Rams go from No. 1 pick to 14th in one season
Here’s evidence that the NFL draft works, eventually. The St.
Louis Rams are not, repeat not, on the clock.
Last April the Rams clicked with the No. 1 overall pick, taking
quarterback Sam Bradford. Offensive tackle Jason Smith in 2009 and
defensive end Chris Long in 2008 were both No. 2s overall.
All three are building blocks for a franchise that appears to be
on the rise. The Rams made a six-victory leap last season, going
7-9 and just missing out on a playoff bid in the weak NFC West.
This year they’ll be picking 14th, right in the middle of the
pack. General manager Billy Devaney won’t mind waiting a couple
hours until it’s the Rams’ turn to choose.
”The real goal is to get down to 31st and 32nd all the time,”
Devaney said. ”But at least 14 is a big jump from 1. So I think
we’re headed in the right direction.”
Still, there’s plenty on the wish list heading into Year 3 under
Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo.
A true No. 1 wide receiver would help Bradford, the NFL
offensive rookie of the year, flourish under new offensive
coordinator Josh McDaniels. The Rams have been making do with free
agents and practice squad graduates, with Danny Amendola developing
into a reliable slot option, but the offense lacked a deep threat
after Donnie Avery was knocked out in the preseason and Mark
Clayton was lost with a knee injury early in the year.
Steven Jackson has been a workhorse by necessity, gaining 1,241
yards last year. He might be carrying too much of the load,
considering the second-leading rusher had only 107 yards, and that
kind of disparity has been going on for several seasons.
It’s definitely on the shopping list in next week’s draft.
”We’ve been thinking about that for a while now,” Devaney
said. ”Steven, he’s incredible the workload he carries and he
loves it, too. We’ll try to address that at some point before the
The defense needs help at linebacker beyond James Laurinaitis,
who has led the team in tackles both of his seasons. Safety
Oshiomoghe Atogwe, also one of the team leaders, left as a free
There’s not much proven depth across the board, for that
Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones is a popular choice for St.
Louis in mock drafts. College teammate and running back Mark
Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, is another.
Will Jones still be on the board? Would Ingram be a reach?
”You have a lot more scenarios that you have to prepare for,
more players that are possibilities, and you just have to go
through more things,” Devaney said. ”The past few years it was
pretty cut and dried.
”When you’re picking 1 and 2 it kind of makes it easy figuring
out who’s going to be there.”
No matter what happens earlier in Round 1, or whether they trade
up or down, Devaney insists the Rams will opt for the best player
available. Case in point: St. Louis drafted three defensive ends
last year, even though that was one of their stronger
”You can’t force the issue, even if it’s true about wide
receiver and running back,” Devaney said. ”If they’re not the
best player at that time, you’ve got to pass on them and go to
”It may be when the draft is over and what’s perceived as a
need just didn’t work out.”
Bradford threw 18 touchdown passes his rookie year, helping to
revive a stodgy offense, and answered any remaining questions about
his durability related to a shoulder injury at Oklahoma. He usually
appeared calm beyond his years.
Smith missed half of his rookie year due to concussion-related
symptoms but became a fixture last season after shifting to right
tackle. Long blossomed as a pass rusher last season after moving to