Unexpected twists and turns in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, like a run on quarterbacks in the first twelve picks, gave the St. Louis Rams some of the top picks on their board to choose from with the 14th pick. In fact, GM Billy Devaney and his staff were so pleased with the players available they declined offers to trade down. And with that pick they selected North Carolina DE Robert Quinn, one of the draft's best pure pass rushers. Just how much of an impact will Quinn have in his rookie season? And will the Rams now have the best pass rush in the NFC West?
Let's start with Quinn. First and foremost, the Rams got a steal. Quinn was a top ten, top five, player on most draft boards, and he slid all the way down to the Rams. Most of the teams likely to pick Quinn opted for a QB or a trade, like Tennessee and Cleveland. Had Quinn been off the board, St. Louis would have most likely been picking between Mark Ingram, Prince Amukamara and Corey Liuget.
Quinn missed his senior season with the Tar Heels after accepting gifts from an agent. Obviously, it didn't cost him his skills set, just another year to refine them. Technique stuff. It's the kind of thing that will be refined during some quality time with Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole. What Quinn does bring is quickness and explosiveness, the perfect complement to the high-motor and brute force Chris Long provides on the strong side of the defensive line.
And that's not to say Quinn isn't strong. He's a beast, a former wrestling champion, who can work around blockers with his upper body strength. In two seasons at UNC, Quinn had 13 sacks, 86 tackles, 25.5 tackles for a loss, 4 passes defended, 8 forced fumbles and 15 QB hurries.
Interesting side note, he put the hurt on Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis, the Rams' third QB in a game against Duke in his 2009 season.
As a rookie, Quinn will likely take some time to get adjusted to playing in the NFL. He probably won't start right away either. However, he will see plenty of snaps as the Rams use him in a rotation with James Hall. Like Hall, Quinn can also play inside. Remember, Spagnuolo and Flajole like to use a variety of DL combinations. Hall slid inside on numerous occasions last year, with Ah You or Selvie taking his place on the outside. In 2011, I expect to see plenty of situations mixing Quinn and Hall around across the line.
This group should wreck havoc on opposing QBs, giving even the strongest offensive lines - of which the Rams see plenty this season - a tough battle in trying to protect their QB.
As far as the best pass rush in the NFC West, it certainly looks that way from this point. San Francisco and Arizona can still boast some solid fronts, especially SF, but the Rams have the best collection of pass rushers in the division with this pick. The key for 2011 is just how much Hall and Fred Robbins, linchpins in the improved front four last year, can contribute as thirtysomethings. Quinn should allow them to see a few less reps, keeping them fresh down the stretch, but the Rams still have a question mark at defensive tackle.
It looks like another solid first round for Rams GM Billy Devaney...and it should be a big year ahead for the St. Louis Rams.
Quinn and the rest of the team will be on hand Monday of next week to start OTAs.