ST. LOUIS — The adage proves true for Rams defensive end Michael Brockers: What a difference a year makes.
This time last year, Brockers was preparing for his first as a starter on Louisiana State’s defensive line. Now, the 6-foot-5, 322-pound Brockers is a multimillionaire experiencing his first taste of the NFL.
The Rams selected the talented run-stopping Brockers with the No. 14 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft. He’s had a lot thrown his way since, starting with a rookie minicamp just days after the draft and a full slate of OTAs (organized team activities) that concluded last week.
He was running through drills last week with the starters, a sign the Rams expect him to contribute immediately.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Brockers said. “Everything is coming pretty smooth now. At first I was hit with a lot of different plays and techniques, but as I go on, all these OTAs and minicamps and stuff, I feel like I’m getting better and better every day.”
His crash-course summer will finish with the full-squad minicamp beginning Tuesday before the Rams break for the summer. Training camp is scheduled to begin in late July.
While many wanted the Rams to address their wide receiver needs with their top pick in the draft, the Rams couldn’t pass on an opportunity to improve their defensive line by selecting Brockers.
And so far he appears ready to do just that.
“He’s been fine,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s getting stronger in the weight room. He’s doing much better with his hands. You can’t get too much individual work down there with your position coach at this point.”
Brockers played just two seasons at LSU after redshirting in 2009. The defensive tackle had 54 tackles, 10 for losses, and two sacks as a redshirt sophomore last season — his only as a starter.
He was chosen second-team All-SEC after starting all 14 games at left defensive tackle and helping LSU finish second in the nation in total defense (261.5 yards per game) and scoring defense (11.2 points per game). They were fifth nationally in rush defense (90.1 yards per game).
In two seasons at LSU, Brockers appeared in 27 games and was credited with 79 tackles (34 solo), two sacks, 11 tackles for losses and five quarterback pressures. He forced one fumble, blocked a kick, intercepted a pass and deflected three others.
Brockers played mostly on running downs in the run-happy SEC but hopes to prove he can become an every-down player at the NFL level.
“Oh, yeah, for sure,” Brockers said. “I want to be in there on third down (harassing) the passer and getting some sacks.
“(Defensive line coach Mike Waufle) is teaching me a lot of good techniques that I can use in my game and I can do some pretty good things off it. As long as I keep coming off the ball and being the very dominant player that I am, I think the pass game will come.”
Brockers officially became a Ram last week when he signed a four-year, $9.5 million deal that includes a team option for a fifth year. The deal came without the suspense of top picks in recent years but guarantees he will be on the field when training camp begins.
With the NFL’s new draft slotting system, it has become almost a formality for rookies to sign their deals shortly after the draft. And Brockers continued the recent trend, ensuring he won’t miss any valuable time at the start of his rookie campaign.
“I was ready to get it done,” Brockers said. “Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can focus on football. That was the biggest part of it. . . . The biggest thing is not letting it get to my head and staying humble and stay a good person. Those are the two big things.”
Asked about his first purchase, he said, “Probably something for my mom. I’ve been saying this whole draft process it’s time for her to live the good life and have good things and better things, so I think that might be the first thing I do, get something for my mom. Whatever she wants.”
Brockers, who admitted he’s gone from “nothing to multimillionaire” since signing his deal, expects a lot out of himself this fall. The Rams do, as well, or they wouldn’t have used their top pick on him.
Brockers barely has six weeks under his belt since joining the Rams, but all parties involved are pleased with his’ progress. But they also know there’s still plenty of work to be done.
“Every day I come out here to get better,” Brockers said. “Little steps of improvement in my pass rush and things like that. I feel like by the time the season starts, I’ll be an all-around player.
“I came into it just knowing I wanted to work. Every day is a workday for me, coming in here trying to get ready and learn.”
The Rams just hope the big man does plenty of work on opposing defenses this fall.