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  • Rams In Unfamiliar Spot: Middle Of Draft

    Rams in unfamiliar spot: middle of draft

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Thursday, January 6, 2011 12:20 am

    No matter where the Rams finish in the standings, this always is a busy time and exciting time for general manager Billy Devaney and the personnel department. Even so, after coming so close to a division title and a playoff berth, the season's sudden end was a jolt to the system.

    "I sit up in my office and I look out on the practice field, and I'm thinking at this time last week we're geeked up, we're playing, we're practicing, guys are joking around," Devaney said Wednesday.

    And now?

    "It's awful coming in," he said. "It's quiet. The building's quiet. The silence is deafening."

    But with the Rams' offseason now underway, the good news is that at least Devaney doesn't have to worry about picking No. 1 or No. 2 as has been the case the past three drafts.

    "It's great, because you're not going to ask me every day who we're taking," Devaney teased. "Who we're thinking about. Because we don't have any idea."

    Actually, Devaney already has a little bit of an idea even this early in the pre-draft process. (Not that he's telling.) The Rams held their first round of draft meetings last month, well before the regular season ended.

    "About 3-4 weeks ago, we put our tentative (draft) board up and started the process," Devaney said. "We're lining up East-West and Senior Bowl (college all-star game) trips. I mean, it is full go. That is the beauty of this thing. There isn't any down time. You just go."

    That's true even with the uncertainty of the NFL labor situation. Those in the personnel department are proceeding full speed ahead; that's the only way they can approach it.

    "We go over every draftable player right now by position and what needs to be done (in evaluating that player) between now and the draft," Devaney said. "What concerns there are. We have all sorts of symbols. The guy may have a medical concern. Maybe a character concern. Maybe a learning concern. Work ethic.

    "Whatever questions that the scouts have picked up. 'Is this guy a bad character guy or did he just mess up a little bit? Is it something that we really need to dig into?' We started that process. Not necessarily putting grades on 'em, but it gives us a plan (as to) what we need to find out about these guys."

    Just like every other NFL team, the draft list isn't complete because underclassmen still have time to declare for the draft.

    "The juniors (and third-year sophomores) as they come out now, we have tapes being sent out to our scouts at home," Devaney said. "We haven't done a lot of work on the juniors until they declare."

    Devaney and the scouting staff also will start to determine which draft prospects they want the coaches to see.

    "These are the important guys," Devaney said. "We'll narrow it down by position. Obviously, Dick Curl, the quarterbacks coach, he's not going to go out to look at the early, the top-rated quarterbacks. So it's that kind of stuff. Just kind of getting a blueprint."

    But it's a different kind of blueprint, and different kind of challenge, when you're drafting in the middle of the round as opposed to picking No. 1 overall. The Rams pick No. 14 in this year's draft.

    A few weeks ago at an NFL owners meeting, Devaney ran into his Carolina counterpart, Panthers general manager Marty Hurney.

    "I said, 'Marty, pray you don't get that No. 1 pick,' " Devaney said. "From the time the season is over, it's 'OK, you're on the clock, who you taking?'''

    Carolina ended in the top slot.

    "And picking that high — 1 or 2 — it means you had pretty bad years,'' Devaney said. "And we've had some pretty bad years. So it feels nice not to be in that category. Now, we'd much rather be picking lower (than 14th) and that's what's going to be our whole focus this offseason."

    Strategically, when you're picking first, you don't have to worry about anybody else. And picking second, you only have to worry about the one team ahead of you, or the possibility of someone trading up to that spot.

    But at No. 14, there are tons of variables and 13 other teams to worry about. You have to be ready to go in a lot of different directions, depending on what happens ahead of you.

    "Wide open," Devaney said. "You won't be able to target anybody at 14. You just have to be prepared for every scenario. We'll have a general idea of who'll be there at 14, but there'll be a shocker or two (ahead of the Rams) to throw the whole thing out of whack."

    Each draft has its own personality, and the personality of the 2011 draft has yet to take shape, particularly because all the underclassmen have yet to declare. For example:

    "Last year, there were like three guys talked about (at the top), with the two defensive tackles and the quarterback," Devaney said.

    That would be quarterback Sam Bradford, chosen first by the Rams; defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, taken second by Detroit; and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, taken third by Tampa Bay. How many players will be in that first group —the top tier — this time?

    "This year, there may be five guys, there may be one guy," Devaney said. "We're not even close to that point. So once that's established, it's usually the top tier guys, and then a line."

    The Rams, then, will be dealing with the second tier. Or maybe even a third tier if you draw another line after, say, the 12th pick. In either case, how big will that group of available players be at No. 14 — and how talented?

    The Rams are about to find out.

    Two ARE signed

    The Rams signed linebacker Curtis Johnson and running back Chauncey Washington to "futures" contracts, in other words to their offseason roster.

    Washington spent three games in 2010 on the Rams' active roster, appearing in one game, and spent the final 10 games on the practice squad.

    Johnson was on the active roster for three weeks but did not appear in any games and was on the practice squad for 12 weeks.

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  • r8rh8rmike
    Devaney, Scouting Staff Ready For Phase Two
    by r8rh8rmike
    Devaney, Scouting Staff Ready for Phase Two
    Friday, December 18, 2009


    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Less than 24 hours after he was named Rams General Manager on Christmas Eve of last year, Billy Devaney found himself asking for some divine intervention.

    Armed with the arduous task of rebuilding the Rams by bringing in a new coaching staff, starting a roster makeover and generally changing the complexion of the Russell Training Center, Devaney knew he would need some help from somewhere.

    So it was that on Christmas morning, Devaney went for his usual run, a course he has mapped out that he regularly runs near his home. Along his normal path, Devaney encountered one of the priests at Our Lady of the Pillar church in Ladue, the church where Devaney and his family had attended mass only hours before.

    Stopping to chat, Devaney made it a point to ask the priest for a little help in his new endeavor.

    “I said ‘Hey, I have got a favor to ask. I just got this job with the Rams, I need a lot of help, can you keep me in your prayers?’” Devaney said, laughing at the memory. “He said ‘Yeah, I saw that, that’s you, huh?’ I said ‘This is a big one, man. You have got to keep me in your prayers.’”

    Less than a week from today, Devaney will have hit the one-year mark as the top decision maker in the Rams hierarchy but there’s no doubting that year two will come with less stress than the first one.

    It would almost have to.

    THE PROCESS

    Building a football team doesn’t happen overnight. And though it’s become popular to believe that a major turnaround can happen in a single year, that’s really more of a myth than anything.

    While a team’s record can certainly dramatically improve in a single year, it takes years of building something with commitment and continuity to get it right.

    Soon after taking the job, Devaney went on a whirlwind tour along with the rest of his staff that included the hiring of a new coaching staff, evaluating current Rams to make decisions on their future with the team, scouring the free agent market, scouting college players, signing free agents and going through the 2009 NFL Draft.

    It was a hectic time for Devaney but it also could someday be looked at as a turning point for the franchise.

    Having that year to get the scouting staff he wants in place, form a pro personnel department and get everyone on the same page should make attacking the 2010 offseason an easy transition.

    “That’s one of the many advantages is stability and that is what we are trying to establish,” Devaney said. “I think going into this year, we’ll be light years ahead of where we were last year. We haven’t changed the structure at all. These guys are veteran guys so it was an easy transition for them. It’s an easy system...
    -12-19-2009, 04:54 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    GM Says Rams Could Trade Down In Draft
    by r8rh8rmike
    GM says Rams could trade down in draft

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    INDIANAPOLIS • Rams general manager Billy Devaney headed to Indiana on Wednesday for the NFL scouting combine secure in the knowledge that there will be a player worth getting excited about at No. 14 overall.

    In fact, he thinks there will be several such players available when it's time to pick in the first round of the NFL draft April 28.

    "No question," Devaney said. "We know that already. There's going to be a cluster of guys there — and really good players. That's a given."

    So much so that Devaney and the Rams' front office already are playing "fantasy football" about the possibility of trading down from No. 14.

    "Gosh, it'd be great if we get there and there's three or four guys that we really love," Devaney said. "Where we say we'd be happy with any of those guys and then we can move back a little bit, knowing that chances are you still may have a shot at one of those four guys. That's the best scenario to be in. Oh yeah, we've already started."

    Obviously, there are a lot more variables when you're picking 14th as opposed to first or second, as has been the case the previous three drafts. So Devaney says the Rams have to be ready for anything.

    "It'll start getting clearer and clearer as we get closer," Devaney said. "There'll be the obvious top five or top seven (prospects) — we'll see how that goes. At 14, there'll be a cluster of names. But we'll have a fairly good idea who's going to be there."

    Conventional wisdom says the Rams should take Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones if he's still on the board at 14. Entering the combine, Jones is generally considered the second-best receiver in the draft behind Georgia's A.J. Green. And together, Green and Jones are considered the only surefire first-rounders at wide receiver this year.

    "If Julio's there, I think they probably sprint up to the podium with the card," said draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. "I think he's a real logical fit and I think they have to start complementing Sam Bradford. They've got to get some talent out wide. So I think he's the most logical guy in the entire draft for them at 14. And to me, I think that's where he goes, somewhere between 10 and 18. He probably won't get past St. Louis if he's there."

    But what if he's not? That's where Devaney's "cluster theory" comes into play. In a first round rich in defensive end talent — as many as eight or nine could go in the first round — there should be several possibilities for the Rams at 14. Possibilities include Iowa's Adrian Clayborn (from Webster Groves High), Cameron Jordan of California, Aldon Smith of Missouri and J.J. Watt of Wisconsin.

    "The...
    -02-24-2011, 09:13 PM
  • HUbison
    Devaney gears up for Combine
    by HUbison
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

    02/19/2009

    First came the new coach, Steve Spagnuolo. Then came the new coach's staff. All the preparation work is complete for free agency, which begins a week from Friday, save for the day-to-day tweaking as players get cut, re-signed or are given the franchise player designation.

    Yes, general manager Billy Devaney and the new Rams coaching staff are almost caught up. Except, that is, for the little matter of the NFL draft. Draft preparation and evaluation hit high gear with the NFL scouting combine, now under way in Indianapolis and lasting through Tuesday.

    "We've got to get everybody — me included — up to speed," said Devaney, who left Wednesday afternoon for Indy. "We're close, but we're not where we should be right now. So we've really got to cram, watching as much (tape) on top of the workouts while we're at the combine."

    Along those lines, the Rams have set up two tape-watching work stations in Indianapolis, one at the hotel where the Rams will hold their formal player interviews each evening. The other is at Lucas Oil Stadium, which has replaced the demolished RCA Dome as the site for player workouts.

    "We're going to be in the dome early in the morning before the workouts start, looking at videotape," Devaney said. "And after the interviews, we'll look at more. Every spare minute, we're going to be either watching a prospect or looking at videotape. It's going to be more of a grind for us. Every spare minute is accounted for us."

    But it's a good kind of grind for Spagnuolo and Devaney.

    "We were talking about that at the end of the day (Tuesday)," Devaney said. "I said I've never looked more forward to going to a combine than this year — to get out of the office and just home in on pure football stuff, and not all the other stuff that's going on."

    It's especially true for Devaney, whose life's work has been evaluating football personnel.

    "This is the fun part of the year," Devaney said. "Free agency. Players on your own team that you have to make decisions on. The combine. Draft. Workouts. Shoot, you go a hundred miles an hour in all different directions. This is when it's really fun."

    But for much of the time in January and early February, Devaney was busy going through the job search that led to Spagnuolo's hiring. And once Spagnuolo was hired, Devaney helped assemble a 20-member coaching staff.

    At the Senior Bowl last month, the only time Devaney left the team hotel was Thursday for the practice, which wasn't in full pads and therefore not very revealing in terms of player evaluation.

    "I got nothing out of it," Devaney said.

    So for now, Devaney is relying more on his scouts, as well as vice president of...
    -02-19-2009, 09:17 AM
  • RamWraith
    Billy Devaney: Rams' player personnel director
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/24/2008

    As a young scout with the Washington Redskins in the mid-1980s, Billy Devaney remembers gushing about the ability of a prospect who apparently had some off-the-field issues as well.

    "Joe (Gibbs) said something to the effect of, 'I'd rather drop down a level of ability,'" Devaney recalled. —"'Even if this guy's an A-plus ability guy, give me a B-plus guy that's smart and who's a strong character guy. We can win a lot of games that way.'"

    That approach by Gibbs and general manager Bobby Beathard helped the Redskins win three Super Bowl titles from 1982-91, landing Gibbs a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a coach.

    "That's the way those Redskins teams were built — their foundation," Devaney recalled.



    Sure, those Redskins teams had a couple of All-Pro caliber athletes. But for the most part, they had lots of good players — not great ones — who were smart, who cared about winning and who weren't character risks.

    Devaney adopted that blueprint as his career in personnel progressed, and he brought it to St. Louis when the Rams hired him as executive vice president of player personnel in February.

    "We want smart, productive, and passionate players," Devaney said. "We're not going to compromise on that. I think we have a great core of guys here that fit that mold ... and we're not going to deviate on the character part."

    There were no character risks among the Rams' eight draft picks last April. Obviously, that hasn't always been the case on draft day at Rams Park.

    "In a situation like this, (Dominique) Byrd, I don't know if he'll ever be a player," said Gil Brandt, the longtime Dallas Cowboys executive who now works as an analyst for NFL.com. "I'm not criticizing, but I'm saying, I don't think you can draft Byrd."

    The Rams wasted a third-round 2006 draft pick on Byrd, who made more headlines for his off-field problems than anything he did on the field. He was released April 28.

    Another third-rounder in '06, defensive tackle Claude Wroten, currently is serving a yearlong suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse program.

    Even in cases of extreme talent, Devaney says it's never wise to bend the rules for a player with off-the-field issues.

    "Initially it might be tempting, but after a while you say, 'You know what, it's not worth it,' " Devaney said. "Because nine times out of 10, you get burnt by those kind of guys. Or they never reach their potential. Or they're going to disappoint you and the organization at some point."

    Devaney values productivity in college more than stop-watch times or workout numbers.

    "I don't get excited about the NFL Scouting...
    -08-25-2008, 04:40 PM
  • RamDez
    New GM runs show on draft day
    by RamDez
    New GM runs show on draft day
    By R.B. FALLSTROM | AP Sports Writer
    April 18, 2009
    ST. LOUIS - Last April, Billy Devaney had more podium time on Day 2 of the draft for the St. Louis Rams. This year, he carries veto power.

    The change at the top sparks hope for a franchise that will again be in the spotlight on draft day, picking second for the second straight year. A total of five wins the last two seasons prompted a full-scale overhaul that leaves the Rams with a new coach, a roster minus two stars from its past glories and a front office that'll lean heaviest on those with football backgrounds.

    In charge will be a general manager with 24 years of hands-on experience. Devaney, a former protege of Bobby Beathard, was personnel director last year in his first season with St. Louis.

    Since taking over near the end of last year's 2-14 disaster, he's already made some hard choices.
    Longtime stars Orlando Pace and Torry Holt were released to clear cap space for young talent. Safety Oshiomoghe Atogwe got the franchise player tag and cornerback Ron Bartell was re-signed after shopping the free agent market.

    The first of three minicamps was held earlier this month, giving Devaney and new coach Steve Spagnuolo a better feel for their needs.

    "That was one of the reasons Billy and I decided to have a camp before the draft," Spagnuolo said. "I think that will be huge."

    Next weekend comes the biggest day yet.

    "There's more to do, a lot more," Devaney said in a telephone interview during a break in draft preparations. "But this is awesome, it's the time you love."

    The Rams follow the Detroit Lions to the podium on Saturday, so the choices are endless.

    Most pre-draft speculation has centered on the offensive line, a weakness in recent years and weakened further by the recent release of seven-time Pro Bowler Orlando Pace. Tackles Jason Smith of Baylor and Eugene Monroe of Virginia could fill the void.

    Then again, this is a franchise that needs help almost everywhere. The exception: defensive line, where they invested last year's No. 2 on Chris Long and their 2007 first-rounder on Adam Carriker.

    Devaney will only say the Rams will take the best player on their board. If they decide a skill player is the best bet, he vowed cost will not scare them.

    "No matter who you pick, it's going to be ridiculously expensive," Devaney said. "I don't know how every other place operates, but I know that's how it works here.

    "In free agency, in hiring a coach, in the draft, it's doing what's best for the organization."

    Thus far, trading down doesn't seem to be an option. Not with a draft pegged as one with several interchangeable options at or near the top of the heap.

    "No interest,"...
    -04-19-2009, 01:06 AM
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