Former NFL GM - and now current ESPN analyst - Mark Dominik put together his Ultimate 53-Man Team. Now this was no basic grab your favorite players and put them all on one team gesture. He had rules that he had to abide by in the creation of this team. Those rules were none other than the NFL salary cap guidelines.
Dominik has $142 million dollars to play with, and in doing so, he chose to include three Rams on his team. More importantly, they are all starters. He listed James Laurinaitis, Aaron Donald, and Janoris Jenkins.
Here's what Dominik had to say about the Rams he picked:
"Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams ($2,303,750): When building this team, I wanted to have defensive ends and defensive tackles playing traditional roles. Donald's quickness and ability to make plays in the backfield makes him a perfect run-stuffer in the middle of my defense."
"James Laurinaitis, St. Louis Rams ($4,275,000): I spent a little money on Laurinaitis, thinking he could fill a void at strong-side linebacker and provide great leadership in the locker room. I also like the idea of having three starters who can fill-in at the middle linebacker position if need be."
"Janoris Jenkins, St. Louis Rams ($1,587,829): Jenkins won't be underrated for long. He's a top athlete at his position, showing the ability to change directions, cover deep and make plays on the ball. He's also a willing tackler in the run game, a rarity for someone his size (5-foot-10, 198 pounds)."
Mark Dominik - ESPN
Considering he had to stay within $142 million total salary, it makes sense why he couldn't select Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis for his starting corners. But nevertheless, his selections are intriguing.
Aaron Donald is arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL, and his salary is less than two and-a-half million. No one in their right mind would pass on adding Donald in the same situation.
Then he opted to add James Laurinaitis, and now the plot thickens. If you asked 10 people to list the 10 best middle linebackers in the NFL, chances are all of them will list Laurinaitis at some point. Now tell those same 10 people to list the 10 best linebackers (ILB/OLB), and few - if any? - will list Laurinaitis. He's without question one of the better LB's in the game. A lot of Rams fans are not high on Laurinaitis because of his lacking that "Wow!" factor. But what he is, is an extremely reliable, durable, smart, and productive defensive leader.
However, very few - if any - will describe Laurinaitis as versatile. This is exactly what Dominik is doing here. He lists the durable mike backer as a Sam backer with the ability to play middle as well. That's an interesting thought, but it makes sense that one would wonder how effective he might be in that role. However, given his extremely high football IQ, it's not completely out of the realm of possibility he could survive.
Then there's his final Rams selection of Jenkins as a starter opposite Joe Haden (I personally like the Florida reunion here). It can be argued he spoke more highly of Jenkins than his fellow Rams teammates. Jenkins received some high praise when Dominik discussed his athleticism, coverage, and ball skills, after being called "underrated" and a "top athlete" at his position.
Most will remember that Dominik was still employed by the Buccaneers in 2012 when Jenkins was drafted. Corner was a position of major need, and Jenkins was a player that Dominik and his crew looked into. He may still be fan, and possibly planned on drafting Jenkins had he fallen a bit more. Who knows?
What we do know is Dominik makes some interesting points. It's hard to argue with his love for Jenkins' ball skills. Whether you love or hate his risk taking, there's no denying his ability to play the ball, break on the ball, and get the ball. When discussing his willingness to tackle, Dominik again hit the nail on the head. Jenkins is without question a willing tackler, and he plays the run far better than he gets credit for. Not many corners can say they single handed-ly stopped both Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson from breaking a long run.
Jenkins does have rare COD skills. It's also the reason he takes the risk he does, because his COD skills are so good he knows if he guesses right it should be an easy pick. The trait that stands out the most, and should create the most debate, is the recognition he shows for Jenkins' deep cover skills. While Jenkins can indeed cover, he still has to work on eliminating those overly aggressive moments; resulting in getting burned at times. He has to show more patience...
Dominik touched on some names that make for some good debates. But, he delivers some compelling reasons for each pick. One thing is for sure: while the Rams may not receive national media coverage like the Packers or Patriots, they are well known by those within NFL, and at the end of the day, respect from your peers is what matters most.