Rams gear up for a crowd of visitors
By Jim Thomas

JANUARY 01, 2008-- Running back Darren McFadden #5 of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
(Doug Benc/Getty Images)

In terms of information gathering, the last significant milepost on the road to the 2008 draft takes place today. Twenty-six college prospects, including likely top-five picks defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey of Louisiana State and running back Darren McFadden of Arkansas, arrive at Rams Park for visits that conclude Wednesday.

After months of timing, testing, scouting and film study, what more do the Rams need to know about elite prospects such as Dorsey or McFadden?

"Picking up that high, it's just such an investment," said Billy Devaney, the Rams' executive vice president of player personnel. "We just like as many people that haven't met them to just spend a few minutes. For instance, Scott (Linehan) wasn't at the LSU workout, so he had never met Dorsey. And he'll spend time with him."

Most of the 26 prospects won't be taken in the first round, and as Linehan points out, there's much more to this draft than the No. 2 overall pick. Advertisement

"There are seven rounds," Linehan said.

As such, the players invited to Rams Park today are a cross-section of draft prospects, from elite players, to middle-rounders, to late-round possibilities.

"We probably have different things we're trying to get done with different guys," Linehan said. "Some of it's taking physicals; some of it's getting to know them a little bit better as people, and see how they interact."

Linehan estimates that maybe half of the 26 will undergo some sort of medical examination while in St. Louis. Some in that group are players who did not attend the NFL Scouting Combine in late February. Others are players who may have had an injury or surgery that the Rams need a little more information about.

But from blue-chippers such as Dorsey and McFadden to late-rounders such as Richmond running back Tim Hightower or Liberty defensive end-linebacker Vincent Redd, they all have one thing in common.

"At some point we could be looking at each one of them as a potential draft pick," Linehan said.

In each of the past two drafts, the Rams have selected two players who made pre-draft visits to Earth City. Last year, those two were Nebraska defensive end Adam Carriker and Rutgers running back-fullback Brian Leonard. Two years ago, it was Clemson cornerback Tye Hill and Colorado tight end Joe Klopfenstein.

Neither Devaney nor Linehan knows which of the players visiting Rams Park will be drafted by St. Louis, but it will be someone in the group.

"We're going to get one, two, or three of those guys," Devaney said.

He plans on telling the group, that for some, the pre-draft visits will be their Rams orientation.

"It is," Devaney said. "The sooner we start the process of getting them acclimated to the Rams, the better we'll be. And I'm going to stress to them, that this is all about getting them up to speed and comfortable, so the focus becomes winning football games."

Unlike the four local prospects who visited Rams Park last Friday, this group is not allowed to work out. Their trip consists of dinner, meetings, and X's and O's and physicals for some.

"They'll get with each position coach and the coordinators," Devaney said.

Those discussions might be more hard-core football talk. But some of the more informal conversations are just as important to Linehan.

"It's good to interact with guys," Linehan said. "Because you're looking for certain types of physical characteristics, but you're also looking for that intangible stuff that you don't get off of film."

The list itself is heavy on wide receivers and cornerbacks, two areas the Rams could target in the second and third rounds. Among the wideouts is speedy but undersized DeSean Jackson of California, who has added value as a punt returner. He is the Pacific-10 Conference record holder with six career punt returns for touchdowns.

Indiana's James Hardy has the size (6-feet-6, 217 pounds) and speed (4.45 in the 40) that Linehan seems to like. But he also has had some off-the-field problems. Limas Sweed of Texas wasn't on the Rams' original list for pre-draft visits, but was a late addition. Florida's Andre Caldwell is the brother of Rams' free-agent pickup Reche Caldwell.

The guest list at cornerback includes Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who ran a scalding 4.29-second 40 at the Combine and has added value as a kickoff returner.

Notable in his absence on the list of pre-draft visitors is Southern California defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. USC's pro day was less than two weeks ago, so the Rams believe they already have a good feel for Ellis.