Rams go for bulk in later rounds
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Apr. 30 2007
Day 2 of the NFL draft was all about the trenches at Rams Park.
Here's the beef. After trading out of the fourth round and picking up a pair of
fifth-rounders in the process from Detroit, the Rams added nearly a half-ton of
linemen in the span of about two hours.
First came center Dustin Fry of Clemson, listed at 6 feet 2½, 314 pounds,
selected early in the fifth round. Next came defensive tackle Clifton Ryan of
Michigan State, 6-2½, 310, taken midway through the fifth. Midway through the
sixth, offensive tackle Ken Shackleford of Georgia, 6-5, 322, became a Ram.
The Rams paused for a couple of hours, all the way down to the compensatory
pick portion of the seventh round ... and took another 300-pounder. Namely,
Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson Jr., the son of the former Oklahoma
All-American and six-time Pro Bowl tight end.
So what's with all the, uh, husky fellows?
"It worked out that way," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "As you're going
through it, you're trying to add players, keep accumulating talent for your
football team. At the same time, you want to address some areas that you need
to address on your team."
Fry and Shackleford add depth on the offensive line. At center, Andy McCollum
turns 37 in June, is coming off knee surgery and is entering the final year of
his contract. It's quite possible this will be McCollum's final NFL season, with
Fry being groomed as his successor at a position that also includes Brett
A two-year starter at center for Clemson, Fry isn't much of a technician, and
isn't particularly adept at blocking in space. But he is a big, physical mauler
whose style of play has been compared to current Rams guard Richie Incognito.
"His claim to fame coming out of college was his knockdowns and pancake blocks,
and those kind of things," Linehan said of Fry. "You've got to have a little
nastiness in you to do that. Some guys 'position block' and do a good job of
that. But this guy likes to take it to another level. I don't mind those
qualities, especially at that position."
Shackleford, who started only one year at Georgia, will be groomed as the
team's eventual third tackle behind starters Orlando Pace and Alex Barron. Todd
Steussie currently mans the No. 3 spot and played surprisingly well as a
tackle-guard swingman last season. But he is 36 and is working on a one-year
Shackleford is "raw," Linehan said. "I think that's a fair assessment. But he's
willing. And he's got some exceptional things that he does. He uses his size to
his advantage. And as he works on his ability to move and anticipate things and
recognize things, I think you'll see a great deal of improvement from this
On defense, the Rams are hoping that either Michigan State's Ryan or Arkansas'
Jackson can work his way into the line rotation at tackle. Ryan was switched
from his natural position — nose tackle — to the "3-technique" spot last season
for the Spartans. Bothered by a calf strain during the season, he posted only
25 tackles, but four of them were sacks.
"He's stout," Linehan said. "He was a hard guy to knock off the ball. That's
really the first quality you're looking at in a defensive lineman."
Jackson had two productive seasons as a starter for the Razorbacks, with 74
tackles in '05 and 79 tackles last season. He's listed officially as 6-0, 292
pounds, so he's hardly ideal size for the defensive tackle position,
particularly nose tackle, which is where the Rams plan to use him. In
anticipation of playing the nose in the NFL, Jackson has bulked up to 305.
"Maybe he doesn't hit every measurable you are trying to look for as far as
height and weight, but he does pass the film test," Linehan said.
Between the game film and Jackson's pro day workout, Linehan said, "He showed
he was a great competitor and someone you want on your team, and someone that
would be hard to cut if you drafted him."
The Rams' final pick of the day was wide receiver Derek Stanley of NCAA
Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, taken one spot behind Jackson in the seventh
round at No. 249 overall. Stanley is small at 5-10, 172, but has 4.4 speed and
was very productive at the small-college level. Over the course of his college
career, he played offense and defense and returned kicks but was used almost
exclusively at wide receiver over his final two seasons. His numbers were
eye-opening in '06, with 63 catches for 1,141 yards and 17 touchdowns. He
averaged 18.1 yards per catch and will compete for the No. 5 wide receiver spot
in training camp.
The three players selected in the fifth and six rounds all have some
connections to the Rams or the St. Louis area. Fry is a former Clemson teammate
of Tye Hill and competed against Hill's cousin in the shot put in South
Carolina. Shackleford knows linebacker Will Witherspoon and tight end Randy
McMichael, both former Georgia Bulldogs.
Michigan State's Fry is good friends with Tony VanZant, the legendary running
back out of Hazelwood Central High in the 1980s who now coaches prep football