clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL Draft: Rams Best Draft Class Ever Is...

David Boss-USA TODAY Sports

I wandered through the draft history for the Rams - in L.A., St. Louis and Cleveland - to see which draft class would rank as their best ever. It's tough to parse, since waaaay back then there were quite a few rounds: as many as 30, to be exact... Plus, some positions aren't even what they were back in the 1940s. For instance, there was no such thing as a wide receiver. You'd also see the "OE" designation for legendary pass catchers like Tom Fears and Ollie "Crazy Legs" Hirsch. In a small bit of trivia for you, it was Fears who became the first, of what would later be known as a "wide receiver"... By the way, both were taken in the 1945 draft class: Hirsch in round #1, with Fears following in round #14. The "WR" position listing doesn't appear until 1962 in the NFL Draft.

A couple Hall of Fame quarterbacks found there way to the Rams in later rounds. Bob Waterfield - in round #3 in 1944, and Norm Van Brocklin in round #4 in 1949. In fact, the Rams haven't picked an elite quarterback in the first round, outside of 1962: Roman Gabriel.

In 1961, the Rams had what ranks as my #3 best draft. Take a look at the name in round #14...

1 Marlin McKeever LB USC
2 Elbert Kimbrough DB Northwestern
3 Ron Miller QB Wisconsin
4 Charley Cowan OT New Mexico Highlands
5 Willie Hector T U. of Pacific
7 Bobby Smith DB UCLA
9 Duane Allen TE Rancho Santiago Coll. CA (J.C.)
10 Joe Scibelli G American International
14 Deacon Jones DE Mississippi Valley State

So why is this my #3 draft for the Rams? Deacon Jones, Joe Scibelli and Charley Cowan are good reasons, but look at the school names listed... Back then, you didn't have to play in the (then) Pac 8, or the SEC. Small schools had their day, and they've slowly lost their luster among most NFL scouts...

The Rams have had three players with the last name "Youngblood". In 1966, George Youngblood - a defensive back - was selected in round #7. Linebacker Jim Youngblood was a round #2 choice in 1973. The most famous of this lineage though, was taken in 1971 in the first round: Jack "My Leg's Broken, But I Just Don't Care" Youngblood.

If you look at the draft history for the Rams, 1984 may very well look like the worst in franchise history. They didn't select until the 5th round due to a number of trades. But this little bit of trivia is something you may find interesting:

The Rams had pick #21 in the 1st round, going into the 1984 NFL Draft. The Rams would trade that pick to the KC Chiefs for CB Gary Green. Green had made three straight Pro Bowls and made All Pro, three straight times, with the Chiefs. Green would play for the LA Rams for two seasons, 1984 and 1985. He was All Pro in both 84 and 85, making the Pro Bowl in 1985.

But in late 1985 Green suffered a neck injury that would prove to be career ending. In 1986 Green officially retired from the NFL. The KC Chiefs draft OT, John Alt with the pick acquired from the LA Rams. If the LA Rams had kept the pick, they could have drafted QB Boomer Esiason, from Maryland. In fact Sports Illustrated's mock draft had the LA Rams drafting Esiason. At worst the LA Rams would have had a young QB to develop behind Ferragamo. But the decisions and choices made after 1984 really proved the LA Rams made a huge mistake by not drafting Boomer Esiason. - L.A.

1996 gets my "worst Rams draft" award, though tight end Ernie Conwell was the lone bright spot. Take a look:

1 6 Lawrence Phillips RB Nebraska
1 18 Eddie Kennison WR Louisiana State
2 42 Tony Banks QB Michigan State
2 59 Ernie Conwell TE Washington
3 83 Jerald Moore RB Oklahoma
4 105 Percell Gaskins LB Kansas State
5 141 Fred Miller T Baylor
6 175 Derrick Harris FB Miami (Fla.)
6 201 Hayward Clay TE Texas A&M
7 222 Chuck Osborne DT Arizona

So what's the best draft class for the Rams? Well, I have to go with 1983. Have a gander at this crew:

1 2 Eric Dickerson RB Southern Methodist
2 32 Henry Ellard WR Fresno State
2 36 Mike Wilcher LB North Carolina
4 87 Chuck Nelson K Washington
4 97 Vince Newsome DB Washington
4 111 Doug Reed DE San Diego State
5 134 Otis Grant WR Michigan State
6 144 Gary Kowalski T Boston College
7 171 Jeff Simmons WR USC
8 200 Troy West DB USC
9 227 Jack Belcher -- Boston College
11 282 Danny Triplett -- Clemson
12 311 Clete Casper -- Washington State

The 1962 class was close, with Gabriel, and a guy named Merlin Olsen taken in round #1. These two players marked a turning point for the Rams as a franchise back then. It added key member of the greatest front four in NFL history, and gave the Rams a kick start they needed on offense. The rest of this class didn't wind up meaning much, but it didn't need to... The 1957 class gets honorable mention. The Rams scouting department earned their pay, hitting on quite a few players who wound up contributing, including the first member of the Fearsome Foursome: Lamar Lundy. Rose Grier,  - the other member of the group - was added through a trade with the New York Giants in 1963.

One of the lessons I learned reading through all this draft history is a rather simple one: There's just no telling where in the NFL Draft a team will strike gold. Famous Hall of Fame Rams have been found throughout the draft, regardless of round...

In an odd time and space kind of thing, it's been 70 years since the Rams hit on two receivers in a single draft class. Tom Fears and Crazy Legs Hirsch were taken in 1945. In 2015, if this draft shakes out the way I think it can, the Rams could very well be in a position to land TWO trans-formative wide receivers in the first three rounds. Offensive line needs are there, but what if a Kevin White or Amari Cooper are there at #10, and a guy like Jaelen Strong or Dorial Green-Beckham is sitting there at #9 in the second round? Do Fisher and Snead go all in, and hope to fix the offensive line later in the draft? Is it worth the risk?

Take a look at the Rams draft history, and give me your top draft class...