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Rams Draft: Throw Away the Report Cards
Rams Draft: Throw Away the Report Cards
By Bernie Miklasz
04/27/2008 8:54 pm
Good (Sunday) evening…
I’ve never understood why fans of a team worry about what some ESPN or NFL Network say in declaring instant judgment on that team’s draft.
Of all the foolish things in sports, one of silliest are these immediate report cards that pop up only hours after the NFL completes its annual draft. And worse than that, some fans want to believe that an instant draft grade is the end all in determining success or failure. They get outraged for no reason… or celebrate … for no logical reason.
Sorry — I’m gonna watch the kids play for a year or two, and then we can talk about grades.
No one has flunked yet. No one has made the Dean’s list.
No one has even put a helmet on yet, for cripe’s sake.
How the heck does anyone know about the quality of the Rams draft when the players haven’t signed, haven’t been fitted for a uniform, haven’t practiced, haven’t made the team, haven’t played in a real game, haven’t gone through an entire season?
What’s the point?
It was crazy to see the hysterical reaction Saturday when the Rams drafteHouston wide receiver Donnie Avery in the second round. You’d think that the team had drafted Clyde Duncan, or something. Why? Because Mel Kiper said taking Avery at No. 33 was a reach. Therefore, gullible fans believed it to be true. Other draft services had good marks on Avery, but since Mel is a celebrity draftnik, and he’s on TV, well it means that everything must be as he says it is … right? TV is the God of a dumbed-down culture.
Meanwhile, a hard-working draft guy like Russ Lande Jr. of The Sporting News’ “War Room” had it scoped out ahead of time. Lande, a former NFL scout, is on the phone a lot, working the GMs and scouts and personnel people. And on April 24, Lande wrote that there was a lot of buzz about Avery, and that he was moving up the charts, and was into the second round, and could even get into the first round. In other words, Lande had it figured out. He wasn’t caught off guard, the way some of the other so-called experts were. And just because other so-called experts failed to detect Avery’s huge upward move on NFL draft boards, that doesn’t mean the Rams were wrong to draft him. I’m not saying Lande is right about Avery, either. But at least I know the guy was doing his homework up until the draft started.
I have no idea if Avery will be a bust, or a star.
But I can see at least why the Rams viewed Avery as a fit.
The Rams wideouts were slow last year — and this kid has great speed.
The Rams wideouts got few yards after the catch last season — and Avery got good marks for his runs after the catch. (By the way, for the naysayers who point out that Avery played in a non BCS Conference, therefore his yards after the catch don’t mean much because they came against weaker competition. Really? Last season, among the top 15 wideouts in the NFL in yards after the catch, you could find players from Western Michigan (Greg Jennings), Northwest Oklahoma State (Patrick Crayton), Alabama-Birmingham (Roddy White), Central Florida (Brandon Marshall), Alcorn State (Donald Driver) and Utah (Steve Smith).
New offensive coordinator Al Saunders wanted vertical speed, which the Rams lack — and Avery has it.
Saunders wanted a WR he could put in the slot, and force the DBs to account for his great downfield speed — instead of safeties cheating up to stop the run or take away the intermediate pass routes.
The great Henry Ellard (Rams receivers coach) gave Avery a high grade.
So why in the world would anyone get their pants bunched up because Mel Kiper didn’t like the pick? The same fans who were throwing tantrums last year when Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce and Drew Bennett would make a catch and fall down are among the same people now snarling about the Rams drafting a 4.29 speed guy with a history of production, and an ability to make things happen after the catch.
I also laughed at those who declared that Avery would have been there in the third round.
Not a chance.
There was a wild run on wideouts in the second round… 10 wideouts went off the board in round two. And if the Rams hadn’t popped Avery at No. 33 overall, there is no way he would have lasted the rest of the round. He would have been long gone; someone would have taken a chance on that speed.
Again: this doesn’t mean Avery will be just what the Rams need. All of these WRs had flaws in some way; that’s why none were taken in the first round. Still, there’s no question that Avery brings an interesting mix to the field.
I also went back to read what draftniks had to say after the 1994 draft, when the Rams chose a WR in the second round, and No. 33. Just like Avery. And their choice of that wideout was largely panned as a “reach.”
The receiver’s name?
Look, the Rams haven’t had a great recent draft history… which is why they recruited Billy Devaney to run things, and this was his first draft. Maybe this draft will stink in a couple of years. Maybe it will look great in two years. But for now it appears that the Rams landed a winner in Chris Long and a potential game-changer in Avery. They tried to add depth at the OL. They added another receiver, Keenan Burton, which really gives the team a chance to freshen up a tired WR group. Didn’t we all agree they needed some younger, faster legs at WR?
Will these new Rams pay off, or will they fade away?
I have no idea. Neither does Kiper or anyone else.
Let the players play.
And we’ll watch.
And then we’ll know.
And in a couple of years, we can bring out the damned report cards.
Thanks for reading…
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Re: Rams Draft: Throw Away the Report Cards
Very, very good article. I don't agree with him saying that people were mad because they didn't think that Avery was a good pick at number 33, I am mad that they took a smaller WR who is all speed and is already 25 with every other available WR on the board still.
Im starting to change my opinion after this article, but I will just wait on it and see how he pans out.
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