After careful review I have reached a final grade on the Rams draft. It was full of surprises, as I expected, and also full of trades, as I expected. But there was also a few things I did not expect. In this grading of our draft haul, I took the time out to go back and review notes I took on every single player we drafted. Lucky for me no further research was needed since I just so happened to have already scouted every player we drafted. And to be perfectly honest we only drafted two players I thought we were going after for sure, and we got three players that I thought we should get from the very beginning of this crazy and long pre-draft process, but never truly thought we would draft.
The two players we took that I was absolutely positive that we would take were our two first round picks. I had no doubt that the two players the FO was going to do absolutely anything to get, was Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree. The team had been giving hints all offseason that they wanted to add these two players to the team. So hats off to them for getting both of the first round players that they were eyeing. It’s hard enough to get your one guy, but to snag two is deserving of a major congrats and applause.
Now about these three players I would have loved for us to draft from the moment I started researching them, but never thought in a million years we would draft, mainly because I couldn’t find any links of the players to us, no visits, workouts, meetings, nothing. Now, one would think that after years of the a same exact thing every single year, drafting someone that had no known links to the team, by now I would stop not giving it the benefit of the doubt. But the three players are Barrett Jones, Stedman Bailey, and Zac Stacy. I will explain why I was so high on these players in each picks analysis.
Tavon Austin A
Austin gets a bad rep. He really does! This small, injury, thing, really got out of control, pre-draft. IT’S THE NFL!!!!! Everyone gets hurt!! Ben Rothelisberger hasn’t been healthy for years, he is 6’5" 245. Darren McFadden is one of the most injury prone players in the league and he is 6’1" 218. Even Steven Jackson has only played three full seasons and he’s 6’2" 240. You can’t play this game scared, and the same theory goes for building a team. Yes, if a player has a long injury history you are more cautious with him (Marcus Lattimore), and you don’t take them in the first. But when a player is the most electric player in the draft, and has arguably the CLEANEST injury sheet of any player in the draft, and he fills a need, I don’t care what his size is, you take him. Austin is smart, darn smart!!!both on the board, and with protecting himself. He uses the sideline to his advantage, and he knows when to get down. But this doesn’t mean he just goes straight out of bounds or dives after every catch. He is not afraid, and is damn tough. He also has reliable hands, and good route running skills. And even though he is small in stature he is much stronger than one would think. This is backed up by his surprising yards after contact production. He runs through arm tackles. He may not run a guy over, but that arm flinging will not work. But the thing I like the most is his effort. He is a better blocker than he gets credit for. Below are three links to every play that he played in three different games. The Oklahoma game shows 2-4 really good effort blocks, (although my favorite part is at 4:30, it shows his unbelievably rare acceleration to pull away from any player at any given moment…a very sexy attribute. I have seen fast before, but his build up speed is the most impressive part, not the top end speed. Watch when he reaches the 50, the burst he shows.) The other video is every play against Kansas, and shows impressive second effort consistently, and the ability to run through arm tackles. The last video is against Cincinnati, it shows off some of his most impressive moves, again every play from that game.
Tavon Austin vs Oklahoma (2012) (via Adrian Ahufinger)
Tavon Austin vs Kansas (2012) (via Eric Stoner)
Tavon Austin vs Cincinnati 11-12-11 (via gejash)
Alec Ogletree B+
I have to be honest, even though I knew this was going to be the pick, I was hoping the FO would have a change of heart. Ogletrlee hustles, I give him that. But I don’t look at him as being as athletic as they say. It’s not like he tested off the charts, that crown goes too Zaviar Gooden. It’s not like he displayed the best pass coverage as a LB in college, that crowns belongs to Khaseem Greene. It’s not like he was the best at run support, that crown belongs to Arthur Brown. It’s not like he is the smartest LB, that crown belongs to Manti Te’o. It’s not like he is the best at fighting off blocks, that crown belongs to Kevin Minter. He has talent, no question; his chase down tackle of a WR with a 17 yard head start shows that. But I just never understood the obsession with him, as if he was the absolute best LB hands down in the draft. BUT!!!!! Then I went back and reviewed some old notes. And those notes led to me watching some old film, and I remembered what about him I liked the most, and got me really excited the first time I watched him. Olgetree is VIOLENT!!! He brings it EVERY…SINGLE….PLAY!!!! He hits you in the mouth, slams you on your head, and tries to break ribs. You add that and his hustle and game speed (plays faster than his mediocre 4.7, Te’o ran a 4.71 at his pro day for comparisons sake), and you have a scary and fast enforcer that this team has never seen the likes of at the linebacker position.
Alec Ogletree vs Alabama 2012 (via JPDraftJedi)
Much like the Ogletree pick I was not a fan of this pick. But unlike the Ogletree pick, I couldn’t find a truly genuine reason to change my feelings about this pick. But I could find a reason or two to ok this pick. One is McDonald is a smart player. He knows what to do and where to be. He has been taught well by his father. I don’t care about how hard he hits, lots of people hit hard, hell I hit hard. But he is very smart. I just wish his talent matched his smarts. Nevertheless I am hoping his high football I.Q. will be enough to keep him in position to make a lot of plays. The number two reason was the signing of Ray Ray Armstrong. Ray Ray made my list of possible undrafted free agents the Rams should go after. I had this to say about him:
"Armstrong displayed late first early second rd potential his first two seasons at Miami. He played fast and aggressive and developed a knack for making splash plays. At 6'3" 220, he proved to be faster than one would think. But after only playing in 7 games between his Jr and Sr season (all in Jr season), due to suspensions, the odds of him being drafted have become non-existent. It doesn't help that at his pro day it looked like he didn't work out once the entire 2012 season while at home. Reports have said since the off-season began he has been working non-stop, but that means nothing if he did nothing Aug-Dec, because then you are out of shape and playing catch up. He performed terribly at the pro day, running a 4.7 and a 9'8" broad, while performing very average at best in the other drills. But this could be another case of Vontaze Burfict. Here's a kid that did everything wrong, refused to work out and prepare for the combine (ultimately having the worst performance there), went undrafted, but killed it his rookie season. Now he’s entering the 2013 season as the projected starter. One thing about both Burfict and Armstrong, they were being projected as first round picks early on for a reason, the tape never lies."
TJ Mcdonald vs Stanford 2012 (via JmpasqDraftjedi)
Stedman Bailey A
I am such a huge fan of the Stedman Bailey pick. I knew without a doubt we would double dip at WR, even stated so in my "thoughts on possible rams thoughts" post. But I never thought in a million years the Rams would double dip from the same school. Unlike Barrett Jones and Zac Stacy, I actually did hear about the Rams working out Bailey. But it was done at the same time as Austin. So I viewed as nothing more than a teaser, and since they were working out one just said we might as well have a look at this guy too, didn’t think there was serious interest like there was with Austin. But man am I happy it was legit. For those of you that don’t know, my favorite WR in this draft was NOT Tavon Austin. It was Quinton Patton. Now since I knew we were going to come away from the draft with two WR one guy I thought would be a damn good one to have was Stedman Bailey. I viewed him as another Austin but instead of a 4.34 he runs a 4.52. But he plays like a 4.43 guy. He also happens to be the superior route runner between the two, and probably the best on the team. And his ability to make contested catches is beautiful. The more I watched him the more I saw a slightly slower Steve Smith. 5’10", tough as nails, hard to bring down, leader, great freaking hands, awesome routes, it was Smith all the way. Don’t be surprised if 2-3 years from now the best WR on our team happens to be Bailey.
Stedman Bailey vs Marshall,Baylor,Texas 2012 (via JmpasqDraftjedi)
Barrett Jones A
I have been a Barrett Jones fan since last season. The guys versatility is unheard of. I have seen versatile players before, but to do it with the level of independent success he has, winning multiple awards, that’s something impressive that you won’t find on many resumes. Throw in his leadership (team captain, chewed QB out live during national championship on field, even though they were winning by a large margin), his winners mentality (3 time national championship), and his production came in the SEC, the nation’s best college talent, and there is nothing you can’t like about Jones. Not to mention his toughness. He played most of the season with a lisfranc fracture, this is the same injury the gets at least two players that’s well known every year to miss the season, or an extended period. If not for injuries Jones would have no question been a very early second round pick. And who knows, if Travis Frederick can go in the first, surely a healthy Jones could have.
I liked this pick a lot. I thought it was one of the more underrated draft picks for the entire draft. He has the skill set to be developed into a starter. Not that we need him to be one, but you can’t begin to describe that kind of value. He brings more leadership to a team that is young from top to bottom, so it’s going to need some young guys to step up and take on leadership roles. Guys who will do the right things, not because they are expected to but just because it’s the right thing. McGee has top of the line intangibles, but even better tangibles. He never fully developed at Miami, but it was not because of lack of hard work, as coaches and teammates alike have all said how hard of a worker he was, more intangible goodness. So I would blame the lack of development on coaching. That won’t be the case anymore as the Rams have arguably the best, and most experienced defensive staff in the NFL. He will be coached up, and because of his God given talent, hard work, and great intangibles, he is going to turn into a heck of a steal.
Brandon McGee vs Florida State (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)
Zac Stacy A+
Let me just say, only one RB got me more excited and so often than Stacy, and that was the best and most pure runner in the draft Christine Michael. Stacy was fun to watch, because I kept thinking, man this guy is a mixture if Doug Martin (the guy I pegged as my favorite RB last yr), and Maurice Jones-Drew. All I could do was wonder, what kind of impact would he have had if he had played behind Alabama’s line? Stacy played grown man ball, on a team filled with young men, going against SEC beasts!!!! Week in and week out. Stacy runs violently, but also has sudden and unexpected shiftiness. He has amazing pad level, and good pass protection, as well as vision. He gives maybe the best second effort of any back drafted. He refuses to go down without a fight. He had a run that reminded me of SJ39, about 5 yrs ago against the seahawks, he got hit heads up face to face by both a safety and linebacker on the six yard line. It looked as if he was stopped in his tracks, but the legs kept driving, a half of yard later there are 5 seahawks on Jackson trying to stop his forward motion. But his legs kept driving. By the time he reaches the one yard line, you can no longer see any of Jackson’s body, being covered by the defense and with a little late help from a O-Lineman, suddenly you see the pile with Jackson somewhere in the middle cross the goal line (Here is Jackson). The exact same scenario happened with Stacy (CLICK LINK TO SEE!!!!). At that moment I was hooked. I’m so happy with this pick, and I believe by seasons end he will have a stat line in the range of 200 rush, 950 yds, 8-10 td, maybe not exact but in the ballpark.
Zac Stacy vs Georgia, Tennessee,Wake Forest 2012 (via JPDraftJedi)
OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: A-
The success of this year’s team is officially 90% in Bradford’s hands. In my third and final mock draft I wrote this:
"If you have been paying attention closely, the rams are truly about to become Sam Bradford’s team. Two years ago, when the rams played the giants in the second game of the season, the rams had them on their heels in the first half. This had everything to do with the rams staying with the no huddle offense for about 80% of the first half. In case you still don’t remember, this was the game where in order to stop our offense, giant players begin faking injuries. After the game Sam was asked, "You looked really good in the hurry up offense, is that something you are most comfortable with?" Sam gave a honest answer saying "yea, it’s something I did a lot of at Oklahoma and something I want to do a lot more of." Only problem was Steve Spagnuolo was too dumb to catch on. After Spags was fired and during the two weeks that Josh McDaniels was still on staff, Sam begin lobbying for McDaniels to stick around. He said he really likes his offense (spread/no-huddle) and knows he can flourish in it. Of course McDaniels had no interest in working with Jeff Fisher and left (not that Fisher wanted to keep him anyways).
But one thing Fisher will do is actually listen to Sam, and he gets it. This guy can run an offense similar to the patriots or packers, or even the saints. It’s what he wants, and it’s when he is at his best. Fisher got a firsthand look at this, this past season in several fourth quarter comebacks when the rams put the game in Bradford’s hands and watched him work his up-tempo, no-huddle, magic. After one game Bradford again said, "Yea, I feel like when we get rolling like that it’s going to be hard for any team to stop us. Obviously, the no-huddle is something we practice, but I think it comes naturally to the entire offense." Being the modest guy he is when he said the entire offense he was referring to himself.
Now take a look at what Bradford, Brady, and Brees did in a power offense over the span of their first 3 years:
Bradford (42 games) Brady (48 games) Brees (42 games)
9,378 yds 10,227 yds 8,551 yds
45 TDs 69 TDs 55 TDs
34 Int 38 Int 38 Int
Not too bad when you put it up against the elite. He would have surely came out with the most yds had he played all 48 possible games, while maintaining the least amount of turnovers, and probably won’t reach second in touchdowns. But the best part is all of this was done with the weakest supporting cast.
Now the rams are looking to finally go to a more spread out up-tempo offense. One Bradford is most comfortable with. Fisher has said repeatedly, this year they are going to let go of the rope, and let him loose and "It’s something we started to do in the second half of the season". Fisher has also said he has never had a QB as good as Sam. This came from the guy who had Steve McNair. But to do all of this they need the right personnel. Thus we have the explanation for the massive search for explosive receivers. Les Snead is on record saying "we are not looking for a big body, chain moving, red-zone, type of receiver. We already have one of those", he was referring to Quick. And then look at the back field, both Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson flourished in this type of offense in college. If I had to guess the interest in the big back probably has something to do with short yardage and red zone only. Making it all the more likely a back in the first round is not happening. Second-fourth is a lot more possible. Also when they mention putting talent around Sam they always say he needs a clean pocket to step up in, not we need guys to open holes. So rams fans I hope you’re ready, the old days are long gone, the change is well underway, and it’s officially Sam’s team. Like Fisher said when he got the job, the goal is to bring the Greatest Show On Turf (Mike Martz, spread up-tempo) back."
Bradford is the key, but he also needs Pead to live up to his draft status as well as Brian Quick. If Pead steps up, I’m thinking a split in carries like this Stacy 205, Pead 185, and Richardson 80. If Pead does not step up, Stacy 240, Richardson 115, Pead 70, but if he does that 185 could easily translate into 900 yds 6-8 tds. His development means so much. But to be honest I get the feeling he will step up. His running style reminds me a lot of LeSean McCoy. Not as shifty, but pretty shifty in his own right. They share a very similar skill set overall.
Then there is Brian Quick. He has immense potential. But again I hate the word potential; it means it’s something not real, just possible. But man if this kid makes it real. First thing first, he needs to learn the playbook. I know for a fact I saw three interceptions last year that was his fault, because he was simply in the wrong place. The good news is there is zero reason to not know the playbook after a year. From the time of his drafting, to the time of kickoff 2013, he will have had a playbook for 16 months. And we are switching to a more spread like attack, kind of like his offense from college, should make his transition easier.
All in all where this team is now, we are going to need three players to step up, Bradford, Pead, and Quick. The defense is going to be legit. Probably finish the year in the top ten. It spent half of the season in the top ten last year, this year I am expecting ¾ of the season. I see three players mostly likely to break out and have big seasons this year.
1. Bradford- I can see Bradford ending the year with 4000+ yds, 25 td, 9int
2. Pead- I see Pead flirting with fantasy relevance type numbers. 900 rush, 6 td, 350 rec, 2 td
3. Robert Quinn- I think he is going to challenge Long for the sack crown this yr. 14 sck, 4 ff, 72 tck
Let’s hope I’m right about the breakout players. If Bradford plays like that that’s 8 wins alone, add Pead, and you know even if Quinn beats long it won’t be by much, and we have a 10 win season. So that’s my thoughts on where we are, and where we are headed, as always thanks for reading looking for to comments. Especially hbwb, Champ, and Ramfan1313…you three guys usually have really interesting things to say.