesis in the days before the draft.
"I think Buffalo did give us a clue early on that they might be willing to come back in the draft to acquire picks," Snead said. "But really for this particular deal, probably sometime Tuesday was the day that, OK you had a good feeling they were going to be in and you could probably get something done."
They certainly did get something done, coming out of the first round with a pair of dynamic players that really change the complexion of the team on both sides of the ball.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Remember when it was a bloody miracle when the Rams could get to the 25-yard line? Those days should be over. Snead learned something about trading up for a wide receiver in Atlanta, and he did it again here. I really like this pick. Obviously, Jeff Fisher's pretty happy with it too.
"You look at his college career and what he's accomplished," Fisher said of Austin. "The fact that he has not missed a game and the explosive plays just week after week after week. It felt like we needed a player that created the mismatch and so he helps to create that for our entire offense now. [We] just felt like he adds something that we just don't have, that's just hard to find in this league."
Think about what the Rams can do on offense now. They have a speedy guy to stretch the field in Chris Givens. Jared Cook is a versatile tight end that can stretch the field as well, down the middle. Add Austin's versatility into the mix, and suddenly there's a dynamism we haven't seen here since the GSOT days.
"It creates opportunities for everybody else," Fisher told the media on Thursday night. "It creates opportunities for (WR) Brian (Quick) and for Chris (Givens), Lance (Kendricks) and the running backs just because they are threats. They are going to create mismatches that are going to have to be dealt with defensively, which is going to open some other things up for us."
3k and I talked about getting Austin into space, and this suddenly looks like a group that can open up space on the field ... you probably ought to look at some tape from non-Rams games just to refresh your memory about what space on the field looks like.
Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
This one was more of a surprise. When the Rams traded down, I assumed the target was Eddie Lacy or even Jonathan Franklin, one of the running backs the front office coveted. Instead, they threw us (another) curve ball with the Ogletree pick.
"There are a lot of similarities when you watch him on tape," Fisher said. "A lot of similarities, yes. Long arms, quickness, slippery, can take on, can tackle sideline-to-sideline. Very explosive player. That's a by-product of his safety background."
To me, there's a better comparison: Sean Weatherspoon.
The former safety part of Ogletree's background gets a lot of play for good reason: it points to a rangy guy who moves well and can work in coverage too. His quickness and speed will be a real asset to this group of linebackers, and a great fit with Laurinaitis in the middle and Jo-Lonn Dunbar. He's struggled with missing tackles, but that can be corrected with good coaching, which the Rams finally have.
Ogletree wowed the Rams with his work on the white board during the lead up to the draft. Les Snead recounted one instance:
"Frank Bush was drawing up a lot of things we're going to see in our division and said, ‘Hey what do you do right here?' Basically Ogletree drew a line and said, ‘I go right there and make the tackle right at the line of scrimmage.' He didn't get into this or that, he just said, ‘I'm going to meet that guy right there.' I think Frank was sold at that moment."
"He's a smart football player," Fisher explained. "He's instinctive, he understands concepts. You can see him making coverage adjustments and anticipating players. That in itself helps as opposed to someone that is just reacting to something. He'll put himself in position to make plays. He can chase down. As I said, he has excellent speed, pursuit speed to where he can close very quickly. That's what we need in our division."
The NFC West is tough place to play all of the sudden. The Seahawks and 49ers are well ahead of the curve, having a could years for a head start. Fisher's Rams only lost once to those two teams last year. This team is close. Austin and Ogletree are the kind of players that matchup well against those team. They open new chapters in both playbooks for the Rams.
We'll see what else Fisher and Snead have in store, but this is a great start.