Rams Fill More Needs on Day Two
Saturday, April 28, 2007
By Nick Wagoner
On the second day of the draft, nobody really knows exactly what they are getting, but many times teams use the final rounds to fortify positions of need. And that’s precisely what the Rams did with their final selections.
The Rams got active on the trade market Sunday. All told, the team added a lot to the roster Sunday and by a lot, it means almost 1,000 pounds of human and that was just their first three picks of the day.
Without a pick in the fifth round after trades netting Detroit defensive end James Hall and Kansas City returner Dante Hall, the Rams decided to get back into the round Sunday morning.
St. Louis sent its fourth-round choice to Detroit for a pair of fifth-round picks, including one that originally was owned by the Rams (given to Detroit earlier this year in the trade for Hall). With the 139th pick, the Rams grabbed Clemson center Dustin Fry. They followed by taking Michigan State defensive tackle Clifton Ryan.
“One way of looking at it is that essentially we were able to get Dante Hall and James Hall for a fourth round pick,” coach Scott Linehan said. “If you had said we were going to get Dante Hall, James Hall and (punter) Donnie Jones on the second day before we even started I would have been pretty happy. So I feel really good about the direction we are going as far as our roster.”
In Fry, the Rams grabbed a player capable of immediately coming into a situation where he can compete for a starting job. The Rams have Brett Romberg and Andy McCollum in place and that duo is expected to duke it out during training camp for the starting job.
“I talked to one of the coaches briefly and was told if I come in and play, he has no problem playing me,” Fry said. “If it’s in the cards for me to play this year, I’ll be happy. If it’s not in the cards, I’ll be happy to sit and learn for a year.”
But Fry is capable of playing center and guard and has the wide frame and punch to make a difference in training camp and potentially push for the job. At Clemson, Fry developed into a dominant center, particularly in the running game.
“He is a very physical player and an accomplished center that can play guard which is a no brainer when it comes to what you are looking for as an interior player,” Linehan said.
At 6’2, 314 pounds, Fry is a big, aggressive type that reminds many scouts of Rams guard Richie Incognito. A former state champion wrestler, Fry became a starter at center for the Tigers as a sophomore.
By the time he was done, Fry played 47 games with 36 starts, posting 171 knockdowns.
“His claim to fame coming out of college was his knockdowns and pancake blocks and you have to have a bit of nastiness to you to do that,” Linehan said. “This guy likes to take it to another level. I don’t mind those qualities, especially at that position.”
Still, Fry is one of the most physically imposing linemen in the draft and was rated by some scouting services as one of the top three centers. Fry’s ability to play guard in addition to center only adds to his value and means he is probably in good shape when it comes to landing a roster spot.
“He will fit in nicely and compete right away for both center and guard spots as far as roster spots and we’ll see where it goes from there,” Linehan said.
With the other fifth-round choice, the Rams added what appears to be a defensive version of Fry. Ryan is a big (6’2, 310 pounds), powerful defensive tackle who grew into the nose tackle position for the Spartans.
“His natural position is nose (tackle),” Linehan said. “He has the things you are looking for as far as defending the A gap and occupying the space and blockers. He doesn’t have a whole lot of problems doing that.”
Ryan, who is originally from Saginaw, Mich., was coached by Tony Van Zant, former star running back at St. Louis’ Hazelwood Central High, when Ryan attended Arthur Hill High. Ironically, Ryan became familiar with the Rams’ coaching staff at Michigan’s pro day.
Ryan visited the Michigan pro day after going through his own workouts earlier. He met with Linehan at that time and got the feeling that the Rams might be interested in grabbing him in a later round.
“He is very stout,” Linehan said. “You can’t move him out of there. He’s aggressive. He was a hard guy to knock off the ball and that’s the first quality you are looking at in a defensive lineman.”
For the Rams, Ryan is expected to come in and compete for a spot at defensive tackle. With Adam Carriker, Claude Wroten, La’Roi Glover and Jimmy Kennedy in place, Ryan will be given the opportunity to work for a spot at nose tackle.
Interestingly, Ryan was originally recruited to Michigan State as a middle linebacker. In the course of about four years, he gained 70 pounds and suddenly became a defensive tackle.
“I didn’t think I would ever get to 300 pounds when I was in high school,” Ryan said. “I entered high school at like 215 and my last year of college I was about 315. If you had asked me five years ago, I would have told you I was the next Ray Lewis.”
In the sixth round, the Rams grabbed Georgia offensive tackle Ken Shackleford with pick No. 190. At 6’5, 322 pounds, Shackleford gives the Rams a big, powerful tackle prospect.
Shackleford started for one season for the Bulldogs, but showed flashes of potential that could one day make him a solid NFL tackle. After three seasons in waiting, Shackleford finally got an opportunity to start in 2006, working in at the right tackle spot.
He started every game as a senior and had 52 knockdown blocks. While the Rams are set at tackle with Orlando Pace, Alex Barron and Todd Steussie, there was certainly a need for a developmental prospect at tackle. Linehan sees Shackleford as the perfect fit for a player to develop at the position.
“He’s going to take some time on the job,” Linehan said. “He’s the kind of guy that you could really see develop into the type of player you see starting at tackle each Sunday. When he starts his first game for us remains to be seen, but I believe over time if he works hard he will put himself in position to be on the active roster at some point in the next couple of years.”
The Rams entered the seventh round with just two compensatory picks near the bottom of the draft. With those two picks, the team grabbed Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson and Wisconsin-Whitewater receiver Derek Stanley.
Jackson is the son of the former NFL star tight end of the same name. Stanley is on the small side, but has the speed and versatility worth taking a flyer on.
Re: Rams Fill More Needs on Day Two
I'm pretty pleased with the selections, I think they addressed the two major parts of any team, offensive and defensive lines. I hope Ryan pushes Kennedy for the starting NT job, and it looks like Fry will be in the mix for the starting center spot. It all begins in the trenches, that's the core of any team.