by Adam Fournier, Ourlads’ Intern
The St. Louis Rams were one of the best teams in the league in the early 2000s, but things have gone a bit downhill since. The Rams have had a rough last decade and have not made the playoffs since the 2004 season. However they have collected a solid crop of nice young talent in the past five drafts making them a possible playoff team in the future.
The spot on the field where the Rams have invested the most of their top picks in their recent drafts is on the defensive line. The Rams have built one of the best lines in the NFL when they drafted Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, and Aaron Donald in the past four years to play alongside Chris Long. All three players were first round selections as was Long and they have certainly lived up to their selections. Quinn has emerged as one of the best defensive players since coming into the league in 2011. He was named the PFWA Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and has made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons. Brockers is the least flashy of the three, but is a force in the middle of the line. He has been a solid addition starting 44 games in his three years and anchoring the defensive line. Donald burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2014 emerging as one of the best young defensive players in the league. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie as well as the AP and PFWA Defensive Rookie of the Year. With the addition of these three players, the Rams’ strength will be in their defensive line for the foreseeable future.
The Rams have also added some solid starters on the rest of their defense with the 2012 selections Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, 2013 selections of Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald, and 2014 selection E.J. Gaines. Jenkins is a real playmaker at the defensive back position and is a solid starter at cornerback. Johnson and McDonald have also been solid starters in the defensive backfield in their time in St. Louis. Gaines was a real surprise contributor as a rookie after being selected in the 6th round in 2014. Ogletree has also been a solid starter at the linebacker spot. While none of these players are world-beaters, they are a part of a solid starting group behind their defensive line in 2015.
On the offensive side of the ball, the most notable selection from the past five years was obviously Sam Bradford. He was the number one overall pick in 2010 and looked to be living up to the hype at the start, winning the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. However, injuries derailed his career; and he missed half of 2013 and all of 2014 with injury. The Rams decided to go a different way in 2015 as he was traded to Philadelphia for Nick Foles.
While Bradford did not quite pan out, the Rams have had some decent success at the running back spot. Late round picks Daryl Richardson, 7th round in 2012, and Zac Stacy were solid contributors for their draft spots in their time in St. Louis although both are gone this year. Stacy had a great rookie season but lost his job to 2014 3rd rounder Tre Mason. Mason was a great addition but will likely take a backseat to Todd Gurley in 2015. He will be fighting for the starting job but will most likely be contributing from a reserve role. However, the Rams did have one big bust at the running back position in 2nd round pick from 2012, Isaiah Pead. Pead was the earliest selection of any of the running backs taken by St. Louis in the last five years and has contributed the least. He barely made an impact in his first two years and missed all of 2014 with an injury.
Two players that have been decent but have not quite lived up to the hype are 2013 8th overall selection Tavon Austin and 2014 2nd overall pick Greg Robinson. While neither has been bad, you will need to get more out of top ten picks. Austin showed flashes of his brilliance in his rookie year, but his 2014 season left a lot to be desired. Robinson was a decent starter in his rookie season; but for a number two overall pick, he was a disappointment. Both players have plenty of time to become good but will need to step up their game in 2015.