BY JEFF GORDON
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
05/01/2006

So how did the Rams REALLY do with their draft this weekend?

National experts largely agreed with Post-Dispatch beat writer Jim Thomas, seeing the ’06 class as a mixed bag.

The football staff’s decision-making wasn’t terrible this weekend, but it didn’t appear inspired, either. The team added some interesting prospects, filled some needs -– but also took some gambles that left some of the insiders scratching their heads.

Here is how some of America’s most respected NFL analysts viewed the Rams:




Mel Kiper, ESPN.com, C+: “I like some things the Rams did -- like taking CB Tye Hill -- but they gambled on defensive tackle Claude Wroten in the third round. They got two very good tight ends in Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd, although Byrd dropped because of concerns about his knees. Jon Alston is a fast outside linebacker while ILB Tim McGarigle will help out on special teams.”


Pete Prisco, CBS Sportsline, A: “Best pick: They traded down in the first round and still landed the corner they wanted to get in Tye Hill. That's good drafting. Worst pick: Using a third-round pick on defensive tackle Claude Wroten is a risky move considering all the character flaws. Overall: They drafted a lot of good football players. Hill will start, as will either Joe Klopfenstein or Dominique Byrd at tight end.”


John Czarnecki, FoxSports.com, C: “Rookie head coach Scott Linehan shocked the NFL by taking two players with questionable character in LSU defensive tackle Claude Wroten and USC TE Dominique Byrd. However, both are very good players and Wroten, who tested positive for marijuana at the combine, could become a dominant player if he can stay clean. They wanted him and traded down in order to get him, too. Colorado TE Joe Klopfenstein was a very good pick and allowed them to trade Brandon Manumaleuna to the Chargers. Marques Hagans of Virginia will help the Rams as a punt returner. He played quarterback and has been compared to Antwaan Randle-El. There were concerns that Stanford's Jon Alston doesn't like to play football, and they took him with the 77th overall choice.”


Dan Pompei, Sporting News: B+: “The roster is considerably more talented than it was a week ago. Defensive tackle Claude Wroten is a wonderful player, but he was a risk in the third because of character.”


Ron Borges, NBCSports.com, B: “The Rams wanted either Broderick Bunkley or Clemson's Tye Hill. They gambled by trading down and lost Binkley. But they're OK with Hill. St. Louis seemed to reach a little bit with Colorado tight end Joe Klopfenstein of Colorado in the second round. He was projected as a late second rounder or early third. What made the pick more strange was taking USC tight end Dominique Byrd near the end of the third round. What was that all about? LSU defensive tackle Claude Wroten was a good pick later in the third, though. His talent warranted a higher selection but other problems made him a risk.”


John McClain, Houston Chronicle, B minus: “They traded down and still got CB Tye Hill, who should start from day one. Then they selected two of the best tight ends available, Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd. Both are better receivers than blockers. DT Claude Wroten might have been a first-round pick if he didn't have off-the-field problems. LB Jon Alston could contribute off the bench and excel on special teams.”


Robert Davis, FootballFuture.com, B: Best Pick: Claude Wroten. A first-round talent, but slid due to some character concerns. Excellent value in the third. Worst Pick: Joe Klopfenstein. Too early for Klopfenstein, and they Rams landed a better TE in Dominique Byrd in the third round. Second Day Steal: Victor Adeyanju. Adeyanju has a lot of potential, and could have landed in the third round. Overall: Claude Wroten, and Jon Alston were very good pickups. Drafting two one-dimensional tight ends on Day One makes you think.”


Don Pierson, Chicago Tribune, C: “Hill, Wroten, Alston and Adeyanju all have opportunity to contribute immediately to the 30th-ranked defense. Wroten had off-field issues that scared other teams. New coach Scott Linehan obviously intends to get a pass-catching tight end involved in his offense, adding both Klopfenstein and Byrd to an arsenal full of wide receiver talent and trading incumbent tight end Brandon Manumaleuna to San Diego.”


Jarrett Bell, USA Today, two stars: “They traded down in the first round and grabbed small-but-fast CB Tye Hill. Delivered on promise to bolster tight end crew with Joe Klopfenstein. DT Claude Wroten has first-round talent wrapped in off-the-field issues. Fifth-round WR Marques Hagans converts from quarterback.”


All in all, this consensus is neither a ringing endorsement of the Rams draft or a stinging indictment. We’ll have a better handle on the team once we see if Wroten stays out of trouble.

Also, we need to see if Linehan will add another veteran tight end to replace Manumaleuna -– or if the Rams will trust their kids to learn that blocking is half of their job.