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Ghosts of middle rounds past

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Sorry this is making appearance kind of late in the morning. You see, I was working on a post, about the draft believe it or not, and I came across something really, really cool. Over on NFL.com, they've got a complete draft history for each team. That information has been available on the web before, but it was never quite so easy to find or lose yourself in just by scrolling down the screen while memories of draft picks past - the good, the everyday, and the ugly - grab every available ounce of memory you've got.

Oh, it's awesome, but let me warn you, it's a time drain. Be careful if you've got a full day's agenda already laid out for yourself.

Here's a couple of fun factoids worth sharing from the list.

The 3rd and 4th rounds have been much better for the Rams than the first round over the last five years. Check it out:

2003:
Rd1 - Jimmy Kennedy
Rd3 - Kevin Curtis
Rd4 - Shaun McDonald, DeJuan Groce

Kennedy, as you may recall, finally wound up providing depth in Chicago (he played in 3 games last season) after being traded to Denver, who cut him before the season started. He was a big part of the reason the Rams defensive front was so porous against the run in 2006.

Curtis and McDonald, on the other hand, turned out to be more than capable receivers. Now, with Bruce gone, you kind of wonder if the Rams maybe shouldn't have made a serious effort to keep Curtis, who bolted in free agency to the Eagles and had a 1,110 yard, 6 TD season. McDonald reunited with Mike Martz in Detroit last season (he's still there, Martz is in SF), and wound up with 900+ yards and 6 TDs, not unusual numbers for a depth WR in a Mike Martz system.

2004
Rd1 - Steven Jackson
Rd3 - Anthony Hargrove
Rd4 - Brandon Chillar

Let me be clear, I'm not saying the Rams have gone bust in the first round completely. Steven Jackson makes up for the Kennedy pick, and lots more, by being the heart and soul of the team's offense.

The round 3 pick, Anthony Hargrove, obviously didn't work out. The malcontent was traded to the Bills for a 5th round pick that was later included in the Dante Hall trade part of which gave the Rams the KC third round pick which we used to draft Jonathan Wade. Got that? The jury's still out on Wade, but there's reason to believe he can be a solid depth guy at the very least.

Chillar turned into a good linebacker, before leaving via free agency for Green Bay this year. The Rams, who did make him a $1 million offer, felt that they could find a solid replacement and save some cap cash in the process. I hope we don't end up regretting this.

2005:
Rd1 - Alex Barron
Rd3 - OJ Atogwe, Richie Incognito
Rd4 - Jerome Carter, Claude Terrell

The Barron saga has been well documented for Rams fans, and we're entering its third act this season. Barron, entering the last two years of his contract, is playing for his future as a starter versus the path Milford Brown like filler.

The 2005 third round might rank among the Rams best third rounds ever. OJ lead the NFL in interceptions last season. Signing Atogwe to a long  term contract is a team priority this year.  Incognito had a great 2006, before injuries limited him to 4 games last season. He's in contention for a starting job at center or right guard. And while he may not be a Pro Bowl caliber interior linemen - although that's something we haven't had much of a chance to see yet - Cogs gives the Rams solid play on the line.

The fourth round in 2005 wasn't so hot. Carter is still on the team, but you may have forgotten that since he played in only 5 games last season. I'd say he's a contributor on special teams, but the Rams special teams haven't been very notable recently.

2006:
Rd1 - Tye Hill
Rd3 - Claude Wroten, Jon Alston
Rd4 - Victor Andeyanju

Tye Hill had 3 INTs in his rookie season, and the Rams really missed his presence at corner when he sat out with a back and then a wrist injury. He had 30 tackles and 10 pass breakups last year. 2008 will be the year he either joins the league's elite CBs or finds his career on a slightly different path. I think beefing up the d-line and the rush will really help Hill emerge this season, in part by minimizing the sheer amount of offense teams have been able to rack up on the Rams during Hill's short tenure here.

Wroten's been plagued mostly by his own attitude, a classic case of talent being impeded by attitude. Now, with more competition for playing time (might even have more of that if the Rams draft his former teammate Glenn Dorsey) and two years left on his contract, he's another guy trying to write off the first seasons of his career with a big year in 2008. He should be a disruptive force on the inside, collapsing the pocket and pressuring QBs. The draft is going to make this an interesting year for the Rams defense, so watch who they take AND then how Wroten looks in the preseason. That, I have a feeling, may determine whether or not Wroten stays a Ram.

Jon Alston, well, um, the LB played in 13 games for the Raiders last year, making 8 tackles.

Can you ask for a better deal in the fourth round than Victor Andeyanju? VA's given the Rams a solid run stopping specialist and someone who's not at all a liability dropping back to cover the middle against an option. Sure, he's not a Pro Bowler, but he's become an important part of the defense. I'm anxious to see if he can do more in his third season.

2007:
Rd1 - Adam Carriker
Rd3 - Jonathan Wade

Carriker has been the star of last year's draft, a draft that counts four among the Rams regular players already. Versatile and possessing a motor that doesn't quit, Carriker came to symbolize the team's future makeup and hopes through the next few seasons. I don't know that he'll ever become a household name among defensive linemen, which is not to say he couldn't at least among Rams fans, but I am optimistic about his future.

See above for some comment on Jonathan Wade. By all accounts, Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett and the rest of the coaching staff seem to think highly of what Wade can become. It's not surprising for a DB to have a learning curve in the NFL, the plays and style of play are just so different than college; he has to show some growth this season.

The Rams had no fourth round pick in the 2007 draft, but the real steal came in the fifth round when they drafted Michigan State DT Clifton Ryan. Without him, I don't see our defense making the strides it made last season. Remember all those games without a 100 yard rusher for the opponents? All those games where the defense kept it competitive for three quarters? Without Ryan on the line, I don't know that the defense would have been as successful. Duh. He's another one I'm anxious to see play this season.

We're all, rightfully so, focused on the 1st round this season with the second overall pick. It's the highest the Rams have picked in the first round since taking Pace first overall in 1997.

You expect the second overall pick to feature prominently in the team's play this year, same with the second rounder too.  But keep an eye on the 3rd and 4th rounds next weekend. Those are the names that we need to see contributing this year if the Rams are going to take a shot at erasing the horrible memories of 3-13.