When can you look back at a draft and really, effectively give a draft class an authoritative grade? One year's too soon, two years might be also. Three? Five's a nice number. Still, it's a bit like trying to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Every year about this time, Football Outsiders looks back at the draft class from six year prior.And you may recall, the 2003 draft class was a doozy for the Rams.
Outside of Terrell Suggs and Kevin Williams, a number of high draft choices at defensive line never achieved the results to match their draft standing...including the Rams first round choice, 12th overall, Jimmy Kennedy. From FO:
This was considered to be a great defensive line draft, particularly at the tackle position, where Kentucky's Dewayne Robertson and Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy were at the top of the class, but Georgia's Jonathan Sullivan, Oklahoma State's Kevin Williams, and Texas A&M's Ty Warren were not far behind.
Kennedy, despite our feelings about him, doesn't even get the honor of being named the biggest DL bust from the '03 draft; that honor goes to Jonathan Sullivan.
The lesson: be careful about hype. That "great defensive line draft" talk form six years ago sounds familiar as we're constantly reminded about what a great class of OTs and a deep class of WRs we have in this year's draft. That may well be case, but six years from now, plenty of those can't miss guys will be on a bench most Sundays...or at home.
Not that you need to be reminded of the personnel mismanagement of the Zygmunt/Martz era, but there's something that must be pointed out. Besides, learn from history or repeat it...and all that jazz. In 2003, the Rams had the NFL's 5th best defense, according to DVOA, but it was all downhill from there as they slipped to 28th the next season and the decline continued from there, putting us where we are today. After Jimmy Kennedy in '03 the next defensive linemen drafted by the Rams in next three years were: DE Anthony Hargrove, 2nd round, 2004; DT Claude Wroten, 3rd round, 2006; DE Victor Adeyanju, 4th round, 2006.
The team went back to DTs in the 2007 draft, picking Carriker in the first round, Clifton Ryan in the 5th and Keith Jackson in the 7th. Jackson didn't make the cut. Ryan's been a pleasant surprise, but probably playing out of position as a NT. And the jury's still out on Carriker. Hopefully, that draft marked something of a change in fortunes for the Rams DL drafting. Taking DE Chris Long with the second overall pick should ultimately prove to be a good move as well; even if the guy doesn't turn out to be a Hall of Famer, he's talented and dedicated enough to be an important part of the Rams defense for years to come.