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Rams 2008 draft: measurable talent and character

Some initial Monday morning thoughts on the draft.

I think no matter who you wanted to see the Rams draft in the first round, you've got to be pleased about the Rams taking Chris Long. We needed a defensive end, for all the reasons we've talked about here for weeks: depth, groom the future DE to headline the line once Little's gone, etc. Leaving last year's first round pick at DT, where he played most of last season, keeps him in the role he was drafted for and doesn't force him to relearn the DE position in his second year in the NFL.

While his best years are still to come, Long will contribute at a high level right away for the Rams, a requirement for the #2 overall pick as well as for a team that went 3-13 last year. Even the pundits agree that Chris Long is a can't miss talent.

Ten years ago the Rams made Grant Wistrom their first round selection (6th overall); he went on to become one of the faces of this team and the leader of the defense with his unkillable motor, passion for the game, and a limitless competitive instinct. He was invaluable. And his name still conjures up images of the Rams recent glory days, so much so that fans clamored for him to rethink retirement and suit up for the Rams.

That's what we're getting with Chris Long.

Matt Hasselbeck and Alex Smith will spend next spring attempting to overcome nightmare images of Chris Long. Matt Leinart will just drink them away with some 19-year-olds.

The Rams drafted Donnie Avery in the second round. This pick is one the forums and talk radio call in shows will be complaining about for the rest of the summer and into the fall. But the Rams got exactly what they needed in a receiver: a speedy route runner to stretch the field. This season, his exposure will be limited, with teams still keying on Holt and Bennett and McMichael in the middle. That will help his development by giving him a limited amount of the novel that is Al Saunders' playbook to work with as he adjusts to the NFL game.

The Rams lacked speed at WR; now, they have a proven speed threat with goods hands and a great opportunity to develop. And let's face it, there's no team I trust more with wide receivers than the Rams...well, more specifically the Al Saunders Rams. Sorry Linehan, this picks works much better with Al leading the offense. As "Marmie is the best" pointed out, the Rams have a solid track record drafting wide receivers.

OL John Greco has the ability to be a key part of the team this year; he could even push Alex Barron this season. Oregon State OG Roy Schuening, taken in the fifth round, could also be a solid contributor. Mel Kipper says he has a chance to start this year.

CB Justin King wowed everyone with his speed, but he's not going to contribute right away according to Linehan. I did hear (or read somewhere) that King has good ball skills and some suggested converting him to WR. Probably should see how he projects at CB first though.

WR Keenan Burton is another speedster, but also plays a physical game. I think he could be a real surprise. According to Mel Kipper he "...would have gone higher than the fourth round if he hadn't been slowed by knee and ankle injuries in his senior season."

Chris Chamberlain, DB from Tulsa and the Rams first 7th round pick, is a grade A athlete who has also played LB after being recruited at QB and DB. His NFL profile sees him as a strong safety: "with his range and man coverage ability, he could be more effective as a strong safety." He should be a contributor on special teams, as should the last Rams pick and last pick of the draft David Vobora, OLB from Idaho. Here's what Kipper said about Vobora: "And don't forget about OLB David Vobora, aka Mr. Irrelevant, who I thought was a midround pick. Vobora has some ability and I would be surprised if he didn't make this team as a special teams player." If these 7th round picks can turn into quality special teams players - something the Rams really need - the picks are winners.

You'll notice all of these players lack character questions, more specifically, they are all cited as diligent and dedicated to what they do, from the first pick to the very last in the draft. More than avoiding any Pacman Jones type shenanigans, this gives the Rams players who'll make a concerted effort to address shortcomings on the field with hard work and determination, i.e. it means guys like David Vorbora have a better chance of making a contribution to the team and having an impact on the field.

The 2008 draft was a fairly safe one for the Rams, with some guys who'll have an immediate impact like Long or Greco and some who could benefit the team down the road like King or Burton. Down the road, we'll see how this draft really looks for the Rams.