Rams 2011 Draft Early Review

The Rams added veteran tackle Mark LeVoir to their roster Tuesday. This by itself is not a bad move; it’s even about as good as a midseason waiver wire move gets. LeVoir’s a former Ram and played for Josh McDaniels in New England. Couldn’t have been a much better fit out there. The Rams definitely needed to pick up a tackle after the injury to Jason Smith.

The other half of the transaction, though, deals another jab to Billy Devaney’s drafting reputation. In cutting LB Jabara Williams, the Rams have now cut half of their 2011 draft before even playing half of their 2011 season. Sure, the Rams may yet try to maneuver Williams to their practice squad (and they should – Williams showed promise in preseason), but make no mistake: the early results from the Rams 2011 draft have been dismal.

Round 1 – Robert Quinn has shown some elite-level tools, but has had nothing resembling the impact of fellow defensive rookies Ryan Kerrigan, Adrian Clayborn or Von Miller, even though Miller’s been benched in Denver. The Rams have a whole four tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery out of their first-round pick so far. Make no mistake, the lockout probably screwed Quinn more than anyone else in the draft, since he missed his senior season. But maybe the front office of a team that has fewer sacks than Jared Allen after six weeks should have thought of that and drafted a player who would be more pro-ready. I’m still on board with the Quinn pick, but it’s hurting this team this year.

Round 2 – Lance Kendricks has caught 12 passes for 173 yards but dropped at least six. He’s cost the team a couple of TDs for sure, and was so insignificant a part of last week’s game plan most Rams fans thought he’d been made inactive before the game. I would have beefed up the middle of the d-line instead of drafting Kendricks but he looks like a gifted player. The Rams probably needed a quicker contributor, though.

Round 3 – Austin Pettis looked like he might not make the team in training camp. He has 6 catches for 40 yards but has mostly been used as a punt returner, where he has mainly proved a danger to himself and others. Pettis has outstanding hands but struggles to get open, which the rest of the league appeared to know, judging from the marveling that the Rams took Pettis as high as they did. I was taking Mason Foster here – he hasn’t looked too bad at Tampa Bay. Pettis seemed to fit the Rams’ need for a big, sure-handed red-zone receiver. Is Pettis a failure of Rams scouting? Coaching? Maybe both.

Round 4 – Greg Salas may be the best of the Rams’ 2011 draft picks thus far. He has 15 catches for 158 and looks like a natural slot receiver. The Rams barely threw to him Sunday even though he broke both his catches for first-down gains. Early case of the drops may have made him hard to trust, but it’s time to start feeding him again.

Round 5 – Jermale Hines was cut and then lost to the Colts in an attempt to get him onto the practice squad. Not the greatest pick in retrospect. It was dumb of the Rams to blow a 5th-round pick on a player they were mainly projecting to play special teams. It’s not like they were hurting for in-the-box safeties, and there was no talk of converting Hines to a LB position. Wasted pick from the get-go.

Round 7a – Mikail Baker, another wasted pick. Terrible injury history in college. Seemed to be drafted as a kick returner, but I think the Rams actually thought he’d be a cornerback. He played ONE year there at Baylor. Big shock that Baker didn’t even make it through preseason without hitting the IR. I root for comeback stories as much as the next guy, but this was just a dumb pick.

7b – Jabara Williams, just cut, had a couple of tackles on special teams. Crossing fingers he makes it to the practice squad, it looked like he could play in preseason.

7c – Jonathan Nelson, cut to make practice squad room for Tom Brandstater and center Tim Barnes. I don’t get keeping a center over a DB given all the injuries the Rams have had at the position. And Nelson showed some ability in preseason. At least as much as Marquis Johnson ever did.

Could a 7-9 team last season with definitive weaknesses that kept it from success in 2010 afford to whiff on half its 2011 draft the way the Rams already have? I think going 0-6 and losing every game by an average of 28 to 9 answers that question.

I think we’ve also got a pretty strong indictment of this coaching staff’s ability to coach its young players up. Almost everyone here was drafted with that idea. Trust our coaches with these guys. Our offensive guru’s system will get the most out of them. Our defensive guru will develop his people into elite players.

Yeah, not working so far.

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