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    Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    BY JEFF GORDON
    STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
    05/03/2006

    Columnist Jeff Gordon
    (E-mail a "Letter to Gordo")

    So how did the Rams do with their draft? Folks who know their stuff generally grade the Rams in the C+ to B range -– nothing great, but nothing horrendous either.

    The team addressed some needs by stocking up on kids at key positions. Time will tell how the youngsters fare. Naturally, though, Rams fans don’t want to wait and see.

    Here is a sampling of draft reaction from the “Letters to Gordo” bin:


    * * *

    “I’m glad to know we don’t need any interior linemen. We passed on the No. 2 center in the entire draft. Could have got him in round 4 or 5. I understand the need for a productive tight end, but two picks on the first day?”

    Mike Steen


    GORDO: The Rams are banking on Richie Incognito making a move this season. If he pans out, he will anchor the middle of the offensive line for some time. If he flops or gets himself in trouble, yes, the Rams will be sorry they didn’t draft another center.

    As for the tight ends, the team picked two so Brandon Manumaleuna could get his plane ticket to San Diego.


    * * *

    “Just one quick question/comment: Why aren't we doing anything about the offensive line so far this offseason? Are our quarterbacks going to play musical chairs again this season, taking turns with injuries? Our offensive players need more protection, and so far it seems as if that is very low on the agenda. “

    Sherry Thomas


    GORDO: Scott Linehan believes Todd Steussie can provide better back-up at tackle than what we’ve seen in recent years. He will also work some at guard.

    But given the physical condition of guard Claude Terrell these days, you have a right to be concerned. He simply MUST develop, or this line will spring leaks again. The team can’t rely on seventh-round picks to step in as rookies.


    * * *

    “I think Linehan and the Rams deserve creadit for a solid draft. They addressed several major needs and added several potential starters plus depth across the board. Overall, they drafted more value players than reaches -- their top six picks were all rated as among the top 100 players in this draft and all 10 picks were very experienced and productive college players. No Trung Canidates, Jacoby Shephards, or Travis Scotts this year.

    “Tye Hill was the best pure cover corner in the draft and looks like another Dre Bly. Considering how weak the Rams' corners have been for the past two years and that Fisher and Groce are in the final year of their contracts, it was a wise investment. Klopfenstein and Byrd were two of the top five tight ends available and considering how much Linehan uses tight ends in his offense, they were also good additions. Maybe now the Rams will be able to improve their red zone offense. Not to mention trading Manumaleuna, which is addition by subtraction, AND getting a solid defensive end prospect with the pick in Adeyanju.

    “Alston and McGarigle are smart players who strengthen the special teams (always an issue for the Rams) while Mark Setterstrom was great value in the late 7th round considering he was widely rated as a late 4th/early 5th round pick. In my opinion, the only picks I don't like are Wroten (too high for someone that questionable and he probably would have been there in the 4th) and Hagans (another big reach who also doesn't seem to have a position). I give it a B, with potential for an A minus if Wroten stays clean.”

    Will Milano, Boston


    GORDO: Claude Wroten is definitely the “swing” pick. If he stays clean and avoids trouble, he could become an impact rookie on the defensive line.

    He would help Jim Haslett make the “D” more physical this season. If he washes out, the Rams would have to lean on players with much less upside while constructing the defensive line. If Wroten succeeds, he will be a nice payoff to the Manumaleuna trade.


    * * *

    “I thought I was already depressed with the Rams draft until I read John Czarnecki's (Fox Sports) column where he grades (ranks) the draft by team. He ranked the Rams No. 19 and a grade of "C". He states that word is out that Jon Alston doesn't want to play football anymore. Plus, we drafted two players with bad character issues, Byrd and Wroten. While they are good players, word is out that Byrd didn't get along with his teammates at USC and Wroten tested positive at the combine for marijuana, plus his arrest back in January.

    “Did any other teams draft a player that failed their combine drug test? In the real world, companies do not hire individuals who fail their pre-employment drug test. The NFL has received high praise vs. baseball and basketball concerning drugs. Why? Now the NFL and the Rams deserve an "F". Quote from Wroten: ‘It was a one-time thing, no problem, I'm a great guy.’ Yeah, right! If it was a one-time thing (January arrest), why did he fail the drug test later at the combine? Wroten should be tested prior to signing his contract and regularly thereafter. First positive, goodbye!”

    Ed Chandler, Las Vegas


    GORDO: Wroten’s assertions during his conference call with St. Louis reporters weren’t convincing. We’ll see what kind of guy he is soon enough. The Rams will have to sit on this guy, obviously.

    Linehan should run a tight ship as he establishes himself as a head coach. Linehan trusted input from some coaching buddies on this pick, but it was a gamble. Again, this guy is the “swing” pick of the draft. If he pays off, all hail to the front office.

    If it doesn’t, then you can be first in line with an “I Told You So.”


    * * *

    “I have nightmares of opponents isolating their tall receivers against Hill in the red zone. All they need to do is throw the ball up and let their tall guy come down with it. I think we needed a taller guy -- I don't care how high he can jump. And two tight ends? I think Byrd and Wroten are going to be their best picks. I think I'm the last person in L.A. that cares!”

    Mark Essa, Los Angeles


    GORDO: No, John Shaw cares, too.

    Hill IS a short cornerback, no doubt about that. Haslett will have to get ready for opponents to post up his corners, because the better ones on this team are all small.

    "Do Not Let Your Strength Become Your Weakness"


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    Re: Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    word is out that Jon Alston doesn't want to play football anymore
    Hmm, hadn't heard this one yet. Hope we don't have another Jason Shivers on our hands.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    Quote Originally Posted by ramwraith
    If Wroten succeeds, he will be a nice payoff to the Manumaleuna trade.
    Except Wroten came out of the trade down for Hill.

    I keep seeing people say "the word is out" on Jon Alston, but I have yet to see anything to substantiate that rumor. What I have seen about him is what a great character pick it is, what a workout freak he is, and his motto: "Never Settle." Sure sounds like his heart isn't in it to me.
    Last edited by Goldenfleece; -05-04-2006 at 10:51 AM.

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    Re: Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    Plus, we drafted two players with bad character issues, Byrd and Wroten. While they are good players, word is out that Byrd didn't get along with his teammates at USC and Wroten tested positive at the combine for marijuana, plus his arrest back in January.


    How does Wroten become the make or break of our draft. This was a 3rd round pick that we added by taking a chance and moving back in the draft in the first round. How does a pick that did not exits prior to the draft become a make are break pick. In business and in life sometimes you have to take chances, we took a chance and still got Hill and added a 3rd round pick, why not take a shot with that pick on a guy that can become a very good DT. This was not our 1st round pick if it was you would have a right to second-guess the pick. Bottom line there is some risk in every player that gets drafted. Sapp was a guy the slipped because of character issue, we all know he has panned out.

    Now Byrd has issues, some advice believe don't everything you read.

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    Re: Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    word is out that Jon Alston doesn't want to play football anymore
    Its time once again, ladies and gentlemen, to play everyone's favorite game...

    Truth... Rumors... and Outright Lies...


    Okay, let's start with the truth. Here's what Jon Alson said about how he feels about the game of football:

    “Man, there are so many things that I love about the game of football. I think it’s a combination of everything. The thing I really love is that you can bring so many different types of people from so many different places together and work together for one common goal. To me, there are few things in the world that are comparable to that. My sophomore year in high school I played on a team that had eight shutouts. It was amazing that every time we were on the field we trusted every single one of those guys. We were like brothers. That season alone taught me so much about life and football. I strive to get that feeling every year because it’s something I can’t get anywhere else. And also, being able to run around and smack people as hard as you can…that’s fun too,”


    Now, a rumor:

    Despite this, John Czarnecki at FoxSports wrote (in giving the Rams a poor draft grade) that "there were concerns that Stanford's Jon Alston doesn't like to play football." Mind you, this rumor was not supported by any source, and is completely contrary to Alston's statement, but there it is.

    Now, the rumor becomes an outright lie:

    A fan, who obviously read Czarnecki's blurb, changed "concerns" that Alston "doesn't like to play football" to "word" that he "doesn't want to play football anymore."

    I know some of you think I'm over the top with this stuff, but it really steams me that people can just write complete BS and get away with it.

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    Re: Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    Yeah you have a point AV.

    Just wondering why, JEFF GORDON STLTODAY.COM does not point that out in his response to this fan. You would think that Gordon would take the time to read the article in question and correct this fans statement.

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    Re: Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    Here's the word from the horse's mouth. In an interview with Dave Newhouse of insidebayarea.com, here's Alston's thoughts on playing for the Rams.
    Stanford linebacker Jon Alston, in baseball terms, prevented a shutout of players from Bay Area colleges in Saturday's first phase of the NFL draft.
    Alston was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the third round with the 77nd overall pick.

    "I'm very excited," said Alston. "I just want to be a player who plays in a lot of Pro Bowls."

    Alston had 17 sacks over his junior and senior years. After having increased his weight from 205 pounds to 223 pounds at Stanford, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds at the NFL combine.

    "I see myself being used in a lot of ways," he projected, "in nickel packages, rushing the passer, or dropping back in coverage."

    Alston expected to be drafted anywhere from the mid-second round to the mid-third round, where he was selected by the Rams, who had him targeted before the draft.
    Doesn't exactly sound like a guy who "doesn't want to play football anymore".
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos
    Yeah you have a point AV.

    Just wondering why, JEFF GORDON STLTODAY.COM does not point that out in his response to this fan. You would think that Gordon would take the time to read the article in question and correct this fans statement.
    No... sadly... I wouldn't think that...

    Make no mistake:

    World's Easiest Jobs

    1. Rush Limbaugh's fact-checker
    2. Paula Abdul's job on American Idol
    3. Sportswriter

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    Re: Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    And here's a snippet from an interview Alston gave to the Shreveport Times. When asked about being selected by the Rams, he said...
    "I had a sense that they were somewhat interested," Alston said. "I interviewed with them at the combine and it just worked out. You never know what's going to happen in the draft. It's a wild process.

    "They want me at the weak outside linebacker. I'm really excited. I have to take a good attitude into camp. It's all about the opportunity that I have before me."
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    And yet another. This one from the San Jose Mercury News
    Rams take Stanford's Alston
    LINEBACKER, SELECTED 77TH OVERALL, IS THE ONLY BAY AREA COLLEGIAN CHOSEN ON FIRST DAY
    By Laurence Miedema
    Mercury News
    Stanford linebacker Jon Alston awoke Saturday morning planning to watch a little bit of the NFL draft on television. After spending almost nine hours camped out in front of the set, the St. Louis Rams made Alston's wait worthwhile.

    Alston was taken by the Rams with the 77th overall pick. He was the only Bay Area collegian among the 97 names announced during the opening three rounds of the two-day draft.

    ``It really didn't matter when or where I went,'' Alston said. ``All I ever wanted to do was do well enough in college so I could get the opportunity to play at the next level. I'm very excited.''

    Alston, 6 feet, 233 pounds, was considered a Day Two pick by most draft experts during the fall, but his stock took off after he made a strong impression at the scouting combine in February.

    ``Jon caught our eye in our meeting,'' at the combine, first-year Rams coach Scott Linehan said. ``He's a very, very bright, very intelligent player. Obviously coming from Stanford, that's part of the deal.

    ``Jon was just too valuable, he could help us too many ways right away, to pass him up.''

    .....Alston will be reunited with former Cardinal safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, whom the Rams took with the 66th pick last year.

    Linehan said he envisions Alston assuming a linebacker/safety hybrid role similar to that of Adam Archuleta, whom the Rams allowed to leave as a free agent after last season. Alston can rush the passer -- he made 16 sacks the past two seasons -- and also can drop into coverage in third-down pass situations. He is also being counted on to bolster the Rams' special-teams units.

    ``He's a guy that gives us a lot of versatility,'' Linehan said. ``Where I see him is someday being a superstar on special teams. I think he will be one of those guys that makes a bigger impact initially in that area and then works his way on the field on special downs and third downs.''

    Alston said he looks forward to the challenge.

    ``I'm going to do a lot of things for them,'' Alston said. ``I'll do whatever any team asks me to do. Whatever it is, I am a defensive player first, and I play football. You can stick me at cornerback and I will make plays for you.''
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Letters to Gordo: Fans rate the Rams' draft

    These attacks on Wroten's character are really unjustified. I have only had the pleasure of meeting him once, but he was one of the nicest guys that I have spoken too. He made a mistake and considering the time frame, it does appear to be a one time thing. He is a bigger guy, so the marijuana would stay in his system longer.

    Wroten is going to be a great player given time. He's going to learn a lot from Glover, and I believe that he will one day be one of the top five Defensive Tackles in the league.
    The Roman and The Prince. Playmakers until the end.


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