>\n\nWorst to First: 1. St Louis Rams \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 1. St Louis Rams

Written by Ben Morgan on 02/07/2010

Things change pretty quickly in the NFL. But fans of the St. Louis Rams are still waiting to get back to the glory of the "Greatest Show on Turf". The past few years have been difficult, and things seem to have gotten progressively worse. It seems losing a few former stars is looking pretty inevitable right now. Leonard Little and Marc Bulger look like they'll be playing elsewhere in 2010 or possibly just playing in the back yard with the kids. This is likely to make the Rams into one of the youngest teams in the NFL so things may get even worse before they start to get better again. It's not that the Rams lack talent, they have several early draft picks on the roster and a glance along their OL, on paper it looks pretty bitchin. But the OL may be a good example of what ails St Louis. They should be a lot better than they are. Multiple coaching changes don't help and for once I'm glad to see that they're not jettisoning a coach after a poor first season. Granted not every coach works out even in the long run but you look around the league at the successful franchises, the Patriots, the Steelers, the Colts, they all boast continuity. Course they also boast franchise QBs as well. Something St Louis has lacked since Kurt Warner (good luck with the retirement by the way Kurt, it's been a tonne of fun watching you play). So let's break down the Rams and look at what direction they should be looking come draft day.

2010 Free Agent Losses
2010 Free Agent additions
To be updated
Derek Fine TE (Bills)
2010 Unsigned Free Agents
2011 Potential Free Agents
Victor Adeyanju DE (RFA,CBA-UFA), Oshimogo Atogwe S (RFA,CBA-UFA), Alex Barron OT (RFA,CBA-UFA), Eric Bassey DB (RFA), Quincy Butler DB (XRFA), Kenneth Darby RB (RFA), Daniel Fells TE (UFA), Samkon Gado RB (RFA,CBA-UFA), Gary Gibson DT (RFA,CBA-UFA), Leonard Little DE (UFA), Ruvell Martin WR (RFA,CBA-UFA), David Roach DB (XRFA), Clifton Ryan DT (XRFA), Mark Setterstrom OG (RFA,CBA-UFA), David Vobora LB (XRFA), Jonathan Wade DB (RFA)
Danny Amendola WR (XRFA), K.C. Asiodu LB (XRFA), Keenan Burton WR (RFA), Chris Chamberlain LB (RFA), Adam Goldberg OT (UFA), John Greco OT (RFA), Justin King DB (RFA), Laurent Robinson WR (UFA), Eric Young OG (XRFA)

Roster Breakdown
Quarterbacks Major Need
It looks like Marc Bulgers days as a Ram are numbered. He's due a huge salary this year, one that he's not looked like justifying since oooh 2006? Which rather nicely ties in with his last contract extension. Of course it's not been all Bulger's fault. The Rams have had Top 15 draft picks the last 4 years. You don't lose that many games just by having a bad QB. But it's clear by now that the Rams are not going to go back to the big dance with Bulger as a Tango partner. He could get cut or traded or as the latest rumour I read suggested, he could opt to retire as he doesn't want to leave St Louis. While the 2 best players in this draft are probably Defensive Tackles (something the Rams could also use) finding a genuine franchise QB is the Holy Grail in the NFL. You only have to look at Superbowl winners in the past decade to see that. Drafting a QB in round 1 is a 50/50 proposition. Which doesn't make for great odds. For every Peyton Manning there's a Tim Couch. But once you leave Round 1 (particularly the early picks) it's a 1 in 10 chance. For every Tom Brady there are 9 Jeff Smokers. In other words, this year, this early pick really NEEDS to get used on a QB. If it will or not is another question but clearly there are 2 prospects who might fit for the Rams. Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford. Both have question marks, Clausen has the pro style experience but needs some work and his arm strength isn't the best, Notre Dame weren't exactly successful with him under Center either. Bradford has the injury issue and the fact he's been used mostly in the Shotgun. He is though tremendously accurate and he's a winner. Personally I'd not be comfortable with either as the #1 overall pick. But with Suh and McCoy this is one year where a team may be willing to trade up to get one of them. If the Rams are prepared to ignore the draft value table they could get some compensation like a 2nd rounder and save themselves a few million bucks whilst still getting one of the top 2 QBs. Along with Bulger the Rams also have a duo of 2009 rookies, Keith Null who struggled replacing Bulger, and MIke Reilly who they plucked off the Packers practice squad. Reilly is interesting in that he was a very accurate college QB but he played at a lower level. If they're willing to give him time he could become a useful backup. Kyle Boller is a free agent but I guess they may invite him back and hope he does better than in 2009. If the Rams do draft Clausen or Bradford, having a vet around to take the sacks while the rookie holds a clipboard and learns is probably going to be a good thing in the long run. Rumours abound that Michael Vick could be traded to St Louis. I'm not sure what to make of that other than it would free the Rams to draft Ndamukong Suh first overall. I've never been sold on Mike Vick as a passer, because frankly, he's never been very good at it in the NFL, I would think the number of sacks allowed may go down if Vick is dropping back to pass! It's not a route I'd go if I were the Rams but it's starting to sound like it'll happen. If it does, at least watching the Rams in 2010 will be more exciting!

Runningbacks Minor Need
When you have one of, if not the best all around RB in the NFL this is never going to be a Major Need position. Despite the passing game not frightening anyone and the Offensive Line not really playing up to the level you expect S-Jax continued his stellar career. The only question mark now is how can the Rams prolong his career? With most teams now operating successfully with a RB Committee approach of some sort it could, and probably should, be time for the Rams to do the same. Finding a complementary back to Jackson could help the Rams enormously. Kenneth Darby and Samkon Gado are both restricted free agents who may or may not be back but neither of them really excites in that role. It's highly doubtful the Rams would delve into free agency to fill such a role but for my money there's a couple of guys out there who'd be good examples of what they could look for. Darren Sproles or Leon Washington. A multi-threat guy who can give you something electric in the return game, or passing game as well as spelling Jackson. Jackson is one of the best receivers out of the backfield in Football so it's not really a specialist 3rd down back you're looking for here but rather a guy who can make some yards spelling Jackson and help out in a big way elsewhere, like maybe on special teams. Seeing who's still around on Day 2 in the draft would be smart, and a lot cheaper than you'd get Leon Washington for! One other possible free agent back worth mentioning may be Jerious Norwood who's been pretty good spelling starters in Atlanta. He may come a little cheaper than Sproles or Washington. If the Rams do get Vick I remember Norwood and Vick being very effective when Atlanta designed a few option plays to make good use of their speed. Worked well in the pre-Wildcat NFL. At FB, Mike Karney is one of the best lead blockers in the league. He's probably also Steven Jackson's favourite guy on the team.

Wide Receivers
Minor Need
This is not what you'd call a strong group. At least not yet. What they do have on their side is every single one of them is young, and I think every single one of them has a little promise. Donnie Avery could be a star given a good QB. He's entering his 3rd year, typically the breakout year for most WRs. So is Keenan Burton. Brandon Gibson showed a lot of promise at the tail end of his rookie season and he could push for a starting position in 2010. Then there's oft injured Laurent Robinson to return as well. He's an interesting guy, I really liked him as a rookie in Atlanta but he's been injured most of the time since. If he can stay healthy he could be a useful guy for a young QB, his conract is up after this season though. Chip in returner Danny Amendola who did pretty well as a complimentary receiver. I'm sure they'd look to get him more involved in 2010 as well. Obviously WR is not a current strength of this team but as far as the draft goes what I think they could use more than a draft pick being spent on WR is to get a veteran presence in to help these young guys out. There's talk of Isaac Bruce coming in as some sort of position coach, they could probably do worse than offering him a player/coach role! Though he is like 64 years old by now. If there's a value pick to be had the Rams could go for it, especially considering the injuries their young WRs had last year, but it would probably have to be a tremendous value pick for it to be on day 1. It looks a crowded group with one potential star and a bunch of other guys who may or may not develop. Me? I'd be looking at free agency for a possession type solid vet. A Derek Mason or a Kevin Walter perhaps, could they risk a T.O.? This is a Major Need position but to me, it's not a Major draft need. More a major free agency need.

Tight Ends
Minor Need
This is a tough one to call. Randy McMichael will be packing his bags. He failed to live up to his early career ability in St Louis but then, the Rams over the years have not used the TE with any consistency at all. Going all the way back to the Kurt Warner days. McMike had 34 catches and Daniel Fells had 20+ catches but he got used as a 4th WR a lot and he's a free agent who may not be back. Billy Bajema is more of a blocker at #2 on the depth chart.Given the glut of damn good TEs in the draft this year, the Rams young crop of wideouts and a possible rookie QB, perhaps it's time the offense was adapted to include the TE more than last year? With Rob Gronkowski, Jermaine Gresham, Aaron Hernandez and Dennis Pitta in the draft this year it might be something worth considering in the second round, but until the TE becomes more than a complimentary option in St Louis that seems like overkill for a draft pick. So this is a weird one for me. On most teams this would qualify as a Major Need but unless the offense includes the TE a bit more it's never really going to be much more than a draft afterthought for them. Perhaps a low round draft pick might get offered for Tony Scheffler? We'll see.

Offensive Line
Major Need
Two first round picks at Offensive Tackle, 2 good young free agents on the interior. This should be the team's biggest strength. There are worse offensive lines in the league for sure but this group just has underachieving stamped all over it. Finding a Right Guard, having parted somewhat acrimoniously with Richie Incognito in mid season, is a must. It would help if Jason Brown and Jacob Bell could reproduce the form at their former teams. So far they haven't but with 2 young Tackles (I'm assuming here that Barron being a restricted free agent, will be back) developing this is one area that could really improve this year. Bell was pretty awful in 2008 but gota lot better last year having gained some weight. Jason Brown was decent but not as good as his pay cheque suggests it shoudl be. It doesn't help when you have so many injuries on the interior of course. Continuity is important on the OL. But all 4 of Jason Smith, Bell, Brown and Barron are under 30. Even so OL remains a major need for the Rams, particularly at RG. When round 2 rolls around if Mike Iupati is still available it'd be tough to pick anyone else. In addition if Setterstrom leaves there's a real lack of depth there too. Roger Allen who stepped in as a rookie late last season tore his ACL in the last game and could possibly miss the 2010 season. Even with all the chopping and changing and injuries the Rams managed a very respectable 4.3ypc from their RBs. Though how much that says about the line and how much about S-Jax is anyone's guess. Only 4 rushing TDs, 44 sacks and nearly 100 hits on the QB, that's just not acceptable and I feel like these players are capable of so much more. Even if they get a top Guard early it probably wouldn't hurt to use a later pick on another OL prospect as well as there's questions about Barron still in addition to the lack of quality depth.

Defensive Tackle
Major Need
Every man and his dog says the Rams draft Ndamukong Suh. He's a hell of a player and about as sure a thing as you could ever get coming into the NFL. But the Rams have been there before with first round Defensive Linemen, Adam Carriker has been a bust so far and it's fair to say despite flashing ability, Chris Long has not had the game changing effect people hoped for, that you expect for a pick that high, but he did make big strides in the second half of the season. I must admit I would like to see how much Long and Carriker would improve if they were playing alongside Suh (or McCoy). But when you don't generate much of a pass rush, give up over 2000 yards rushing , too many big passing plays... etc etc. Basically the Rams D is in the top 10 of just about every statistical category you don't want to be in. Fixing it has to start up front with run defense. A Suh or a McCoy would clearly help there I'm also intrigued to see if Spagnulo is willing to chase some of his former Giant charges. Both Fred Robbins and the vastly under-rated Barry Cofield are free agents this season. As much as I slate the Rams DTs in 2009, like seemingly every other position, it was devasted by injuries (perhaps they should look at a new strength & conditioning regime??). It doesn't help when that many guys end up on IR or missing significant time. If they can get everyone healthy depth might not be so bad. Clifton Ryan has done pretty well and Dorell Scott was a 3rd round pick last year out of Clemson. I liked him as a potential NT so if he can develop he could help stuff the run. It's hardly the embarrassment of riches Spagnulo had in New York but if they can get everyone healthy and bring in some fresh blood, either by picking Suh/McCoy or by getting in a guy like Cofield or Robbins who's familiar with Spagnulo's system, things could look up for this unit. But at present it's still a Major Need, they must get better against the run and there are a number of guys available in the first and second round who could help stuff the run. Terrence Cody, Dan Williams, Brian Price,

Defensive End
Major Need
The Rams certainly aren't short of numbers at DE, even allowing for the departure of Leonard Little, but Spagnulo likes to have several DEs rushing the passer and rotating in and out. He's got nothing like that in St Louis. What also doesn't help is that the Rams rarely had teams in 4 or 5 WR sets, thanks mostly to their poor run defense. That meant opponents were rarely in 3rd and long situations. Chris Long should be a very good pass rusher if the Rams D can improve as a whole, as mentioned, his level of play really came on in the latter half of 2009. They could do with getting James Hall back as one of their rotation as well. He's old but decent. Victor Adeyanju hasn't really developed into a pass rusher (though he's pretty good against the run so could be useful in that DE rotation on 1st and 2nd downs) so considering Spagnulo's past of amassing top notch pass rushers don't be surprised if a pass rushing DE finds his way to the Rams earlier in the draft than you'd think. After all hoping for James Wyche or Adeyanju to suddenly develop into top notch pass rushers is a leap of faith no-one should take. Free agency is a possibility, Elvis Dumervil would be an excellent addition but pass rushers on the whole are expensive. The draft may be the best place to find one. But it's definitely a big need. A better pass rush could instantly help protect the secondary who give up too many big plays.

Linebackers Major Need
James Laurinaitis. That's pretty much where the Rams LB corps begins and ends. Along with Rey Maualuga he made up the most difficult to spell pairing of MLBs ever drafted. What he achieved last year given the struggles on the Rams line was approaching super human. That he did it as a rookie is kind of remarkable. But losing Chris Draft and Will Witherspoon to a cut and a trade really knocked the stuffing out of the rest of the Rams LBs. Paris Lenon is the only other guy really worth mentioning and that's mostly because he's a free agent. He may be back but even if he is he can certainly be improved upon. Rookie David Vorbora, well he has a pulse. The rest are special teams types and this is a position that could really stand a couple of upgrades. OLB in a 4-3 is an often undrvalued position though so perhaps they can find a cheap but good guy in free agency. Even so this is another spot that could use an upgrade via the draft. The Rams picked up the Eagles 5th rounder in part exchange for Will Witherspoon. I'd suggest using an earlier pick than that to find his replacement.

Cornerback Major Need
Guess what? Injuries hurt the Rams Corners in 2009. Big surprise huh? Seriously, what's going on with the medical side in St Louis? But when they made it onto the field the Rams corners had that same kind of look as the victims in Law & Order SVU. The number of big plays given up last year was not the worst in the league, but it was close to it. Ron Bartell can be a decent corner when he's healthy. He just wasn't healthy much. There's simply no-one to fill you with much confidence back there though. So this would be a Major need position as well. This is not a good defense and consequently they could look at pretty much any position as in need of a drastic upgrade. Having blown a pick a few years ago on Tye Hill didn't help. On the bright side, Justin King is young and last year's 3rd round pick, Bradley Fletcher is set to return from injury... that's pretty much it for bright spots.

Safety Minimal Need
The Rams really need to make sure Oshiomogho Atogwe comes back. Safety is about the only spot on the Defense I think doesn't warrant a major need grade. But that's conditional on Atogwe returning. He's a genuine play maker and somewhat under-rated leaguewide. It'll come as no surprise to anyone that he finished the season on Injured Reserve though. He was also their franchise player last year and though if there's no new CBA he'll be a restricted free agent, an RFA tender for him would cost somewhere around the $8m mark? To get him back the Rams are going to need to offer him a big money long term deal. Which he deserves, but which the Rams may not be willing to pay to a Safety. If the Rams can generate some pass rush James Butler can come into his own as well. Probably not the best SS in coverage (understatement) he's a physical safety and great against the run. He got hurt last season too. If (and this is looking like an increasingly big if) they can keep Atogwe and Butler healthy Safety can be considered something of a strength (relative to the rest of the D anyway). Even though I'm looking at Safety as the Ram's lone bright spot there's still problems with depth. And injuries. Did I mention the injuries?

Specialists Minimal Need

Donnie Jones (P) get's a lot of practice. Josh Brown (K), not so much. Jones is one of the best punters in the league and had it not been for Steven Jackson and James Laurinaitis, might have had a good shot at Team MVP in 2009. This is not good, but Jones is. Josh Brown has been one of the league's more consistent kickers but I imagine he spent half of 2009 asleep due to lack of anything to do. Brown was pretty ordinary last year and I would guess the Rams may bring in someone who's more than just a camp leg to compete with him.

Return Game
Minimal Need
Danny Amendola did a good job with lots of opportunities. He didn't hit paydirt once but has decent averages in both facets and it's probably only a matter of time before he breaks it all the way to the endzone. That said he did fumble on punt returns 3 times which may be of concern (I figure fumbles on punt returns probably rank something like 10th in the concern rankings in St Louis). If the Rams do manage to find that shifty RB to compliment S-Jax, Amendola could lose some return touches but he's worth persevering with at least through 2010.

Dream Day One

1.3 Jimmy Clausen QB Notre Dame
2.33 Dan Williams DT Tennessee
2.35 Sean Weatherspoon OLB Missouri
dependent on a trade down with Tampa Bay
Player Visits
To be updated

NOTES: If there is no new Collective Bargaining Agreement a number of players will become Restricted Free Agents instead of Unrestricted. This makes them more likely to return to their current team and this will of course affect Draft Needs.

Last Edited: 01/20/2010

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