Wagoner: Rams Stand Pat, Land McDonald, Bailey on Day 2
Rams Stand Pat, Land McDonald, Bailey on Day 2
Posted 8 hours ago
Nick Wagoner Senior Writer
After a sizzling start to the 2013 NFL Draft highlighted by lots of shrewd maneuvering Thursday night, the Rams opted for a more laid-back approach to the draft’s second day.
With no picks in the second round and a pair waiting for them in the third, the Rams didn’t make any bold trades or moves up the board and simply let things fall into their lap Friday night.
What they found was a pair of players in USC safety T.J. McDonald and West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey to plug an important hole in the secondary and add even more juice to the offense, respectively.
“You are always getting calls constantly,” general manager Les Snead said. “But we kind of had these guys, especially T.J. with that pick, we were really glad he was there so we didn’t really take calls for that one. You listen but nothing tempted us.”
With the first of two third-round picks, Rams coach Jeff Fisher went back to his Southern California roots and found a familiar NFL legacy in McDonald.
The son of former St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco safety Tim McDonald, the younger version brings a similar skill set to go along with his father’s trademark intensity and leadership skills.
McDonald was a two-time captain for the Trojans, joining his father to form the only father-son combination to handle those duties in USC history. Likewise, they are the only father son tandem to earn All American honors in their time in Los Angeles.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, Fisher spent his college career as a defensive back for the Trojans as well and actually coached the elder McDonald when the two were in San Francisco together. In other words, the fit and even the comparison are rather obvious.
“There are some similarities,” Fisher said. “His dad played a little heavier when we had him than T.J. is now. But T.J. is a fine athlete. Long arms, we watched him match up against Tyler Eifert a couple times in the Notre Dame game and won. So he’s one of those guys that has the cover skills and he also sees things, he anticipates. He’s one of those guys who is not just a react player but has anticipation and gets the game.”
On the field, McDonald started 36 of the 50 games he played including a productive 2011 season in which he posted 122 tackles, two interceptions and a sack.
At 6’2, 219 pounds, McDonald has a reputation as a physical, intimidating force who actually has experience playing both strong and free safety. His skill set would seem to translate more directly to playing in the box as a strong safety but his versatility will not be ignored and he could be used in a variety of ways.
Following the offseason departures of starting safeties Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl, the opportunity to start right away is certainly available to McDonald.
“You're always going to come in and know you've got to compete,” McDonald said. “I'm going to compete regardless, but my plans are to go in and take it.”
The Rams sweated out the final picks as they counted down toward their first selection of the evening knowing McDonald was a target for some time.
“I followed T.J. the last couple years,” Fisher said. “T.J. is a big safety that moves well, that covers, that will run and hit and he knows football. He is very, very smart. Some people say he didn’t have quite as good a year this year as he did last year but we addressed it, there were some reasons for that but he’s a good football player. That was a hold your breath pick because we were a little bit nervous.”
With their second third-round pick of the night, No. 92 overall, the Rams went back to the well not only for a receiver but for a Mountaineer receiver. In Bailey, they add another dynamic piece to the offense and a player who, not to be outdone by first-round pick and college teammate Tavon Auston, actually posted some video game numbers in his own right.
On the heels of a strong 2011 season, Bailey had a breakthrough 2012 on his way to being a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver. The 5’10, 197 pound wideout posted 114 catches for 1,622 yards and a staggering 25 touchdown catches in his final season in Morgantown.
While Austin earned his reputation for similarly outrageous statistics, Bailey and Austin actually complemented each other quite well in college and figure to do so at the NFL level as well.
“We are both very dynamic football players,” Bailey said. “Tavon is very elusive. You can use Tavon in quite a few different ways and that’s what makes him such a dynamic player…he does all of that extremely well. Me, I’m more of a receiver that can line up on the outside. I can get in the slot and work. I’m definitely a guy that can get on special teams. We are both hard working guys that have different ways of playing.”
Those differences were on full display in a workout in front of a Rams contingent in Morgantown last week. With quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Austin Davis throwing to the duo, Snead said the signal callers were well aware of Austin going in but weren’t as aware of Bailey’s status.
It didn’t take long for them to figure out what Bailey was bringing to the table.
“Hearing the quarterbacks say this guy is 5’11, whatever but it’s like throwing to a 6’3 guy, he goes up and gets the ball,” Snead said. “I think that private workout really helped solidify that pick.”
When the Rams came back on the clock Friday night, they didn’t necessarily plan on doubling down on receivers for the second consecutive year after landing Chris Givens and Brian Quick last year.
But the value was too obvious to pass up given Bailey’s production and ability to work outside the hashes and move around and play the slot as well.
Now with the new West Virginia duo in place alongside the likes of Givens, Quick and tight ends Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks, the possibilities for the offense seem almost limitless with quarterback Sam Bradford pulling the trigger.
“We had them on the board based on their grades, not based on what school they attended,” Fisher said. “He was up there, he was high and it was a great opportunity for us…what we’ve done now is fill a couple spots out there and we are going to lobby with the league to see if we can play with more than one ball because we think we are going to need more than one ball.”
Heading into Saturday’s final four rounds, the Rams still hold a pick in the fourth and fifth round as well as two in the sixth. Before calling it a night, Snead and Fisher indicated there was some work to be done so that the Rams could now turn their attention to closing the draft strong.
Last year, the Rams added key players like Givens, kicker Greg Zuerlein and running back Daryl Richardson on the draft’s final day.
“(Today) went fast,” Fisher said. “We have got some quality picks remaining so we will go up and look at the board and obviously we have met some needs. We’ll look at some other positions now and see how it unfolds.”