While it’s clear the Rams have the intent of starting Jason Smith (they’d be crazy not to), the player who could make the most impact is none other than the 35th selection of the draft. While USC linebacker Rey Maualuga was still available (and was not chosen, to those fans still crying about it, get over it), the Rams selected the Buckeye.
From everything I have seen, he has an opportunity to become a big force in the middle. The Rams need a force inside that will attack and Laurinaitis is exactly that player. Don Banks at SI.com said this about the ILB:
“Rams fans are going to love Laurinaitis, who craves contact and will quickly emerge as a leader for a team desperate for some.”
I couldn’t agree more with statement. While Rey Maualuga was seen as a force, the same goes for Laurinaitis. In fact, some people might have just forgotten how good Laurinaitis is. Fox Sports has a great article about how, for some crazy reason, teams ignored him for no reason in particular. I’m sorry if I appear to be high on this guy, but let’s look at what he has accomplished as a player in college.
First off, he is only one of five players to ever earn First-Team All-American for three years. He’s increased his yearly tackle stats every year, and he has never missed a single game because of an injury ever. If that isn’t consistent, excellent production, I don’t know what is. In three years, he has won not only the Lott Trophy (which is awarded for personal character), but was awarded the Butkus Award (which is awarded to the nation’s top linebacker), the Jack Lambert trophy twice (which also is for the best linebacker in the nation). On top of this, he has won the Nagurski Award for the top defensive player at any position. Now, maybe one could be a fluke.
But you simply don’t get that many accolades over a period of time if you aren’t an amazing player. Not only that, but as a junior, the consensus was that he was a top 10 pick, but he decided to return to Ohio state “out of a sense of obligation to his teammates and his coach.”
So in summation, he’s been a consistent player who improves every year, has an incredible character, and has won national awards for being the best of the best not only at his position (three awards for that, let’s remember) but on defense as well. 367 tackles, 9 interceptions, 13 sacks, 4 forced fumbles aren’t that bad of stats for three years.
But hey, Rey Maualuga had a higher draft grade by Mel Kiper.