Defenders praise top draft choices
BY STEVE KORTE
ST. LOUIS - Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa can certainly empathize with a couple members of the St. Louis Rams' 2006 draft class.
Tinoisamoa knows what it's like to have people question whether he has the size to be successful in the NFL like cornerback Tye Hill.
Hill, the 15th overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, is bit undersized by NFL standards at 5-foot-9 1/2 and 185 pounds.
"I'm 5-foot-11 and I play linebacker," Tinoisamoa said. "I think it's the same kind of questions that they had with me. Is he big enough?"'
Tinoisamoa believes Hill, of Clemson, is big enough to cover the big receivers in the NFL.
"It's a great pick," Tinoisamoa said. "I was excited. I didn't anticipate that pick, but once I saw it, I kind of got a better feel for what they're trying to do (on defense)."
Tinoisamoa also knows what it's like to be considered a character risk like defensive tackle Claude Wroten.
Wroten, a third-round pick out of LSU, was arrested earlier this year and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
"I was small, and I had a bad rep," said Tinoisamoa, who had run into trouble with the law when he was in high school. "We have a good team. Everyone knows that the Rams are known for their character. Just get him in here, and we'll do the rest. We'll make sure he doesn't get into trouble."
Tinoisamoa said his lack of size had a greater effect on his draft status -- he went to the Rams in the second round with the 43rd overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft -- than concerns over his background.
"A lot of guys get in trouble, I think my size killed me the most," Tinoisamoa said. "Once I got in front of the general managers, once I got in front of the coaches, they realized, 'This guy is not like what he did.' Plus, I was in high school. They were telling me their high school stories when I was meeting with them. They don't want me to repeat those stories."
Rams defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said it was important for the team's veterans to take Wroten under their wing.
"When he's in this building, it's extremely important," Glover said. "Obviously off the field, he has to be a grown man. This is a grown-man business. Nobody is going to baby-sit or hold your hand off the field."
Glover said he thought Wroten had the talent to develop into a star.
"He's a tremendous player," Glover said. "He's in the mold of the smaller, quicker defensive tackles. He had a lot of value in the third round. Some people said he was maybe a Top 15 guy. Hopefully, he can come in and pick the system, have a good attitude and work ethic."
Rams strong safety Corey Chavous, who served as a draft analyst for the NFL Network last weekend, gave the Rams' draft class good reviews.
"I thought they did very well," Chavous said. "Why would I say anything bad about the Rams' draft anyway?"
Chavous then talked about how much he liked the selection of Hill after trading down from No. 11 to No. 15.
Chavous said he thought Hill's lack of height was overblown.
"I don't think he is going to face many challenges at all," Chavous said. "As a matter of fact, I think he is going to be a pretty good player from Day 1. He's been in a lot of man-on-man situations before, and he has been tested under fire in the ACC every week."
Chavous has been a draftnik for a long time. His uncle, Barney Chavous, played 13 seasons as a defensive lineman with the Denver Broncos.
"I've been following the draft a lot longer than a lot of guys in the league," Chavous said. "You can't forget that I'm second generation. My uncle played in league. It's always something that has been a hobby of mine."