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Mel Kiper Jr.’s St. Louis Rams’ Report Card

With only 27 days left until the 2013 NFL Draft, it’s important that all NFL teams reflect back on what they’ve done right - and wrong - historically, in an effort to maximize draft value for their teams. I found one of my old Trapper Keepers, and inside it were a few of Mel Kiper Jr.’s St. Louis Rams report cards...

Jeff Zelevansky

2008 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. Grades the Rams: C+

Taking DE Chris Long allows Adam Carriker to stay inside at defensive tackle. Some didn't thinkDonnie Avery should have been the first WR to come off the board. It might have been a bit of a reach, but he caught 91 balls and has the ability to make people miss. John Greco is a versatile offensive lineman. CB Justin King has a lot of potential, but he gets beat in coverage far too much. Wide receiver Keenan Burton would have gone higher than the fourth round if he hadn't been slowed by knee and ankle injuries in his senior season. Roy Schuening has a chance to start this year at guard. Chris Chamberlain had a very nice season at Tulsa. 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.

2009 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. Grades the Rams: C

If I were the Rams, I would have taken Mark Sanchez at the No. 2 spot, but I do like offensive tackle Jason Smith. Inside linebacker James Laurinaitis was a good selection in the second round. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher would've gone higher if he had better speed. There were better quarterbacks available in the sixth round, when they took Keith Null.

2010 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. Grades the Rams: C+

There's no way around the fact that this draft will come down to whether Sam Bradford becomes a star. I certainly think he has that kind of talent, but there's good reason to believe it shouldn't be right away. Bradford has to convert to a pro-style system, and as smart and accurate as he is, let's just be realistic given the recent history of shotgun quarterbacks coming to the NFL. I don't mind the Rodger Saffold pick, but he likely is headed to the right side.Mardy Gilyard has some value, but the bigger issue with this draft is this: Every other team in the NFC West got better this weekend, and it's hard to know whether St. Louis really did. Again, it goes back to the long-range plans for Bradford.

2011 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. Grades the Rams: B

St. Louis got a lot done, and now unquestionably looks like a franchise ready to take that next step. Nobody got better immediate dividends from the draft than the Rams in 2010 with fantastic rookie seasons from Sam Bradford and Rodger Saffold, and they could have the early-impact player in this draft with the addition of Quinn. Had he played at all in 2010, this is a player who could have been in the mix as a No. 1 overall pick. To get him at No. 14 is a steal in terms of talent. Then St. Louis immediately started targeting solutions in the passing game. Kendricks, Pettis and Salas could all help Bradford, who did a lot with a pretty weak cast of wideouts last year. The Rams didn't get any help at guard or defensive tackle, but given their needs, they didn't have enough picks to cover them all.

2012 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. Grades the Rams: B-

The St. Louis Rams got a lot of nice players in Round 2. The downside, as Jon Gruden noted to me, is that this was a team that at one time held the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. The Rams were in a position to draft a guy they assume is capable of stardom. Did they get adequate return in this draft (remember, a lot of the value will be coming in the next few years given the trade parameters)? Let's see. Michael Brockers helps a need area, but there's developmental work to be done. I really like Brian Quick, and he has the upside of a No. 1 wide receiver, with a big frame (6-4, 220) and pretty good speed. He'll need some developmental work given the leap in levels. You know the off-the-field story on Janoris Jenkins. He's a risk, but he's a top-10 talent if he can stay focused on football. I'm a fan of the traits Isaiah Pead can bring to this offense. If he'd gone early in Round 2 it wouldn't have been a surprise. He's explosive.Trumaine Johnson is a good value at cornerback, and Chris Givens could become a starter. Greg Zuerlein was the top kicker on my board. The Rams got a lot of players, but also inherited some risk with development to be done. Not a bad draft in my eyes, and they have more picks on the way courtesy of the Redskins.
If I had to surmise what Kiper is saying about the Rams drafts, it’s that they’ve been nothing more [or less] than average over the past half decade. Having won only 19 games in the past five seasons, I suppose that’s fair. In hindsight, though, the Rams would’ve liked to have seen higher grades [and return on investment] in 2008 and 2009, both of which were years when the Rams drafted second overall. Chris Long and James Laurinaitis are the only two Rams who remain on the roster from those drafts.

Then again, how much better would he have graded the Rams 2009 draft had they selected Mark Sanchez instead of Jason Smith, like he suggests in his summary? What do you call a scenario when there is no ‘lesser’ of two evils?

Like most prognosticators, media, and pundits, the road back to respect will have to be earned. Kiper has graded the Rams more favorably over the past two seasons, and with two first round selections in 2013, the Rams are in prime position to receive an ‘A’ grade for the first time in a long time. Let’s hope they’ve done their homework!