Rams stock up on undrafted rookies
BY JIM THOMAS
Rams general manager Les Snead says that in any given year, about 16 percent of the starting players in the NFL entered the league as undrafted rookies.
If Snead's math holds up, and the Rams' scouting department did its homework, three to four players from this year's crop of rookie free agents will end up starting in the league. Although the Rams have yet to release their list, 23 undrafted rookies have either signed or agreed to terms with the team so far. A few more are expected to be added to the list before the team's rookie minicamp next week.
That's more undrafted rookies than the Rams usually sign, but only because the NFL decided to increase the offseason/training camp roster size to 90 players — or 10 more than usual — shortly before the draft. Even so, the Rams have signed so many undrafted rookies that they've had to release some veterans to stay within the 90-man limit.
Five players were released Monday: tight end Demarco Cosby, defensive tackle John Henderson, cornerback Nate Ness, running back Quinn Porter and cornerback Chris Smith.
• Cosby, from Central Missouri State, spent two weeks on the Rams' practice squad last year.
• Henderson spent the entire 2011 season on the practice squad.
• After an earlier stint on the practice squad, Ness appeared in four late-season games but registered no stats.
• Porter shared kickoff return duties with Jerious Norwood last season, averaging 22.2 yards on 25 returns, with a long of 32 yards.
• After an earlier stint on the practice squad, Smith appeared in three late-season games, registering one tackle from scrimmage and two special teams tackles.
Coach Jeff Fisher is a firm believer in mining talent from the ranks of the undrafted. "It's a very, very important process," he said.
There are several potential nuggets among the rookie free agents already headed to St. Louis. (The Rams are expected to release the official list today.)
For example, the Rams had a draftable grade on Duke safety Matt Daniels, who was team MVP in 2011 and the first Blue Devils safety to earn All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honors since 1995. He's 6-0, 212, and ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds at Duke's pro day. He had 126 tackles, two interceptions and 14 pass breakups last season, and has a reputation as a physical tackler.
Perhaps the most surprising draft development at Louisiana State was that tight end DeAngelo Peterson did not get drafted. But he will be thrown into the tight end mix with the Rams. At 6-3, 243, Peterson lacks ideal size and has average speed (4.76) for the position. On a team without a great passing game, he caught 18 passes for 179 yards last season.
The Rams attempted to address their shortage of linebackers by adding undrafted rookies Sammy Brown of Houston, Derrick Choice of Stephen F. Austin, Alex Hoffman-Ellis of Washington State, and Noah Keller of Ohio.
Brown led the nation in tackles for loss (30), while also registering 13½ sacks for Houston. He's 6-2, 242 and ran a 4.63 at his pro day. Hoffman-Ellis was named Washington State's defensive MVP for the 2011 season after recording 88 tackles and two sacks, and returning his only interception for a touchdown.
Among the other free agents joining the Rams, quarterback Austin Davis threw for 3,496 yards and 30 TDs last season and broke many of Brett Favre's career passing records at Southern Mississippi. Running back Nick Schwieger is Dartmouth's career leader in rushing yards (3,150) and all-purpose yards (4,115).
Center and guard T-Bob Hebert of LSU is the son of former New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Bobby Hebert. Long snapper Travis Tripucka of Massachusetts is the son of former Notre Dame basketball star and NBA player Kelly Tripucka. Offensive tackle Joe Long of Wayne State (Mich.) is the younger brother of former NFL No. 1 overall draft pick Jake Long of the Miami Dolphins.
Re: Rams stock up on undrafted rookies
I've always felt like virtually every championship team has at least one undrafted player who turned into a star. We had Kurt Warner and London Fletcher. Last year's Giants team had Victor Cruz.
With the expanded camp rosters, teams can now bring in more UDFAs, so we may see more diamonds in the rough. Hopefully, one of them will be ours.
Re: Rams stock up on undrafted rookies
I like how aggressive this FO was in working the phones and getting these guys to make a commitment. It's a numbers game if you ask me, Rd 6 and 7 we select two or three players vs adding 23 undrafted rookies. I'm sure some of these UDFA had grades of late 6th or 7th rounds on them. The likelihood of hitting on the 3 late picks vs the 23 UDFA has to favor the 23 UDFA.
I have not seen the Rams ever move that fast after the draft. Fisher made that comment in the press conference after the draft. He complement Les and his scouts for getting so many players to agree to terms and one of the media members said, you already have these players committed and Fisher said yes.
I'm really impressed with how hard, smart and how aggressive the FO has been this off season... I hope it shows up on the field.