For the first time since 2012 in the NFL, and for the first time in the history of the franchise, the St. Louis Rams made a selection in the Supplemental Draft. Using (essentially) their 2016 5th round selection, Les Snead and Jeff Fisher chose to take a flier on disgruntled Clemson offensive tackle, Isaiah Battle.
This might have come as a surprise to some, considering the Rams used the majority of their picks in the 2015 NFL Draft on offensive line talent, including their 2nd (Rob Havenstein), 3rd (Jamon Brown), and 4th round (Andrew Donnal) selections. However, there were numerous reports suggesting that the Rams showed major interest in snagging Top 25-caliber freefaller, La'el Collins, in the final round in May. Unfortunately, according to sources close to Collins' agent, the Rams were told:
‘You’re going to embarrass yourself. You’re going to waste this pick.’
They didn't. But, considering the obvious interest from the Rams in adding more players to the current youth free-for-all movement on the offensive line, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Jeff Fisher and Co. pounced on the chance to add another elite talent.
That 'talent' is obviously the key to the selection, with Battle garnering plenty of attention leading up to the Supplemental Draft. According to ESPN's Gil Brandt, representatives from 25 teams showed up at his Pro Day workout.
Based on measurable and projections from scouts, many believed Battle could go as high as the third round, had he been eligible for the NFL Draft, with some even speculating that he could sneak into the bottom of the opening round with an additional year of grooming in college. As a Supplemental Draftee, most believed he would break the dry spell by the end of the 3rd Round, although some had him dropping into the 4th. When Battle fell into the Rams lap all the way in the 5th Round, there should have been little doubt that the Rams would make a move...
For one, Jeff Fisher and his coaching staff have proven to be the best when it comes to handling "red flag" prospects, particularly those involving substance use issues. Janoris Jenkins and Alec Ogletree are two of the most recent projects that have remained clean under the Rams' watchful eyes.
Moreover, and somewhat counter-intuitively, the fact that the Rams didn't "need" Battle may have also played a significant role in the selection. According to ESPN's Ed Werner:
Rams approach with Isaiah Battle. This is his final college year, spends with Rams, goes through offseason, then starts rookie year in 2016.— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) July 9, 2015
With Greg Robinson, Rob Havenstein, and the rest of their bag of misfit youths from the 2015 NFL Draft class, the Rams are one of the handful of teams that can realistically afford to sit back and watch Battle progress; not only as a player, on the field, but also as a professional, off of it. Assuming that is their plan, the Rams might have just saved themselves some draft capital in the 2016 NFL Draft, with a projected Day 2 offensive linemen learning the playbook, developing as a blocker, and competing against All-Pro defensive linemen, simply waiting for his chance to shine next season.
We will have to wait and see how the St. Louis Rams actually handle Isaiah Battle in the upcoming year. However, the team and fans should be excited about this bold(ish) move by the coaching staff and front office to stockpile talent for the future.
...if nothing else, it is something to talk about until camp opens, right?