Rams take offensive-minded approach to 2015 NFL Draft
ST. LOUIS — The Rams went offense again on Day 3 of the NFL Draft, selecting three offensive players in Rounds 4 through 6 before using Round 7 to make their lone defensive selections. They also traded running back Zac Stacy to the New York Jets for a seventh-round pick.
Stacy, who saw his carries decrease with the arrival of Tre Mason last year, seemed to become unhappy with his situation in St. Louis on Thursday after the Rams used the 10th overall pick to select Georgia tailback Todd Gurley. Shortly after the pick was announced, Stacy posted a one-word tweet: "Yikes."
On Saturday, coach Jeff Fisher and Stacy talked about the situation and, in a "really good conversation," Fisher assured the third-year back they’d try to make a move, though it was unclear if it would happen that day. The two spoke again before the Rams turned in the trade and Fisher said afterward that Stacy was "very excited" and had expressed appreciation that morning for his past opportunities in St. Louis.
"He’s a great teammate," the coach said. "He’s been one of my favorites — he’s an outstanding young man."
With the Stacy trade, St. Louis ended up with a total of nine selections, five of which came on Day 3.
The Rams used the fourth-round pick they’d acquired from Philadelphia in the Sam Bradford trade to select Andrew Donnal, a 6-foot-7, 307-pound offensive tackle from Iowa.
Donnal, who was projected as a fifth- to sixth-round pick on his NFL.com draft profile, played 13 games at right tackle in 2014 after alternating between tackle and guard in 2013. He tore his ACL over halfway through his sophomore season, but returned in time for the Hawkeyes’ opener the next year.
"I view myself as a blue-collar grinder," he said. "I thoroughly enjoy just playing football, being an offensive lineman, moving the guy from point A to point B against his will, protecting the quarterback, and just mauling inside — there’s nothing better."
One of Donnal’s teammates at Iowa was offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, who was drafted fifth overall by the Washington Redskins.
"Having a guy like Brandon to be able to push yourself against and to play with was an outstanding resource for me with my five years at Iowa with him," Donnal said. "Brandon’s a great person — we’ve become really good friends throughout this process."
In fact, Donnal said he watched the first night of the draft "for Brandon."
As for his own interests, Donnal kept his phone handy while he tuned in and out of coverage Friday. He tried not to pin any specific expectations on himself about where he’d land.
The Rams, who met with Donnal at the NFL Scouting Combine and attended his Pro Day, liked his ability to switch positions and felt he might have been overlooked going into the draft because he played on a line with Scherff.
"(I) just wanted to get on a team," Donnal said. "I got called in the fourth round by St. Louis, and I couldn’t be happier."
St. Louis selected another offensive lineman, Cody Wichmann, in the sixth round with its second pick. Wichmann, 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, was a starter in 50 games at Fresno State and touted physicality against the defense as one of his strong suits.
"I love when we run the ball," he said. "I like to get my hands on people and drive them back, which is kind of my specialty."
His new employers seemed to agree.
"If you’re somewhere in the vicinity, he’s going to hit you," Fisher said.
With their first pick in the sixth round, the Rams kept the "MIZ-STL" pipeline open, taking Missouri wide receiver Bud Sasser with the 201st pick. He’s the third #MizzouMade player on the St. Louis roster, joining center Tim Barnes and cornerback E.J. Gaines.
Sasser, who visited Green Bay, Oakland, Kansas City and Houston, admitted he wasn’t sure of the Rams’ level of interest going into the draft.
"I had no idea," he said. "I’m just glad I can stay in Missouri. That was awesome."
The Rams liked his size (6-2, 210) and, as general manager Les Snead phrased it, "arm length and catch radius."
"Strong hands," Snead said.
In the final round, St. Louis went back to its comfort zone by selecting two defensive players, Bryce Hager, a linebacker out of Baylor, and Martin Ifedi, a defensive end from Memphis.
Ifedi suffered an MCL sprain at the beginning of the 2014 season, but missed only four games and finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in sacks.
"We did a great job with rehab, so I didn’t have any kind of relapses or anything," Ifedi said.
Fisher has a history with the Hager family. When he was with the Philadelphia Eagles, coach Buddy Ryan asked him to evaluate Bryce’s dad, linebacker Britt Hager. The Eagles ended up drafting Hager, who played nine seasons in the NFL and finished his career as a St. Louis Ram.
Fisher saw some of the father in the son.
"Sideline to sideline — that’s how his dad was," Fisher said. "They speak very highly of him there at Baylor."
By the end of the draft, the Rams had selected three offensive tackles, a guard, a running back, a receiver and a quarterback, plus one linebacker and one defensive end.
With offensive line arguably the Rams’ greatest need going into the event, Fisher sounded confident about the group they’d accumulated, which, in addition to Wichmann and Donnal, included offensive tackles Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown in Round 2.
"These guys have played a lot of football in college. If you look at the number of games played at starts, with respect to all four of the offensive linemen that we drafted, it’s solid," Fisher said. "They’re durable, they’re smart, they’re well coached."
And the Rams sound equally unconcerned that they waited out Thursday to begin addressing the position.
"You take the guard spot, the center spot, and the right tackle spot — the average round of all starters in the league is about 3.6," Snead said.
Let the roster battles commence.