Rams' Draft Geared Toward McDaniels' System
Rams' draft geared toward McDaniels' system
BY JIM THOMAS
Sunday, May 1, 2011
In no particular order, the Rams' biggest needs entering the 2011 draft seemed to be speedy wide receiver; weakside linebacker, defensive tackle, safety, offensive guard, backup running back and third (or nickel) cornerback.
The Rams left the three-day draft with only one of those needs addressed in the first six rounds: safety Jermale Hines of Ohio State, picked in the fifth round.
Yes, the Rams added two wide receivers in Boise State's Austin Pettis (third round) and Hawaii's Greg Salas (fourth round), but both are bigger receivers who run in the 4.55- to 4.6-second range in the 40-yard dash, not the kind who in theory stretch defenses and necessarily keep that eighth defender out of the box.
With new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' fingerprints all over Rounds 2 and 3 of the draft, the Rams now have wide receivers and tight ends stacked up on the roster like planes on a busy airport runway.
Second-round tight end Lance Kendricks of Wisconsin joins Michael Hoomanawanui, Billy Bajema and Fendi Onobun under contract.
Depending on the exact free agency rules, Fells is either a restricted or unrestricted free agent. (The Rams tendered him as a restricted free agent at the beginning of March, before the lockout.) Last year, when McDaniels was head coach in Denver, the Broncos expressed at least some interest in signing Fells as a restricted free agent according to league sources. But whether Fells, Bajema or Onobun is odd man out in St. Louis remains to be seen.
At wide receiver, the Rams now have Danario Alexander, Danny Amendola, Donnie Avery, Dominique Curry, Brandon Gibson and Mardy Gilyard under contract. Laurent Robinson has been tendered as a restricted free agent. The Rams still have every intention of re-signing Mark Clayton, and now Pettis and Salas are added to the mix. That makes 10 wideouts. At most, the Rams will keep six.
So eventually somebody has to go — both at tight end and wide receiver — which should make for some interesting competition in training camp.
"Which is a good thing," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "You hit the nail on the head. We've said this before. That one of the goals was to create competition in as many spots as we could. I think that just makes everybody elevate their game."
For a few seasons, Devaney has talked about building a roster the right way, step by step. But it's clear the template has changed now that McDaniels is running the offense. Some bricks in the past foundation — Avery? Gilyard? Robinson? — might be tossed out.
The obvious conclusion from this draft is that the offense is being tilted to tight ends — as is the case in New England, where McDaniels worked before his ill-fated tenure as Denver's head coach. It's equally obvious the Rams are leaning toward bigger receivers in Pettis (6-feet-3, 209 pounds) and Salas (6-1, 210).
But where is the burner?
Devaney made the point that there's more than one way to beat a defense. You can put stress on a defense in several ways, more ways than just stretching it with deep speed. And if nothing else, Kendricks, Pettis and Salas are sure-handed. On paper, at least, there doesn't figure to be many dropped passes among them.
After opening Day 3 of the draft Saturday by taking Salas, the Rams went for defense the rest of the way. So amazingly, they went through the draft without taking a running back, even though they had no less than a half dozen of them in for pre-draft visits two weeks ago.
"We never really said we have to (draft a back)," Devaney said. "If it happened, it happened. We were probably close a couple times. We didn't force it and reach for this guy because we had to have a running back. There were running backs we were thinking of taking, and if they went before our next pick came up, we didn't react by saying, 'We lost a back, now we've got to drop down in value in this round. Take a back no matter what, even if he doesn't warrant going there.'
"So it didn't work out."
With free agency still on hold because of the lockout, the Rams have only two running backs under contract behind Pro Bowler Steven Jackson: Keith Toston and Chauncey Washington.
So the Rams stuck to their board even if it meant not drafting a running back, offensive guard or defensive tackle. The Rams did take an outside linebacker in Jabara Williams, of Stephen F. Austin, but not until Round 7. Similarly, they didn't take a cornerback until Round 7 when they selected Baylor's Mikail Baker, a converted wide receiver who missed most of two season in college because of collarbone (2007) and knee (2009) injuries.
The Rams did come out of the draft with two safety prospects, adding yet another seventh-rounder in Oklahoma's Jonathan Nelson two rounds after taking Ohio State's Hines. The Rams picked up an extra seventh-rounder by trading down 13 spots in the fifth round with Atlanta.
"That's interesting — we've got two different types of safeties," Devaney said. "The Ohio State kid and this kid — totally different kind of styles."
Hines projects more as a strong safety, playing in the box and defending the run. Nelson, a converted corner, has good range and projects as a free safety.
As for all the unfilled needs ...
"We're not kicking off on Sunday," Devaney said. "We've got a while to go. We know the areas that we still have to fill, and there's ways to go about that."
Re: Rams' Draft Geared Toward McDaniels' System
Can we sign McDaniels a contract extension sooner or later?
Re: Rams' Draft Geared Toward McDaniels' System
Interesting that McDaniels was interested in Fells while at Denver. I wonder if that gives him a leg up on remaining a Rams TE.