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Rams bolster interior line on both sides of ball
ST. LOUIS - The second day of the NFL draft was a success for the St. Louis Rams before it even began.
The Rams used fifth-round picks to acquire two players who are expected to be major contributors, return man Dante Hall and defensive end James Hall. On Sunday, they traded their fourth-round pick to the Lions for a pair of fifth-rounders, including the one they sent to Detroit for James Hall, while focusing on roster depth.
"One way of looking at it is essentially we were able to get Dante Hall and James Hall for a fourth-round pick," coach Scott Linehan said. "That was a no-brainer.
"I feel real good about the direction we're going as far as our roster."
The Rams took Clemson center Dustin Fry with the 139th overall selection and Michigan State defensive tackle Clifton Ryan 15 picks later in the fifth, adding interior line depth on both sides of the ball.
St. Louis selected Georgia offensive tackle Ken Shackleford in the sixth round. With a pair of compensatory picks in the seventh, the Rams took Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson and Wisconsin-Whitewater wide receiver Derek Stanley. Jackson is the son of former NFL tight end Keith Jackson.
The 6-2, 314-pound Fry's brawling style has been compared with that of Rams guard Richie Incognito. Linehan said his background as a former high school state wrestling champion gives him natural leverage.
He was a three-year starter at Clemson, impressing the Rams at the Senior Bowl, the combine and in an extensive interview. The Rams' center job shapes up as a battle between Andy McCollum, who missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury, and Brett Romberg, but the team thinks Fry also can provide depth at guard.
"His claim to fame coming out of college was knockdowns and pancake blocks," Linehan said. "You've got to have a little nastiness in you do that.
"This guy likes to take it to another level and I don't mind those qualities, especially at that position."
Linehan leaned on new Rams assistant coach Mike Cox for the pick of Ryan, 6-2 and 310 pounds, later in the fifth.
"That's one of those extra tools you've got to utilize," Linehan said. "His background was very valuable."
One of Ryan's high school coaches in Saginaw, Mich., was former St. Louis standout Tony Van Zant, one of the city's best prospects ever, but whose college career at Missouri was derailed by a series of knee injuries. Ryan referred to him as "Touchdown Tony" Van Zant.
"I've seen his highlight tape," Ryan said. "He was real talented."
Linehan and Ryan talked at a pro workout for Michigan. Ryan had attended the workout to support some friends.
"I grew up with those guys and came out to support them," Ryan said. "At the same time I had an opportunity to meet NFL coaches and NFL scouts and give them a chance to know Cliff Ryan the person as well as the football player."
Missouri defensive Brian Smith, the school's career sack leader, was taken in the fourth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smith, who had 7 1-2 sacks as a senior and 31 1/2 for his career, missed the second half of his senior season with a broken right hip.
"It's a dream come true," Smith said. "I'm ready to go right now."
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