BY JEFF GORDON
Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
Wednesday, May. 04 2005

Rams coach Mike Martz has brought his draft class to Rams Park and put the kids
through the paces, double-checking what his picks brought the franchise.

On balance, fans seem pretty satisfied with how the offseason is shaping up.
Here are some more opinions from Rams Nation, received via electronic mail:


* * *

“I'm not always sold on what the Rams do, and they can be frustrating at times,
but I like their approach this year. They aren't overspending for free agents,
and they addressed needs on defense and the offensive line in the draft. Are
there any Pro Bowlers in there? Maybe, maybe not. Are we a more aggressive,
deeper and more talented team than in 2004? Absolutely. Will our special teams
be better? You would hope!

“Given our offensive core and defensive line talent (still waiting to live up
to expectations), this offseason was not about being splashy, it was about
making quality gains across the board, and I am satisfied the Rams did that.
Now it's up to the coaching staff. To me, the talent is there, it's the
coaching I worry about. Still, the Rams should have a very good 2005. Though
it's hard to argue with your 10-6 prediction, I'll up it to 11-5.”

-- Matthew Tillstrom


GORDO: Great point about the coaching needing to make the difference this
season. The linebackers, the safeties, the defensive line -– there is more the
Rams can get from players at every position. We put so much emphasis on the
draft and free agency, but the position coaching is SO critical.


* * *

“Just a few comments regarding one e-mailer's request to say who and why other
consideration should have been given to alternative picks. First of all, we
don't have a strong presence on the defensive line. Dan Cody being available
when the Rams picked second would have been a great replacement for Grant
Wistrom. Leonard Little still needs help and a rah-rah guy like Cody (even
though he's a hybrid) would help stabilize the other side of the line.

Secondly, the third pick should have gone to a guy like Antonio Perkins, a
cover man and a great punt/kickoff returner. When's the last time we had a
runback for a touchdown on a punt or kickoff? Probably Ronald Bartell would
have been still on the board when our fourth pick came due. I don't have a
problem with Barron. He appeared to be the best available and an offensive
line presence is sorely needed.”

-- Mick Tavernit, Slidell, La.


GORDO: I believe Anthony Hargove can replace Grant Wistrom, although the loss
of Bryce Fisher puts a bunch more pressure on him. Who knows if he can hold up
as an every-down guy?

As for the kick returner, later the Rams invested some money in veteran Terry
Fair. I’m not sure about that move, given the rust that has accumulated on him.


* * *

“How much longer do we have to put up with these BAD drafts? Please keep
printing how bad the draft was this year for the Rams compared to Seattle and
Arizona -- now they both know how to draft.”

-- Jack Olms, Tucson, Ariz.


GORDO: No question, the Cardinals have drafted better with Dennis Green in the
house. I believe the Gridbirds can be a playoff threat as early as this season.
Seattle, I’m not so sure about. That team entered the winter with SO many
issues to address.


* * *

“If our team goes 8-8, it won't be because of our draft picks this year or
because Mel Kiper said we got a C. I'm sick to my stomach by these analysts
and all the talk over the draft. It's almost depressing how stupid the draft
is these days . . . and the grades and analysts. Torry Holt was a better
analyst than Kiper or the other guys hands down. He had more insight and
called the picks better than anyone sitting at that table.”

-- Nick Reinhardt


GORDO: Holt did do a very nice job. He has played the game, of course, and he
did enough homework to make some sense when he spoke. It was nice to hear from
the various NFL players in addition to the draft experts who study tape and
phone other draft experts.


* * *

“The Rams hammered out their two biggest weaknesses, offensive line and
defensive backs. Why is that a bad draft, to lean toward need given the fact
the Rams are a playoff team and not rebuilding (say the Titans)? I think the
‘experts’ get too caught up in their own predictions and when they are wrong
they figure everyone else is foolish. Instead, they should be putting more
weight on team needs as it isn't their butts on the line when next season
crumbles.

“I'd rather they reach from a round down and get someone they need, versus
getting the best value player that may not fit into the team for years. Timing
is everything in the salary cap era to assemble a team to win it all . . .

“Also, Mel Kiper is an idiot.”

-- Charles Koenig


GORDO: Kiper knows his stuff, of course, but he falls in love with his own
assessments. He also likes some franchises more than others, probably based on
the amount of cooperation he gets from scouts and general managers. Charley
Armey has stated he doesn’t have much use for the draft experts, which may
explain why the draft experts go out of their way to dog the Rams.


* * *

“A disinterested and passive Alex Barron can NOT be worse than that turnstile
we dealt with last year at right tackle. The Rams filled needs with players
that got positive reviews in most draft publications and with ‘experts,’ even
though those same experts now give them grades of ‘C’ and ‘D’ on their
drafting. I guess only time will tell if guys like Channing Crowder, Brandon
Browner and Elton Brown (top ranked by ‘experts’ and whose stock in draft began
to free fall unexpectedly) will be guys the Rams should have jumped at.”

-- Steve Bradshaw, Tampa


GORDO: Barron has the opportunity to be great, particularly in this scheme. He
ought to be a good pass blocker after just a little bit of work. Learning the
offense will be a challenge, of course, but we expect Mad Mike to simplify some
things until Alex is mre comfortable. His physical ability is quite unusual.

Elsewhere in the draft, the Rams consistently went after guys with the bigger
upsides or the physical ability to help on special teams. Since this is NOT a
rebuilding team, as noted earlier, then that was an acceptable approach to
take.


* * *

“How do you think the Rams will deal with Alex Barron's comment that he does
not want to play on the right side because he is a left tackle?”

-- Michael Hudson


GORDO: He’ll learn to like the right side because he’ll have no other choice as
long as Orlando Pace is around. He seems like a quite guy who isn’t going to go
Kyle Turley on the coaching staff.