Last 10 drafts have produced mixed results for the Rams
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Thursday, Apr. 21 2005

They've made safe picks. (See: Kevin Carter, 1995).

They've made controversial picks. (See: Lawrence Phillips, 1996).

They've played great poker hands. (See: Torry Holt, 1999).

And they've made blockbuster draft-day and pre-draft trades: (See Orlando Pace,
1997).

In 10 years of college drafts, the "St. Louis" Rams haven't always gotten it
right. But they've never been boring, and have often strayed from the norm.

All told, the Rams have selected 83 players in the draft since the move to St.
Louis in 1995. Forty-nine remain in the NFL; 25 of those picks still are
playing for the Rams.

But there have only been five Pro Bowlers drafted by the Rams since the move to
St. Louis:

* Carter, a first-rounder in '95 at defensive end.

* Pace, the No. 1 overall pick in '97 at offensive tackle.

* Defensive end Leonard Little, a third-round pick in '98.

* Holt, a first-rounder in '99 at wide receiver.

* Cornerback Dre' Bly, a second-rounder in '99.

(Bly didn't make the Pro Bowl until he left the Rams for Detroit as a free
agent two years ago.)

The interesting thing about that Pro Bowl list is that all five players on it
were drafted before Mike Martz took over as head coach, in 2000.

Granted, it's a lot easier to hit on a pick at the top of the draft. During
their first five drafts in St. Louis (1995- 99), under head coaches Rich Brooks
and Dick Vermeil, the Rams' average draft position in the first round was No.
5. The Rams never picked lower than No. 6 in the first round in any of those
five drafts.

But from 2000-04, the five drafts with Martz as head coach, the team's average
draft position was No. 23. Nonetheless, the Rams have picked as high as No. 12
twice under Martz, taking defensive tackle Damione Lewis there in 2001 and
Jimmy Kennedy there in 2003.

There is at least some frustration in the Rams' front office that the team
hasn't hit on at least one Pro Bowler in the past five drafts.

For example, big things were expected of 2001 picks Adam Archuleta, Ryan
Pickett, and Tommy Polley last season. But Archuleta regressed at safety, in
large part because of a back injury. Pickett had a decent but not great season
at defensive tackle. Polley played himself off the roster at linebacker.

A pair of former second-round picks, cornerback Travis Fisher (draft class of
'02) and linebacker Pisa Tinosamoa (class of '03), have developed into solid
starters. Several recent draft picks have shown promise, a list that includes
running back Steven Jackson, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, defensive end
Anthony Hargrove and wide receivers Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald. But it's
too early to pass definitive judgment on them.

"Every year, the easiest thing to do is draft safe, just draft how everybody in
the world has these guys rated," Rams general manager Charley Armey said after
the 2002 draft. "It's extremely hard (to draft in St. Louis now), because I
already know that everybody from the fourth round down isn't making this team
unless there's something unique about him."

Those comments came on the heels of the Rams' second Super Bowl appearance in
three years. Since then, the Rams have lost numerous players to free agency,
and also have seen several aging players experience decreased productivity.

So it's a much easier roster to make in 2005 than it was three years ago. But
that's partly because two of the worst drafts since the move to St. Louis came
after those two Super Bowl games: the 2000 and 2002 drafts.

Of the 15 players selected in those two drafts, only three remain with the
team: linebacker Robert Thomas; long snapper Chris Massey; and Fisher at
cornerback.

The Rams reached on several players in those drafts, with cornerback Jacoby
Shepherd (2000) and offensive guard Travis Scott (2002) the most notable
examples. They also outsmarted themselves at times, thinking they could convert
quarterback Eric Crouch to wide receiver and quarterback Steve Bellisari to
safety in the '02 draft.

"He was a favorite of mine in this draft," Martz said after selecting Crouch in
'02. I was excited about Eric all along. The transition (to wide receiver) for
me is very easy to see. What we have is a quality receiver."

But Martz wasn't the only person at Rams Park who liked Crouch. Armey and
then-special teams coach Bobby April did, too.

The Crouch example notwithstanding, Martz has avoided drafting offensive toys
as head coach, particularly high in the draft. Of the 11 players selected by
the Rams in the first or second rounds with Martz as head coach, nine were
defensive players. The only offensive players taken were running backs Jackson
(in '04) and Trung Canidate (in '00).

So far, the Rams appear to have done much better with their '03 and '04 draft
classes. One year ago, the '03 draft class didn't look so hot. But after barely
playing as rookies, Kennedy, Curtis and McDonald became solid contributors in
'04.

The '03 draft class also included Tinoisamoa, one of the team's top defensive
players, and offensive lineman Scott Tercero, who could start at guard or
tackle in '05.

Of the seven players taken in the '04 draft, Jackson and Hargrove will be
starters this coming season, while linebacker Brandon Chillar and guard-center
Larry Turner figure to be top backups. Also, Jeff Smoker could end up the No. 2
quarterback before all is said and done. As the Rams start on their second
decade of drafts in St. Louis, it's clear they need an '03- and '04-like
performance this weekend, rather than a sequel to '00 and '02.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


St. Louis Rams draft recap

Post-Dispatch
Thursday, Apr. 21 2005

A synopsis of Rams decisions in the NFL draft since the team arrived in
St. Louis before the 1995 season. In 1995, Kevin Carter (left) was their first
pick as the St. Louis Rams.


BEST DRAFT-RELATED TRADE
RB Marshall Faulk (from Indianapolis) for second- and fifth-round draft picks,
1999.


WORST DRAFT-RELATED TRADE
RB Jerome Bettis (to Pittsburgh) for second- and fourth-round picks, 1996.


BEST SMOKESCREEN
Two days before the 1999 draft, Dick Vermeil and Charley Armey talked at length
about how much they liked CBs Champ Bailey and Chris McAlister at No. 6
overall. At the same time, the Rams were getting a "commemorative" Torry Holt
jersey made for their draft news conference.


BY THE NUMBERS
17: Defensive backs taken in 10 "St. Louis" Rams drafts, more than
any other position.
3: Quarterbacks taken in 10 years, the fewest of any position other
than punter and kicker.
25: "St. Louis" Rams draft picks still with the team.
49: "St. Louis" Rams draft picks still in the league.


WORDS TO LIVE BY
"This guy is the best (pass) catcher in the draft. He has Terry Glenn-type
hands, but he's a much better runner than Terry Glenn."

- Current Rams GM Charley Armey in 1999, on Torry Holt.


WORDS NOT TO LIVE BY
"We satisfied ourselves about Lawrence Phillips the person. Lawrence
Phillips the human being."

- Former Rams GM Steve Ortmayer, in 1996, on a pre-draft meeting with
Phillips.