Last year, the St. Louis Rams' first round draft pick, QB Sam Bradford, nailed down the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award with ease. Bradford set records for completions and attempts by a rookie. The fact that he played behind a very green offensive line with a less-than-notable cast of receivers and helped turn a 1-15 team into a contender for the division title sealed the deal. Hard to top that, but having a rookie of the year for a second straight season would come pretty close. This year's first-round pick, DE Robert Quinn might very well give the Rams a shot at such an accomplishment.
Sensitive to my homer tendencies, I didn't want to leap to that conclusion. You can imagine my delight when one of the NFL writers I respect the most, Doug Farrar, suggested the idea in a piece at Football Outsiders. License to homer!
Here's a couple highlights from Farrar's piece, which looks at the other DE/OLBs in this draft class:
I did not see any other end this year with Quinn's combination of initial burst, quickness and strength around the edge, closing speed to the quarterback, and upper-body strength to use a variety of hand moves and simply bull-rush weaker tackles into oblivion.
Putting him on the other side of Chris Long might be illegal, especially with Steve Spagnuolo overseeing the both of them. This is one of those times when I simply close the spreadsheet, watch him all over again, and wonder if I'm looking at the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Needless to say, I'm taking the over on this one.
Like I said, that's just part of it. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. If you're not even more excited about Quinn after doing so, no amount of Zoloft in the world can save you.
Obviously, for a player at Quinn's position, sacks will play a big role in determining any post-season hardware he takes home. Last year's defensive rookie of the year, the unequivocal Ndamukong Suh had 10 sacks, the most of any rookie, but closely followed by the Bengals' Carlos Dunlap with 9.5 sacks.
The DROY from the year before, Brian Cushing, wasn't a big sack producer with 4.5. Brian Orakpo, 11, and Clay Matthews, 10, were the rookie sack masters. So, maybe the idea that sacks uber alles in DROY voting is a little off.
How many sacks are possible for Quinn as a rookie depends on a heaping helping of factors outside of his control. Besides the obvious, like playing time, he'll be part of a line with more than one player capable of getting to the quarterback.
The Rams don't quite have the arsenal of pass rushers that Spagnuolo's 2007 Giants did with Tuck, Kiwanuka, Strahan and Umenyiora. However, Long, Hall and Quinn have to potential to be a pretty good trio. The Rams managed 43 sacks last year, but the schedule gets a little tougher in 2011.
You'll see plenty of different defensive fronts with this group, with Hall and Quinn rotating to the inside spots. Spags has been known to use 4 DE fronts, and Quinn has the ability to get around guards and centers just as well as tackles.
We'll pick up this issue at greater length in the future. For now, the ingredients are there for a devastating pass rush, one that could propel another Rams first round pick to a ROY award. Complain all you want about the other draft picks, two consecutive ROYs would be a pretty big feather on Devaney and the Rams' coup stick.