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Thread: Curious Fits: NFC West ..

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    Curious Fits: NFC West ..

    By Alen Dumonjic
    May 28, 2013

    Every year, NFL teams select players in the draft that are curious fits. Questions about overall talent level and scheme fit are raised, most of which are valid. Last year, there were plenty of questions about players, some of which were answered while others are still up in the air. It'll be the same with the 2013 class, and I'll be selecting one player from each team.

    To begin, the focus is on the NFC West, a division that has quickly become arguably the best in the NFL because of how quickly its teams have improved.

    St. Louis Rams

    Last of all are the St. Louis Rams, who made great strides last season under first-year head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead. Both men are known for their gambling on prospects, notably cornerback Janoris Jenkins in 2012 and linebacker Alec Ogletree in 2013. Although Ogletree was a risky selection, he has a lot of talent that makes it easier to pick him. Conversely, former USC safety T.J. McDonald doesn't have many questions about his character (as far as I know), but there are questions about his ability on the football field.

    McDonald was selected in the third round by the Rams, who were in need of an upgrade at safety. They selected the type of player who runs well but is tight in the hips and at his best coming downhill. That could be an issue in the Rams' defensive scheme, which places emphasis on the safeties getting outside to the numbers.


    Arizona Cardinals

    The Arizona Cardinals, perhaps the division's worst team, made a splash in the draft, selecting a stud offensive lineman in the first round (Jonathan Cooper, G, UNC) and adding playmakers on both sides of the ball.

    The most popular playmaker was former LSU nickel back Tyrann Matheiu, a flashy defender who doesn't quite meet the size requirements for the pros but has a nose for the ball. There's a lot of questions about Mathieu's ability to transition to the pros, but he's not the most curious pick. That's fourth round pick Alex Okafor.

    Okafor was a defensive end at Texas and a good one at that. Previously a defensive tackle, Okafor uses his hands very well and is a fine player at the point of contact. He's not much of a standup rusher, however, and that's what he'll be asked to do in Todd Bowles' exotic scheme.

    He doesn't have much juice off the edge and might be best fit as a defensive end. That's not to say he can't do the job at outside linebacker; rather, he's not necessarily as adept to it as he is to end. He's one to watch for sure.

    San Francisco *****

    On the other end of curiosity are the San Francisco *****, well-known for their drafting. They made an interesting one in the fourth round this year, selecting South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.

    Lattimore is an inspiration, having torn ligaments in both knees, with the worst coming in his right. Against Tennessee this past season, he tore his LCL, PCL and ACL. Fortunately, he still has his leg and a shot at contributing in the NFL. But how great of a shot does he have with the *****, who have a backfield that includes Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon and underrated free agent pickup D.J. Harper?

    That's a crowded backfield, and a bit of a confusing selection on the *****' part, especially if Lattimore doesn't come back healthy. That's why they make the big bucks, though.

    Seattle Seahawks

    As for the Seahawks, the NFL's bad boys, they arguably got the biggest steal of the draft when they landed Alabama nose tackle Jesse Williams in the fifth round. Williams had the talent to be a first round selection but fell after a reported shaky evaluation of his knee, according to NFL.com's Albert Breer. Breer's report also mentions that Williams' slide in the draft was a case of the “public perceiving a player to be a better prospect than he was in scouts' eyes,” which I don't buy one bit.

    Williams is a hard working lineman that can play nose tackle (one technique) or defensive end (five, seven or nine) depending on the front. He can provide a bit of pass-rush and is an excellent run defender, although he is still learning how to play the game.

    That's part of why Williams was such an attractive prospect for many leading up to the draft, but also why he's a curious fit with the Seahawks. Will he continue to hone his craft at the nose or end spot? He might be best fit at nose, but the Seahawks could look to use him as a closed end in the Red Bryant mold.

    Guess we'll see about who the "steal of the draft" turns out to be in our division. I like our chances .. Stacy, Bailey, Ogletree ... Bring on the season !!


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    Re: Curious Fits: NFC West ..

    I've seen a lot of these critiques of McDonald, but only a few mention that his stiffness in his hips can be coached-up. I have extreme faith that Jeff Fisher knows how to scout a safety as he played that position himself. These critics that tend to expertise on how a team plays and how the player will fit usually overlook the fact that the good teams, which I now consider us to be, adjust to the best skills of their players. TJ will be fine in my mind. Good article.

    Go Rams!
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    Re: Curious Fits: NFC West ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Mmde8352gorams View Post
    I've seen a lot of these critiques of McDonald, but only a few mention that his stiffness in his hips can be coached-up. I have extreme faith that Jeff Fisher knows how to scout a safety as he played that position himself. These critics that tend to expertise on how a team plays and how the player will fit usually overlook the fact that the good teams, which I now consider us to be, adjust to the best skills of their players. TJ will be fine in my mind. Good article.

    Go Rams!
    Totally agreeee!

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    Re: Curious Fits: NFC West ..

    I've seen McDonald play #7 on defense at USC and he was always involved in a play on D. Some of these writers just need something to say. Look and see what Pac 12 writers say about McDonald not some writer just looking for something to write. Every pic that the Rams made in this draft addressed a need and made sense. McDonald should have a been a late 2nd round pic.
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    Re: Curious Fits: NFC West ..

    How many of the mentioned players are "starters" and how many are "depth" players and how many are may-be-they-make-the-team-or-not players? With the 49whinners, they had plenty of later round picks and could afford to get goofy in the draft and take some chances; Seagulls, they made their splash in free-agency so player acquisition via the draft not so important. Cards, I can't fault anything they did wrong in the draft and like what they did; however, they ought to have done more in free-agency. McDonalds for the Rams seems to be more a punisher pick to counter the read-offense of the 49whinners/Seagulls--I wouldn't want to take off and run if I was Wilson or Capt. Kamp. knowing McDonald is lurking in the back field

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    Re: Curious Fits: NFC West ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post
    McDonalds for the Rams seems to be more a punisher pick to counter the read-offense of the 49whinners/Seagulls--I wouldn't want to take off and run if I was Wilson or Capt. Kamp. knowing McDonald is lurking in the back field
    That's if they can get past Ogletree at the line of scrimmage!

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    Re: Curious Fits: NFC West ..

    Like with most everything else, we must trust Fisher here. I don't know much about McDonald, but one thing is certain: the guy absolutely has to be good enough to start for us given our need at the position. I try not to get too caught up in the minutiae from every analyst out there, but I tend to think if there's an overwhelming majority of people that either like or dislike a guy there are probably valid reasons for those opinions.

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    Re: Curious Fits: NFC West ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post
    How many of the mentioned players are "starters" and how many are "depth" players and how many are may-be-they-make-the-team-or-not players? With the 49whinners, they had plenty of later round picks and could afford to get goofy in the draft and take some chances; Seagulls, they made their splash in free-agency so player acquisition via the draft not so important. Cards, I can't fault anything they did wrong in the draft and like what they did; however, they ought to have done more in free-agency. McDonald for the Rams seems to be more a punisher pick to counter the read-offense of the 49whinners/Seagulls--I wouldn't want to take off and run if I was Wilson or Capt. Kamp. knowing McDonald is lurking in the back field
    The more I look at this and last year's draft, it seems Fish and Snead are building this team expressly to beat the whiners and hags. Ogletree and McDonald are two more pieces added to the chessboard designed to frustrate Kreep and Stumpy. Both guys can fly to the ball. Obviously they have yet to put on the pads and play in a real NFL game. That said, as Mmde8352gorams points out, Fisher having played the position along with his many years of evaluating talent as a HC, should know a thing or two about which young players will best fit his defense. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt?

    Excerpted from Draft Scout:

    2013 USC Pro Day: While the hype centered around the "skill position" players, Wednesday, the big winner may have been safety T.J. McDonald who drew praise from Kansas City Chiefs' scout and defensive backs coach Drae Harris, who, along with Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, put USC's cornerbacks and safety through extended drills.

    "McDonald is an explosive athlete who is quickly able to take what we were asking him to do and apply it to the field. He's so explosive out of his cuts and covers such ground." McDonald who measured in at 6'-3", 213 lbs, led each of the db drills. He caught every pass thrown to him, consistently using his height to his advantage by extending far beyond his frame to secure the ball. - Rob Rang

    McDonald's 40 times range between a low of 4.46 to a high of 4.64. Regardless of that stopwatch speed or perceived lack of it. Pretty much everything I've read about the guy is he is "field fast." Add to that his NFL bloodlines, his dad was a six time Pro Bowler at strong safety and is currently the defensive backs coach for the New York Jets. One would think TJ might have gleaned a fair bit of valuable knowledge from his dad. We'll see in due time ..
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