The Rams entered the draft hoping to continue to fill needs on defense and at tight end, and coach Scott Linehan considered his mission accomplished.
Sandwiched around tight ends Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd, the Rams selected cornerback Tye Hill in the first round and defensive tackle Claude Wroten and safety/linebacker Jon Alston in the third round. The second day brought defensive end Victor Adeyanju and linebacker Tim McGarigle.
"I think the first thing we were able to do is add high-quality players," Linehan said.
He obviously believes cornerback Tye Hill is one of those quality players, despite being under 5-10.
The Rams considered taking Hill with their pick at 11th in the first round, but traded down with Denver and still got Hill at No. 15.
Asked about Hill's size, Linehan said, "You wish he was taller, but when you're watching him against some of the bigger receivers they play against in college you could see he has the ability to be able to play big."
The Rams return injured starters Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler, but Fisher might be traded.
When asked whether the selection of Hill reflects on the current secondary, Linehan said, "I think it reflects more (that) we're accumulating players in a position that we want to improve. I think not just the organization, but the coaches and the players understand we have to improve on our ability to stop the pass on defense. That is part of it. Any addition to our defense will improve our defense in some shape or form, but it certainly adds another player in the mix to give us someone to look at playing in that first game against Denver."
The trade with the Broncos also resulted in the team's most controversial pick of the draft. With the third-round pick acquired in the deal, the Rams selected defensive tackle Claude Wroten.
After an outstanding career at LSU, Wroten was arrested in early January for felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The charges were subsequently dropped because of legal technicalities, but he then failed a drug test at the combine.
However, Linehan said, "I think the risk based on what I know about him is way outweighed over the positives of this young man."
Meanwhile, the selection of Klopfenstein and Byrd led to the second-day trade of tight end Brandon Manumaleuna to the Chargers, a move that left the Rams with little experience at the position.
A closer look at the Rams' picks:
Round 1/15 Tye Hill, CB, 5-10, 185, Clemson
The Rams considered Hill the best cover corner in the draft, and despite being a shade under 5-10, they believe his long arms and leaping ability will make up for any height deficiency. He is also a sure tackler, and impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with his technique against some top receivers.
Round 2/46 Joe Klopfenstein, TE, 6-5, 251, Colorado
Caught 33 passes each of his last two seasons, averaging 12.7 and 14.2 yards per catch. Klopfenstein has excellent speed, and coach Scott Linehan cited his "unbelievable measureables." Linehan added, "He is a very productive player, he has very natural hands and is an excellent blocker."
Round 3/68 Claude Wroten, DT, 6-2, 292, Louisiana State
A big risk for the Rams on a player with first-round talent, but who was arrested on drug charges in early January, then tested positive at the scouting combine. Wroten insists he has learned his lesson, and convinced the Rams he was worth the risk.
Round 3/77 Jon Alston, LB, 6-0, 218, Stanford
Might end up as a safety, as the Rams plan to possibly use him at both safety and linebacker in sub-packages. Linehan said working out as a safety at the combine, he looked better than most of the safeties in drills. Linehan called Alston an "extremely fast, explosive player" and believes he will have an immediate impact on special teams.
Round 3/93 Dominique Byrd, TE, 6-2, 260, Southern Cal
Injuries during his college career helped drop Byrd into the third round, and the Rams liked him enough to move up from the fourth round to take him. While his speed isn't great, Linehan said, "He is not a guy that will wow you with a big-time 40 time, he is one of those guys that plays faster than his 40 time."
Round 4/113 Victor Adeyanju, DE, 6-4, 268, Indiana
He was 215 pounds as a freshman and grew to become a 268-pound defensive end. Said Linehan, "He has speed and size. He is a little raw, but he is very willing, excellent character, and he's a bright kid. What he does have you can't coach, that size and that bulk, and we needed to address that a bit at the defensive end spot. We really feel very good about getting to third down with our ends right now, and we feel very comfortable on first down."
Round 5/144 Marques Hagans, WR/PR, 5-10, 209, Virginia
Linehan was most excited about adding Hagans because of his versatility and ability to return punts and kickoffs. "He gives you one of those toys on offense," Linehan said. "You can put him in there and he plays something one play and something else the other play. Maybe throw a ball once in awhile. I am pretty excited about this pick. I have been excited about all of them, but this one I have kind of had my eye on since the very start of the second day."
Round 7/221 Tim McGarigle, LB, 6-0, 240, Northwestern
A pure middle linebacker, McGarigle begins as a backup to free agent Will Witherspoon, but if he turns into a player, it could eventually lead to Witherspoon being moved outside down the road. A very solid run-stopper with 545 tackles in college, the Rams like his productivity. Said Linehan, "This is the type of guy that goes from tackle to tackle and stuffs the middle. The one thing that showed up well with Tim is that he had very good measurables in those linebacker-type drills at the combine. That is why he stood out with me. Change of direction, those in the box drill, that I think are very good for a Mike 'backer. He was a very productive player."
Round 7/242 Mark Setterstrom, G, 6-4, 314, Minnesota
Linehan got some first-hand looks at Setterstrom when he coached the Vikings and saw him play in person on several occasions. He started every game during his career, and Linehan said, "Mark was one of those guys that never missed a practice, never missed a game, one of those guys that you just really root for, one heck of a player, a big part of what they did in that run game. You're talking about an offensive line that pretty much dominated college football during his time span, as far as being able to run the ball. He was a big reason why those backs that played there had such success."
Round 7/243 Tony Palmer, G, 6-2, 330, Missouri
Bench-pressed 225 pounds 41 times at his pro day and was known for his knockdown blocks at Mkissouri. Said Linehan, "He's a very powerful, large man and has a lot of mass, a guy that is the true definition of a road-grader."
The Rams' selection of DE Victor Adeyanju in the fourth round came with a pick acquired from San Diego for TE Brandon Manumaleuna.
Scheduled to be paid $1.325 million this year under terms of a contract the Rams matched when Manumaleuna became a restricted free agent in 2004, he didn't win the favor of the coaching staff by not attending the team's off-season program.
Coach Scott Linehan noted that the deal allows Manumaleuna to play in his home state.
"Being close to home is one of the reasons he is not here in the off-season, because he wanted to be back in California. I think that is a great situation for him. We recognize his ability and talent level. He is a big tight end that can block and he did some really good things here for the Rams.
"I just think it's a new start. Obviously we put in a new youth movement with our draft yesterday with the tight ends we picked. You can't replace the experience that Brandon had, so we have another issue, but I think it is a very good situation for both parties. I think it's a win-win situation for everybody."
The deal leaves the Rams with little experience at tight end, but Linehan said he expects to search for a veteran that is also considered a good blocker.
Last year, the Rams selected offensive lineman Richie Incognito in the third round of the draft after a career in which he left Nebraska because of disciplinary reasons and then injured his knee at the combine. It was said Incognito had first-round talent. He practiced once during the 2005 season.
This year, in the third round, the Rams picked defensive tackle Claude Wroten, another first-round talent that dropped in the draft because of a January arrest on drug charges and failing a drug test at the combine. He also revealed to scouts at the combine that he failed a drug test as a junior.
"Obviously there's a certain amount of risk when you start talking about those kinds of things," coach Scott Linehan said. "Without it we wouldn't have the opportunity for this player in the third round, and we had first-round grades on him. I spent a lot of time researching him. He played for a fair number of my good friends who I worked with in Miami (who were) at LSU who recruited him, and talked about some of the things and felt very comfortable with him.
"Obviously, we're going to have to address those things when he comes in. One thing I will say about him is that everything else he passed with flying colors, his work ethic, the coaches' recommendation of him, the defensive coordinator who was our defensive coordinator basically last year at Miami, he and I are pretty good friends. He just said this guy is a great kid. So we're very excited to have Claude.
"He has just been a joy for those coaches there to work with. He just did everything they asked and more. He was an extremely valuable football player, and they never had a problem with him in his tenure there at LSU. You have to go on a lot of the information from the people you trust."
Said Wroten, "I am a great guy, all the teams know that, obviously the Rams know that. I am a great talent; I just want the players and the community to know that it is not a problem at all, and that they have a great guy. They shouldn't be concerned about any off-the-field issues."
Rams WR Torry Holt worked as a draft analyst for ESPN, while S Corey Chavous did the same for NFL network.
Holt was pleased with the selection of CB Tye Hill in the first round and had told reporters at the team's veteran, pre-draft mini-camp that's who the Rams should select.
Asked whether Holt made his intentions known, coach Scott Linehan said, "Yeah, a friendly lobby. The most politically correct guy was Chavous, since he's now officially a draft expert, so he had every scenario for me. Torry was good. He's kind of getting into that, and I think he knows a pretty good coverage corner when he sees one."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's hard in the draft because again we were taking best players. In a couple situations we took best player, and you would like to say, well, this is where we need a guard or maybe a future center. We'll take him here, but the best player, that is not how it stacks. I think that is where you make mistakes, when you pass a player and go back and take a need. We stuck with it. Time will tell how that works out for us. You evaluate your drafts every year, and you know how you're evaluated. It's like you're evaluating a coach whether they pan out or they don't, whether you win or lose. That is the ultimate evaluation of these guys, but I certainly think we were able to address a lot of needs along the way." Coach Scott Linehan on his first draft as a head coach.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: P Bryan Barker; RB Aveion Cason; CB Terry Fair; OG Tom Nutten; TE Roland Williams.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): LB Jeremy Loyd.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: CB Dwight Anderson; DT Jeremy Calahan; S Dwaine Carpenter; TE Jerome Collins; DE Clifford Dukes; LB Mike Goolsby.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: WR Isaac Bruce; WR Kevin Curtis; DE Brandon Green; CB DeJuan Groce; LS Chris Massey; WR Shaun McDonald; OG Blaine Saipaia; QB Jeff Smoker; LB Drew Wahlroos.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Fakhir Brown; S Corey Chavous; RB Tony Fisher; QB Gus Frerotte; DT La'Roi Glover; WR Brad Pyatt; LB Raonall Smith; OT Todd Steussie; P Matt Turk; LB Will Witherspoon.
PLAYERS LOST: S Adam Archuleta; LB Chris Claiborne; S Mike Furrey; RB Arlen Harris; CB Corey Ivy; DE Tyoka Jackson; CB Chris Johnson; DT Damione Lewis; TE Brandon Manumaleuna; QB Jamie Martin; OT Matt Morgan; NT Ryan Pickett; OL Rex Tucker.