The first picks are predictable, the latter are where the fun can be had.
I've already gone through the picks the Rams made in the early rounds
of this year's draft, and I like what they did. The big question, of course, is Sam Bradford
, who will likely make or break the Rams' draft pretty much alone, but the talent the Rams were able to bring in with their early round picks is very encouraging.
The late rounds of the NFL draft are an interesting animal, and honestly I think I enjoy them even more than the early rounds. The big names all go early, of course, but the guys in the latter half of the draft are just more fun. They're project guys and small school guys and injury guys and two-sport guys. But therein lies the challenge and the creativity.
Drafting players in the late rounds is all about finding guys who fit a role, or a system, or a need, or maybe who just have a particular skill or attribute that jumps out. The risk of these picks is much, much lower, and teams are often able to gamble in a way they can't in the early rounds when enormous sums of bonus money are on the line.
So in the later rounds, what I'm really looking for is something about each player I can grab hold of. I want something intriguing, something that makes me think this guy just might be able to turn that tiny little something into a whole big mound of something down the line. Of course, there are also plenty of times in the later rounds of the draft when I've never even heard of the guy, never mind having an opinion. Unfortunately, until the RFT gets me the funding I requested for my own scouting department, that's just the way it's going to be sometimes.
4th round: Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati --
Another pick I'm really excited about, I think Gilyard has a chance to be a very, very productive receiver for the Rams. He's not blazing fast, but he has good size and is remarkably elusive in space. Getting a guy with his kind of production numbers in the fourth round is an excellent value in my book.
5th round: Mike Hoowanamanui, TE, Illinois -- Lukewarm on this pick. Hoowanamanui, besides crying out for a snappy, shorter, and easier to spell nickname in the worst way possible, just didn't impress me any time I watched Illinois play this past season. Some of that may have had to do with Juice Williams having a tough year and not being very accurate, but I'm also not a fan of Hoowanamanui's route-running or his capacity for creating catches. He's bulky and a good blocker, so he's actually a bit of an old school type tight end. I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't see him having much of an impact on the Rams' offense.
5th round: Hall Davis, DE, Louisiana-Lafayette -- I'm not going to lie: I have absolutely no opinion on Hall Davis. Honestly, I had never heard of Hall Davis before the Rams drafted him. I don't know anything about him, and I'm not going to try and BS you into believing I do. On to the next pick.
6th round: Fendi Onobun, TE, Houston -- I'm actually a fan of this pick, as much as one can like a pick of a player who caught only two passes in his entire college football career. Onobun played basketball at Arizona for four years before walking on to play football for a season at Houston.
There was a lot of angst when Onobun was selected, as plenty of people questioned the wisdom of taking a player with almost no college experience in the sport you're drafting him to play. Personally, though, I like the creativity here; a sixth round pick is a perfect time to take a risk on a player with such remarkable athleticism. Onobun is 6'6", has outstanding feet, serious leaping ability, and big-play potential. He ran a sub- 4.5 40 at his pro day. That's right. He's 6'6" and runs a 4.5. The Rams will have to stow him on the practice squad for a while as they attempt to turn his considerable talent into actual production, but the long-term payoff could be great for such a low-risk maneuver.
6th round: Eugene Sims, DE, West Texas A&M --
The only thing I know about Sims is he played his college ball at the same school as Keith Null
. Oh, and Ryan Leaf
is the coach of West Texas A&M. Um, yeah. I got nothing.
7th round: Marquis Johnson, CB, Alabama -- Another player I don't honestly know much of anything about, though I feel like I should since he played for Alabama. Maybe it says something about the quality of player that he apparently didn't make enough of an impression. Then again, maybe not.
7th round: George Selvie, DE, South Florida -- How Selvie was still on the board halfway through the final round of the draft is something I will never be able to understand. He's an outstanding edge rusher, capable of running right by an offensive tackle and crashing the pocket. He doesn't have ideal size, as he could stand to add some bulk to his frame, but I think he's definitely big enough. There are concerns about his ability to drop into coverage, but I'm not at all worried about that. In the Rams' 4-3 defensive scheme, Selvie could serve strictly as an edge-rushing end, and I think he could very well excel in that role. He's certainly not a sure thing, but I think Selvie could end up being one of the biggest steals of the draft.
7th round: Josh Hull, ILB, Penn State -- Look, I don't know much about Josh Hull, but he's a linebacker from Penn State. It can't be all bad, right? They don't call it Linebacker U for nothing, after all. In all honestly, I think Hull could be a nice addition on special teams, as he's a fearless player who isn't afraid to put his body on the line. He was a solid two-year starter for Joe Paterno at middle linebacker, but I don't think there's going to be a whole lot of snaps available to him in St. Louis with James Laurinaitis holding down the middle position. Still, depth is always a good thing to have, and Hull has toughness and experience. And hey, the Rams are already starting a former Mr. Irrelevant at strong-side linebacker in David Vobora; Hull has Vobora beaten by one full draft position, so I expect big things from him.
As I said before, we won't really know how any of these picks worked out for years, but it's fun to pretend like we already know. Hell, I've made it this far without grading anything, but I can't hold out any longer. Overall, I would give the Rams' draft a solid B. Ahh, that feels better.
In the end, this draft for the Rams will be judged almost entirely on how Sam Bradford turns out. That's not entirely fair, but that's how it's going to be. If Bradford turns into Troy Aikman, none of the other players will have to do anything for this draft to be a huge success. If, on the other hand, he turns out to be Ryan Leaf, it won't matter how many of his players the Rams draft in 2022, this draft will be a catastrophe.