ST. LOUIS — The Rams went into the 2014 NFL Draft pledging their allegiance to quarterback Sam Bradford while also being linked to Johnny Manziel. They didn’t draft Johnny Football, even though they had two chances to, but they did conclude the draft with a quarterback.
SMU’s Garrett Gilbert was one of the top-rated quarterbacks entering college in 2009, when he signed with the University of Texas.
Gilbert was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 2 quarterback prospect, behind only Matt Barkley, and as the No. 18 prospect in the Class of 2009. Gilbert, who is 6 feet 4, played two years for the Longhorns, including in relief of an injured Colt McCoy in the BCS Championship Game against Alabama as a freshman, and was hurt early in his junior year. He received a medical redshirt for that season and then transferred to SMU for his final two years.
The Rams selected Gilbert with their second selection in the sixth round, No. 214 overall. He was the 13th quarterback picked.
"I was extremely excited," he said. "I think this is an awesome opportunity, and I was fortunate enough to get the chance to work out with (offensive coordinator) coach (Brian) Schottenheimer and (quarterbacks) coach (Frank) Cignetti down in Dallas. For me, this is just a great opportunity and I’m really excited about it."
Gilbert put up some big numbers in coach June Jones’ offense.
He completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,528 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 10 games in 2013. That’s 352.8 yards passing per game. He also ran for 267 yards and six scores.
"We want to give Garrett an opportunity to come in and show us what he can do," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "Outstanding career there at SMU."
Gilbert will enter training camp with a chance to compete with Austin Davis for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart behind Bradford and new backup Shaun Hill, who signed a two-year deal in the offseason.
RAMS ADD DEFENSIVE BACKS
St. Louis addressed its needs in the secondary, an issue exacerbated by the loss of Cortland Finnegan, with four selections who play either safety or cornerback.
The Rams traded their fifth-round pick to move up in the second round and select Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner, who can play nickel cornerback or safety. Then they took local prospect Maurice Alexander, a 220-pound safety out of Utah State, in the fourth round.
St. Louis selected Mizzou cornerback E.J. Gaines, a Kansas City area product, in the sixth round and took Ohio State safety Christian Bryant in the seventh round.
The Rams have added three University of Missouri players to their roster in the past few weeks.
After signing wide receiver T.J. Moe to a free-agent contract a week ago, the Rams picked Gaines in the sixth round and then defensive end Michael Sam in the seventh. You might have heard about that one.
General manager Les Snead said the Rams considered trading up to pick Gaines but were fortunate that he was still available at No. 188 overall. They also felt like Sam fell to them before he was selected at No. 249.
"We’re just fortunate they did, both of them did," Fisher said. "We can’t give you a reason why it happened, but we had them both up significantly higher than where we took them."
Added Snead: "That’s what’s nice, when you have him in a relatively decent spot on the board and he’s still up there when you go to pick."
The Rams now have four Tigers on their roster, including center Tim Barnes.
MYSTERY MAN MITCHELL
The seventh-round selection of Portland State offensive tackle Mitchell Van Dyk, the 226th overall pick, had reporters at Rams Park scrambling to find information on him.
The 6-8, 315-pounder said he was surprised he got drafted.
"I honestly didn’t think I would get drafted, but being able to get drafted is just a great opportunity and I can’t wait to start with this great organization," Van Dyk said.
"I feel like I was definitely a steal in this draft because I know my talents and I know exactly what I can do on the football field," he said. "I feel like if I wouldn’t have got injured this year, it probably would have been a whole different story going into the draft. But there’s certain things in life that you can’t control and God has a plan for you."
Bryant already has a supporter with the Rams in middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, who also played at Ohio State.
"I know Christian Bryant, and talking to the defensive coordinator at Ohio State (Luke Fickell), we’re still friends from when I played there," Laurinaitis said. "He said when Christian went down, he thought that their defense lost their heartbeat and that he was the toughest guy that maybe he’s ever coached."
RAMS SIGN UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
The Rams announced their undrafted free agents on Monday. Arguably the most intriguing name on the list was cornerback Marcus Roberson.
Roberson left the University of Florida early to enter the draft and was projected as a possible third- or fourth-round pick by NFL.com. He was suspended for one game this past season (for a violation of team rules) and also had some injury issues.
The Rams didn’t draft a wide receiver with any of their 11 picks but have signed one in Austin Franklin of New Mexico State.
Franklin, a 6-foot, 190-pounder who left school early to declare for the draft, played in just eight games this past season but caught 52 passes for 670 yards and seven touchdowns. The slot receiver had 74 receptions for 1,245 yards and nine TDs in 2012.
"Austin has been a very dynamic and explosive player for this team over the past three seasons and we wish him all the best in the upcoming draft and in the future," New Mexico State coach Doug Martin said in a press release announcing Franklin’s decision to leave school early for the draft.
St. Louis also signed former Bowling Green tight end Alex Bayer, a 6-4, 257-pounder who caught 37 passes for 593 yards in 14 games in 2013.
NFL.com writer Gil Brandt, a former Dallas Cowboys executive, ranked the top undrafted free agents and slotted Roberson as the No. 1 cornerback, Bayer as the No. 10 tight end and Franklin as the No. 13 wide receiver.
The Rams also signed the following undrafted players: cornerback Jarrid Bryant (South Dakota), safety Avery Cunningham (Central Michigan), defensive tackle Deantre Harlan (Bacone), linebacker Aaron Hill (Minnesota), fullback Kadeem Jones (Western Kentucky), offensive tackle Emmanuel McCray (Mississippi), linebacker Johnny Millard (Cal Poly State), offensive tackle Abasi Salimu (Nicholls State), wide receiver Jamaine Sherman (East Texas Baptist), running back Julius "Trey" Watts (Tulsa), defensive tackle Ethan Westbrooks (West Texas A&M) and linebacker Tavarius Wilson (North Alabama).
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.