>\n\nWorst to First: 2. St Louis Rams \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 2. St Louis Rams

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/06/2009

In most NFL seasons a 2-14 or 3-13 record would go an awful long way to you picking first in the upcoming draft. However, for the second season in a row the St Louis Rams 'efforts' have gone relatively unrewarded. In 2008 they missed out thanks to what was pretty much the worst team in NFL history. Luckily for the 2007 Dolphins they didn't have to hold that mantle too long. The 2008 Lions have plumbed new depths of ineptitude.

Whilst it seems such a short time ago we were talking about this franchise as 'The Greatest Show on Turf' it's actually been 5 years since they last had a winning season. I'll be honest, it's probably not going to happen for them in 2009 either. In fact 2009 is looking like that dreaded 'rebuilding year' all fans dread. The year you don't even have a hope of making the playoffs. The year half your best players from the last decade move elsewhere. Wave goodbye to 2 greats, Torry Holt and Orlando Pace. It'll be odd seeing them in different colours this year. With 2 consecutive picks at #2 overall though they're going to have a chance to build something good around a couple of top notch guys. Last year netted them Chris Long at DE and while he didn't have the instant Pro Bowl year many were hoping for, I still think he's a rare player and one that perhaps, like Mario Williams, we won't see the best of until Year 2.

Before we go on to analyse what's left of the roster let's have a quick look at who they've gained and who they've lost this offseason and perhaps just as important where the draft is concerned, who they stand to lose in 2010.

2009 Free Agent Losses
2009 Free Agent additions
Anthony Becht TE (Cardinals, cut), Dan Krieder FB (Cardinals, UFA), Nick Leckey C (Saints, UFA), Orlando Pace OT (Bears, cut), Brett Romberg C (Falcons, UFA)
Kyle Boller QB (Ravens), Jason Brown C (Ravens), James Butler S (Giants), Craig Dahl S (Giants), Michael Karney FB (Saints)
2009 Unsigned Free Agents
2010 Potential Free Agents
Drew Bennett WR, Fakhir Brown CB, Corey Chavous S, Jason Craft CB, Anthony Davis
OT, Samkon Gado RB, La'Roi Glover DT, Adam Goldberg OT, Brandon Gorin OT, Trent Green QB, Dante Hall WR, Torry Holt WR, Dane Looker WR, Ricky Manning CB, Travis Minor RB, Rob Petitti OT, Gary Stills LB, Cory Withrow C
Victor Adeyanju DE (2009 RFA), Oshiomogho Atogwe S (2009 Franch), Richie Incognito OG (2009 RFA), Randy McMichael TE, Leonard Little DE, Chris Draft LB, James Hall DE

Roster Breakdown
Quarterbacks Minimal Need

Normally I'd look at this situation and say Marc Bulger, not the greatest QB in the league but a pretty damn good one when the parts around him are clicking. I'd look at freshly signed Kyle Boller and say, he's a backup type but he has starting experience and again, in the right system he could win you some games. On the surface this looks like a set situation with maybe the chance of drafting a #3 QB somewhere on day 2. I still think that's a likely scenario but the Rams have entertained a lot of QB prospects over the last couple of months so I have to start thinking that someone there's not really enamoured with Marc Bulger. At the moment it's just a nagging thought in the back of my head. I mean, you'd expect the team picking 2 overall to at least speak to the top couple of QB prospects but Josh Freeman, Curtis Painter and Tom Brandstater as well?

Runningbacks Major Need

Steven Jackson virtually duplicated his 2007 season, not bad. I mean 1,400 all purpose yards and 8TDs is a pretty good return. Unfortunately like 2007 Jackson only played in 12 games again. After his awesome 2006 season, although he didn't go over that notorious career killing 400 carry season, he also put in a full WR's season of wear and tear onto his body with 90 catches. I wondered then if he'd be the same after that or whether the toll on his body was too much. Personally I have to wonder if the Rams wouldn't be better finding a guy who can split carries with Jackson, and perhaps replace him. I don't see that guy currently on the roster so I'd be giving a long, hard look to any of the top 3 RBs in this draft if they fell to me at 2.34.

Wide Receivers
Minimal Need

Isaac Bruce went last year, now Torry Holt is gone. With him any semblance of depth at the position as well. Dante Hall, Drew Bennett and Dane Looker might not have done much in St Louis but that depth chart sure looks bare. I really like the trade for Laurent Robinson. Donnie Avery looks like a great find but perhaps more of a possession type? 53 Catches as a rookie is great but at a paltry 12.7 ypc the Rams really needed someone who can be a deep threat. Robinson I really liked coming out. He had a promising rookie season in Atlanta (despite the QB...) but struggled with injuries last year. He's got speed and good size and I think he could end up starting opposite Avery. In effect the Rams now have over the last 2 years acquired a 2nd, 3rd and 4th round WR and I think they have the makings of an exciting group down the track. What's lacking though, and why I've specified this as a Minimal Need, is a Veteran presence at WR, not another draft pick. So whilst clearly the position is still one of Need, the 2009 Draft won't help them right now.

Tight Ends
Minimal Need

As with many offenses these days TE is an underused position and St Louis over the past few seasons have been no exception. In Martz's offense it was a complete afterthought and despite the guy who made stars of Antonio Gates and Chris Cooley coming to town, last year nothing really changed. McMichael has been a bit of a flop and is a free agent after this year. They lost Becht but replaced him with Billy Bajema. Neither were really anything to get excited about. For my money they stand pat where they are at TE this year, let McMike walk in 2010 and probably address the situation then.

Offensive Line
Major Need

Now we get to the guts of the problem. On the ground the Offensive Line managed to create enough space for Jackson to average 4.1ypc. That's not great, but it's not terrible either. Where they did really struggle was in rushing TDs. Only 8, that's not far off a league low. The new management moved quickly and decisively to bring in Baltimore's highly rated young Center, Jason Brown. A great signing and I'm sure Steven Jackson is ecstatic. They also signed a good blocking fullback in Karney so I'd expect the Rushing TDs column to improve a lot in 2009. Through the air the Rams really disappointed. They gave up 45 sacks despite Orlando Pace returning to play at a high level. That's really unacceptable for the type of team St Louis are and it's made all the worse by the departure of Pace to Chicago. The Current plan is for Alex Barron to move from RT to LT and Jacob Bell to play RT. If I'm Bulger I wouldn't be too happy about that. Bell was a very good Guard in Jacksonville and I think that's where he should stay. Barron and Incognito really struggled against opposing pass rushes last year giving up a combined 14 sacks on the right side of the OL. In contrast Bell and Pace gave up just 4. Barron is a former first round choice but Incognito didn't warrant much of an RFA tender this offseason. My guess is the Rams will keep Incognito for this year but would happily upgrade at RG if they can. They picked up Roy Scheuning in the 5th round last year, I thought at the time that was pretty good value and he could develop but odds on 5th rounders are not good in the NFL. A replacement for Pace is utterly imperative though and all the smart money has St Louis grabbing one of Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe in round 1.

Defensive Tackle
Major Need

This is a unit in some trouble. The Rams gave up nearly 5 yards per carry last year and 26TDs on the ground. Neither are anything like good enough to succeed in the NFL. To make matters worse with the departure of La'Roi Glover there's really only Cliff Ryan and Adam Carriker on roster. Neither has exactly set the league alight this far, despite, in Carriker's case, being a former first round selection. Claude Wroten should return this year but if he even makes the roster it's probably because they simply don't have the numbers. Like OL they could really do with mutilple draft selections being spent on the DL but the reality of only having 7 picks, one in each round, and many holes to fill might mean a good look around the leftovers of free agency following the draft. Even so DT has to be on their minds with their round 2 pick. B.J. Raji would really add a massive influence in the middle but his BC partner Ron Brace might be what they end up with. That big run stuffing could really help out St Louis big time and allow that talented trio of LBs to make some plays.

Defensive End
Minor Need

I'll keep this as Minor rather than Major because they drafted Chris Long last year. Leonard Little when healthy is still a force. Health has been a problem for him though and this is the last year of his current deal. James Hall does ok but he's a free agent after the 2009 season and isn't a world beater. Behind those 3 is really just Victor Adeyanju. I liked him coming out of college but he's never developed and will be an UFA in 2010 as well, likely leaving just Chris Long for the 2010 season. As things stand they're just average when it comes to getting to the QB. That should improve with Long's development but given Hall is mediocre, Adeyanju isn't even that, Little has injury issues and all 3 may be leaving in 12 months anyway, what really couldn't hurt is finding a specialist pass rusher on Day 2 who may develop into something more ala Elvis Dumervil. Failing that a First rounder on a DE in 2010 looks likely.

Linebackers Minor Need

On paper a LB trio of Tinasamoia, Witherspoon and Chris Draft looks superb. The reality is none of them are really what you're looking for at MLB and the lack of good play from DT doesn't bring out the best in them. The depth here is also paper thin. Draft is a free agent after 2009 as well. Finding a long term MLB is definitely needed here. Even so the talent level of the 3 starters is enough that you feel if they can improve the DL you'll get tons more our of the LBs. Depth is clearly needed though.  We're running out of picks fast here but again that second rounder would be well spent on someone like James Lauranitus if he should fall that far but other needs may be more pressing.

Cornerback Major Need

Bartell can hold down one side pretty well but the Rams as a team gave up far too many big plays last year (51 passes over 20 yards and a disturbing 11 over 40 yards). Tye Hill seems to take most of them flack for poor CB play but he was actually only in for I think 4 games last year. Last year's CB pick Justin King probably left college a year early then got hurt and spent the season on IR. I know a lot of scouts felt he could be a very good NFL CB had he stayed in college so perhaps the talent is there to succeed. CB is a position that typically rookies don't play well in, the learning curve being pretty steep. The problem that presents is the Rams could use someone now. It's highly likely even if they did spend an early pick at CB that the kid would be the 3rd or 4th CB this year anyway and Tye Hill would probably still start. With that in mind and even though I'd list this as a Major Need I still have a hard time seeing the Rams choosing a CB over someone on the OL, DL or possibly even over a RB.

Safety Minimal Need

Atogwe is a really good young Safety. James Butler's good too. OK so they have their starters. They have some depth at Safety as well I'd say they're set for this season but they need to get something long term done with Atogwe. If they can't this could be a position they look at late on.

Specialists No Need

Donnie Jones had a great season and Josh Brown was as solid as ever. Both are on board long term so there's nothing to see here, unless a 50 yard punt average turns you on...

Return Game
Minimal Need

Derek Stanley showed a little here. 25 or so yards per return is ok. It's not great but it's ok. It could certainly stand to be improved but using a draft pick on a specialist would be the ultimate luxury pick. Unless you can find Devin Hester's younger, faster brother in the draft?

Dream Day One

1.2 Jason Smith OT Baylor 2.35 Ron Brace DT Boston College

Player Visits
Dan Gay OT Baylor
Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest
Mike Mickens CB Cincinatti
Derek Walker DE Illinois
Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri
Tyson Jackson DE Louisiana State
Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland
Connor Barwin DE Cincinatti
Mark Sanchez QB USC
Chris Pressley FB Wisconsin
Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech
Eugene Monroe OT Virginia
Curtis Painter QB Purdue
Tom Brandstater QB Fresno State
Nic Harris S Oklahoma
Jared Cook TE South Carolina
Jason Smith OT Baylor
Josh Freeman QB Kansas State

Last Edited: 04/07/2009

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