Wednesday, May 10, 2006

After being extremely active in free agency, filling many of their needs and adding talent at a number of positions, the Rams moved on to the NFL Draft.

The team entered the draft with the 11th pick in the first round and targeted help in all areas of the defense and a few spots on offense.

One area coach Scott Linehan wanted to remake on offense was tight end. By the end of the draft, no position underwent greater change than tight end and the Rams also added depth on the interior of the offensive line and a dynamic potential punt returner.

A look at the players drafted for the offense:


Joe Klopfenstein, TE, Colorado

Scouting Report: Taken with the 46th pick in the draft (second round), Klopfenstein was the first of two tight ends the team drafted on the first day. Klopfenstein is a do-it-all type of player that can block and catch equally well. He has good speed (clocked in the 4.5 range in the 40-yard dash) and excellent size (6’6). For the Buffaloes, Klopfenstein had 86 catches for 1,076 yards and 13 touchdowns.

What Coach Linehan Says: “I think he can compete to start right away. It is hard to guarantee that a guy will start right away; he has to earn a spot. We think he has the talent for it and he will be in the mix right from the beginning.”

Where he fits: Should make a run for the starting job and become an immediate contributor to Linehan’s offense. Klopfenstein could be especially enticing as a target in the red zone and gives Marc Bulger a nice safety outlet should his receivers be covered.

Dominique Byrd, TE, USC

Scouting Report: Drafted with the 93rd pick (third round), Byrd is a different type of tight end than Klopfenstein. While Byrd didn’t stretch the field as a Trojan, he had perhaps the best hands of any tight end in the draft, according to some observers. Many remember Byrd for some of the spectacular catches he made against Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl. Byrd is another player who could have an immediate impact in the red zone and gave the Rams enough options at the position to trade incumbent Brandon Manumaleuna to the San Diego Chargers.

What Coach Linehan Says: “He is kind of a universal move guy, if that makes any sense. He can play on the line type tight end like he did at USC. He is one of those guys that kind of has a niche. The red zone is something he could be pretty good at. He is an excellent athlete and has very good movements and can catch some stuff that other guys miss.”

Where he fits: Will compete with Klopfenstein for the starting job. Could be utilized nearly as much as Klopfenstein. Byrd can complement Klopfenstein as an in line player and the two can easily be utilized in tandem for two tight end sets.

Marques Hagans, WR, Virginia

Scouting Report: The Rams selected Hagans with the 144th choice (fifth round). Hagans played all over the field for the Cavaliers, with his last two seasons coming as the team’s quarterback. Hagans has good speed, but the Rams coveted him for his elusiveness and ability to make the first tackler miss on punt returns. He returned punts his first two years at Virginia, averaging 9.3 yards. Hagans was rated as one of the top return men on the Rams’ board.

What Coach Linehan Says: “I think his natural position is at the punt returner, but punt returners can also be kick returners or be the return specialist for a team. He gives you one of those toys on offense. You can put him in there and he plays something one play and something else the other play.”

Where he fits: Hagans is one of the leading candidates to take over the team’s punt returner job, a role that has been ever-changing in recent years. He could also be worked in as a receiver, runner and even occasionally throwing the ball.

Mark Setterstrom, G, Minnesota

Scouting Report: The Rams used the first of their seventh-round compensatory picks (No. 242) on the 314-pound guard from Minnesota. Setterstrom was a key ingredient to one of the nation’s top running games in his time with the Gophers. He started all four years at Minnesota and became the backbone for a ground game that has sent Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney on to the NFL. Setterstrom is a tough, agile guard with a great understanding of blocking schemes and fundamentals.

What Coach Linehan Says: “Mark was one of those guys that never missed a practice, never missed a game, one of those guys that you really just root for, one heck of a player (and) 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.”

Where he fits: Setterstrom probably fell in the draft more than he should have, but could turn out to be one of the steals of the draft. He will be involved in a hotly contested battle for a spot on the interior line. With Adam Timmerman, Claude Terrell and Richie Incognito as the top candidates for the starting jobs, he will likely be in the mix for a backup role.

Tony Palmer, G, Missouri

Scouting Report: The Rams selected Palmer with the second of their compensatory picks, using No. 243 on the quasi-local product who played collegiately 90-odd miles away. Like Setterstrom, Palmer was a key to one of the most successful running games in the NCAA for the past few years. While Palmer worked in a different system than Setterstrom, he earned a reputation for his ability to get into linemen and get to the second level. A good run blocker with solid athleticism.

What the Coach Says: “(He’s) a guy that is the true definition of a road grader. That’s what Tony is and he’s going to give us another guy to evaluate and look at in there and see if we’re on to something here. He definitely passed the film test and did very well when we had a chance to test him and interview him during his time here.”

Where he fits: Palmer is going to be a part of a difficult and loaded competition for a roster spot. He will likely battle Setterstrom, Ben Noll and Blaine Saipaia and possibly others for a spot.