Here's Mr Wright's article, available on draftcountdown.com, released recently. He's now gone through all 32 teams and assigned each one a grade. We did pretty well!
Originally Posted by Scott WrightThe 2008 season was an unmitigated disaster for the St. Louis Rams. Everything that could go wrong did and in the end they finished with an offense that ranked 27th in the league, a defense that ranked 28th and just two wins. However, itís important to keep in mind that the team was absolutely ravaged by injuries and that played a big role in their misfortunes. A healthy roster coupled with a strong offseason could go a long ways towards helping the Rams turn things around in 2009 and perhaps even allow them to compete in one of the leagueís weakest divisions. With the exception of center Jason Brown the Rams were relatively quiet when it came to the free agent market so they were counting on the NFL Draft to provide an infusion of talent. Was St. Louis able to find the help that they needed?
For the second year in a row the Rams owned the #2 overall pick and after missing out on Jake Long in the '08 Draft it was always a foregone conclusion that they were going to select an offensive tackle. The only question was whether they would add Baylorís Jason Smith or Virginiaís Eugene Monroe to replace departed future Hall of Famer Orlando Pace. Ultimately the Rams went with Smith, which was a wise move considering his rare physical gifts, first-rate intangibles and immense upside. Smith isnít a canít-miss, elite prospect like Pace was coming out of college but most feel he has the ability to develop into one of the top blindside blockers in the game. A great athlete, Smith actually played tight end as a freshman for the Bears and finished the season with 6 receptions for 70 yards (11.7 avg.) and 1 touchdown. The following year Smith was moved to the offensive line where he started the next three seasons, one at right tackle and the final two on the left side. Even though he is still raw Smith has all of the tools you look for along with the work ethic needed to maximize his potential. The plan is for Alex Barron to man the left side and for Smith to be stationed at right tackle as a rookie but itís only a matter of time until he fulfills his destiny and takes over the blindside.
In recent years there has been a slew of outstanding inside linebackers selected at the top of the second round and Ohio Stateís James Laurinaitis could soon add his name to an impressive list that already includes guys like E.J. Henderson, Karlos Dansby, Barrett Ruud, DeMeco Ryans, Paul Posluszny and Curtis Lofton. Had he entered the 2008 NFL Draft after a standout junior campaign Laurinaitis likely would have been a Top 10-15 overall pick and he began the Ď08 season as one of the top pro prospects in the country. However, Laurinaitis struggled at times as a senior and by going back to Columbus he gave scouts a whole extra year to overanalyze and pick apart his game. Laurinaitis fell further than expected on Draft Day but his loss is the Rams gain as they were able to steal him early in round two. Arguably one of the greatest college linebackers of all-time, Laurinaitis won just about every major award imaginable during his Buckeye career (Nagurski, Butkus, Lott) and joined some elite company as a three-time AP All-American. A terrific all-around player who is effective against both the run and pass, Laurinaitis isnít overly physical and may not have a ton of upside but itís hard to envision a scenario in which he isnít at the very least a solid pro. St. Louis has been searching for a long-term solution at middle linebacker for years and they finally found one in Laurinaitis, who will call plays and be the leader of that defense. It would be a surprise if Laurinaitis didnít assume the starting job right out of the gate as a rookie.
In an attempt to upgrade their secondary the Rams selected Iowa CB Bradley Fletcher in round three. Similar in many ways to his former Hawkeye teammate Charles Godfrey, who just had a strong rookie season for the Carolina Panthers, Fletcher didnít become a full-time starter until his senior year but he made the most of the opportunity. An underrated prospect with an excellent blend of size (6-01/2, 196), speed (4.52) and athleticism, Godfrey isnít a finished product but it appears his best football is still ahead of him. Ronald Bartell is the only established starting-caliber cover guy on the Rams roster so look for Fletcher to battle Tye Hill, Justin King and Jonathan Wade for playing time. As a rookie Fletcher will most likely work in a backup capacity but he has starting potential down the line. In round four the Rams took a flyer on Clemson DT Dorell Scott in the hopes that they can help him play up to his talent level. A three-year starter, Scott looks like a first round pick on paper due to his intriguing measurables (6-3 | 312 | 4.95) but for one reason or another he underachieved in college. A classic Boom or Bust prospect, Scott could turn out to be either a steal or a wasted pick. Adam Carriker and Clifton Ryan are entrenched as the starters in St. Louis but there is little or no depth to speak of, unless you count 35-year-old journeyman Hollis Thomas, so Scott should have an opportunity to earn significant playing time as a rookie.
Long-time franchise stalwart Torry Holt was sent packing this offseason so the Rams needed to bring in some help at wide receiver, which they did in round five by selecting North Carolinaís Brooks Foster. The least-heralded of the Tar Heels trio of pass catchers, Foster didnít garner as many headlines as Hakeem Nicks or Brandon Tate but he is arguably just as physically talented. Foster, who also saw action for the Tar Heels 2005 NCAA champion basketball team, possesses an outstanding blend of size (6-01/2, 211) and speed (4.45) and also earned rave reviews for his work ethic, unselfishness and team-first attitude. With that said he is still very raw and some scouts wondered aloud whether he was a better athlete than football player. With Holt no longer in the picture second-year man Donnie Avery takes over as the Rams #1 target but after that there are more questions than answers. As a rookie Foster will compete with Keenan Burton, Laurent Robinson, Derek Stanley and Ronald Curry for playing time but it may be a few years before heís ready to make an impact. In round six the Rams brought in West Texas A&M QB Keith Null as a developmental signal caller. An extremely productive passer who was dominant at the Division II level, Null has decent size, good athleticism and is very accurate but he doesnít have a cannon for an arm and the huge leap in competition canít be underestimated. St. Louis will bring Null along slowly with an eye toward him eventually developing into a backup but for the time being he will battle for the #3 job. With their final pick the Rams chose Texas RB Chris Ogbonnaya, who will try to follow in the footsteps of former Longhorns like Priest Holmes, Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson, Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles. A versatile player with good size (5-113/4, 220) and terrific intangibles, Ogbonnaya is the type that does everything well but nothing great. Ogbonnaya doesnít profile as anything more than a backup in the NFL but his varied skill set and ability to contribute on special teams may help him win a roster spot.
By just about any measure (talent, value, need) the Rams first two picks were as good as anyoneís and Fletcher was an inspired choice in round three. Things dropped off a bit after that but anytime a team can land franchise cornerstones on both sides of the ball like Smith and Laurinaitis it was a great day. This class may only produce two starters but it will be at premium positions (left tackle and middle linebacker) so even if they get nothing else from this effort that alone is enough to earn an above average grade. It remains to be seen whether the Rams will bounce back in 2009 or if they are entering a rebuilding stage but either way this draft class will lay a foundation for the future.