Tag:St. Louis Rams
Posted on: May 7, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Wide Receivers


Over the next two weeks I will be highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

The 2011 wide receiver class was a unique one. While all of the attention was understandably heaped upon A.J. Green and Julio Jones, the so-called second tier talent of this group intrigued me. There wasn't a great deal of pure speed available in this class, but the number of elusive returners, tough slot receivers and big, physical possession wideouts made it a underrated strength of the 2011 draft. It will be interesting to see how many of these college stars prove to emerge as true No. 1 targets in the NFL. While I have some reservations about how many will be able to do precisely that, I am confident that a number of them will make immediate and lasting impacts at the pro level.

Earlier this week I broken down the quarterbacks and running back fits.
Good Fits:

Dwayne Harris, Dallas Cowboys:
Quite frankly, I wasn't as high on the Cowboys' draft as many, but I did love the value of Harris in the sixth round. In Harris, I see the same type of toughness, wiggle and secure hands that I saw in Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby (now with the Cincinnati Bengals) and Davone Bess (Miami Dolphins) when they starred in college. Considering the talent outside in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, Harris could slide right into the slot and prove a steal.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons:
Let's be clear. I thought Atlanta paid too much to acquire Jones. With that said, it is easy to see why they made their aggressive trade, as Jones is the most physically-prepared receiver to make an immediate impact in this draft and is an ideal fit for Atlanta's offense due to his size, strength, and run-blocking. He is not as fast on the field as his 4.34 second time at the Combine might suggest, but at 6-3, 220 pounds, he is tough to bring down in the open field. Considering the other weapons the Falcons possess, he'll rarely see double coverage early in his career, meaning that Jones will often be only one broken tackle away from big plays.

Greg Little, Cleveland Browns:
Little and Jones will forever be linked due to the fact that Cleveland used one of the picks they received from the Falcons to select a similarly built (6-3, 231) and skilled wideout 52 picks later than Atlanta selected Jones. Like Jones, Little uses his extraordinary combination of size, strength, underrated speed (4.53) and body control to be effective. A former running back, Little's RAC skills could result in plenty of big plays in Cleveland. He is one of the few wideouts in this class who I believe could ultimately emerge as a true No. 1 target. It will be interesting to compare in a few years to take a look back and see what kind of value the Browns got with Little at No. 59 compared to what the Falcons got out of Jones at No. 7.

Greg Salas, St. Louis Rams:
I could have just as easily listed the first wide receiver the Rams selected in 2011 -- former Boise State star Austin Pettis (No. 78 overall) -- as an ideal schematic fit, but with Salas taken 34 spots later, he could ultimately prove the better value. Each are tall, well-built possession receivers whose game is built on precise route-running and soft, reliable hands -- precisely the type of wideouts Sam Bradford so desperately needed last year.

Titus Young, Detroit Lions:
Young was hyped by some draft analysts as the No. 3 receiver in this class, but inconsistent route-running, hands, toughness and slim build (5-11, 174) kept him as my No. 7 rated wideout (No. 6 by NFLDraftScout.com). There is no denying, however, that Young fits in well schematically with the Lions, who needed a big play threat opposite Calvin Johnson and to take advantage of Matt Stafford's amazing arm. 

Questionable Fit:

Jon Baldwin, Kansas City Chiefs:
Considering the success that Scott Pioli had in helping build the Patriots' dynasty as well as the successful renovation of the Chiefs, it might be seen as almost blasphemous to knock one of his first round picks. And yet, here I am doing it. I understand the Chiefs' need to add a secondary receiver to take pressure off of Dwayne Bowe and certainly acknowledge Baldwin's extraordinary combination of size (6-4, 228), speed (4.49), explosiveness (42" vertical jump led all Combine WRs), but quite frankly, on tape Baldwin isn't the sum of his parts. He isn't as physical as his size would suggest, nor as fast as he timed. Baldwin struggled against press coverage in college and will only face more of it in the NFL. He is blessed with a great deal of natural talent and Todd Haley has shown the ability to coax such talent from surly receivers throughout his career. There is no denying, however, that Baldwin was a significant gamble at No. 26 overall.
Posted on: April 22, 2011 1:00 pm
 

St. Louis Rams Draft Breakdown

St. Louis Rams 2010 record: 7-9, second place NFC West

2011 draft rundown    Seven total picks (round): 14 (1); 47 (2); 78 (3); 112 (4); 145 (5); 216 (7) 228 (7)

Top needs:   

Wide receiver: The arrival of Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator seemingly makes it likely that more playmakers would be added. Complicating the situation are injury issues facing Donnie Avery, who missed the entire 2010 season with a knee injury, Mark Clayton, who missed the final 11 games with a knee injury and is a free agent, and Danario Alexander, who had had five surgeries on his left knee. McDaniels has been successful in the past without what would be considered elite pass-catchers.

Safety: James Butler has been a disappointment in his two seasons with the team, and Craig Dahl is a solid backup, but shouldn't be a starter. What's needed at the position is an all-around player that can be a tough run-stopper and defends the pass. With Oshiomogho Atogwe having signed with Washington, an obvious replacement is needed. There are only three safeties currently on the roster: Dahl, James Butler and Darian Stewart

Running back: The search continues for a viable and productive back behind Steven Jackson. The ideal would be a complement to Jackson, who could keep defenses honest with the ability to get to the edges consistently.

Guard: The Rams had their best success running the ball last season when John Greco was sharing time with Adam Goldberg at right guard. But because of some injuries at tackle, the Rams had Renardo Foster active instead of Greco for the final eight games of the season. The running game suffered as Goldberg had to play virtually every snap.


First-round focus   14th overall -- The St. Louis Rams would love to see a playmaking wide receiver like Alabama's Julio Jones somehow slip to them, but that isn't likely to happen. There are some rumblings throughout the league that if the team isn't able to get a speedster to take advantage of Sam Bradford's arm, the Rams might reach a bit to draft Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph, who could become the security blanket in the middle many teams like to provide their young, developing signal-callers. The Rams have also shown a great deal of interest in adding a running back to take some of the burden off of Pro Bowler Steven Jackson and could surprise with Mark Ingram. Depth at the position and greater needs elsewhere, however, make this unlikely. A more likely scenario might have the Rams looking to address the need for more youth, playmaking ability on the defensive line. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo deserves a great deal of credit for piecing together a productive defensive line last year largely with duct tape, but might have a hard time passing up a stout defensive tackle like Illinois' Corey Liuget or a pass rusher such as Missouri's Aldon Smith, should either be available at No. 14.

Five names on Rams' board:   

WR Julio Jones, Alabama
DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
DE Aldon Smith, Missouri
RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame


Posted on: April 11, 2011 5:48 pm
 

Hawaii RB Alex Green rising as draft approaches

One of the more interesting things about the final few weeks before the draft is watching players move up (or down) draft boards. Often this is the result of surprising workout results or off-field concerns.

Every now and then players start to move up the board simply because teams are dedicating more time to watching the film.

Hawaii running back Alex Green could be the latest prospect to get this late, preferential treatment.

Much of Hawaii's offensive success in recent years has, of course, been through the passing game. The 6-0, 225 pound Green, however, gave the Warriors' their first 1,000 yard rusher since 1992 and surprised scouts with his natural running skills at the East-West Shrine Game and speed (4.45) at the Combine.

Teams are starting to look at Green as a legitimate middle round possibility, ahead of some very big names at the running back position.

The St. Louis Rams have recently been tied to Green as they are looking for a big back to get meaningful snaps behind star Steven Jackson. I've been able to confirm that the Rams are bringing in Green for a visit, but St. Louis is far from the only stop on his schedule.

In fact, the Eagles, Titans, Lions and Falcons have all either already flown Green in or will be doing so over the next few days.

Green is currently rated as a 5th round prospect and the No. 14 rated running back by NFLDraftScout.com -- though it appears that perhaps we are rating him far too low...


Posted on: March 29, 2011 12:40 pm
 

Seahawks interest in Ryan Mallett legitimate?

The Seattle Seahawks will be flying in Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett to their team headquarters, according to a source.

I typically don't put a great deal of stock into the travels of prospects during this time of year. While it makes for interesting fodder, the reality is, the vast majority of players selected will NOT have been flown in for a visit with their new team prior to the draft.

That the Seahawks are bringing in Mallett, however, is interesting in a couple of different ways.

For one, Seahawks' General Manager John Schneider was at Mallett's Pro Day workout. This is believed to be the only Pro Day workout Schneider has attended so far this year.

Secondly, the Seahawks could be in considerable need of a quarterback. Incumbent starter Matt Hasselbeck is scheduled for free agency. Head coach Pete Carroll said last week at the Owners' Meetings that the Seahawks "made a run" at re-signing Hasselbeck prior to the lockout.

"Financially, we went after it and couldn't get it done," Carroll said. "In my mind, it kind of came right down to the final day of it. We made an effort and they made an effort."

The Seahawks have veteran Charlie Whitehurst waiting in the wings, but in limited duty in his first season with the Seahawks (six games). Whitehurst failed to impress. He did, however, help Seattle beat the St. Louis Rams in the final regular season game of the year, giving the Seahawks the NFC West divisional crown. With Hasselbeck healthy the next week, the Seahawks beat the Saints in the opening round of the playoffs befoe losing on the road at Chicago the next week.

Should the Seahawks be able to re-sign Hasselbeck or feel comfortable enough with Whitehurst as their starter, the team has plenty of quaterback options to consider. The team has previously been linked to several passes including Florida State's Chistian Ponder, TCU's Andy Dalton, Washington's Jake Locker and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.

With the exception of Ponder, however, most of these quarterbacks are viewed as developmental prospects. Should Seattle be unable to re-sign Hasselbeck, find another veteran option to compete with Whitehurst or feel Whitehurst is not the answer, the Seahawks could feel pressure to draft a quarterback who could contribute immediately.

The only two quarterbacks likely to be available at Seattle's No. 25 pick who are considered "pro-ready" are Mallett and Ponder.

Ponder fits Seattle's West Coast Offense better, but at 6-2, 230 pounds and with a history of injuries, he is a gamble.

Mallett is unquestionably the more gifted prospect. But, of course, concerns about his on and off-field decision-making makes him evey bit the gamble, as well.

Posted on: March 16, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 12:15 am
 

Liuget stars, Wilson struggles at Illini Pro Day

Having been given a 3rd round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee and posting a rather ho-hum workout at the Combine, Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget was a player some scouts perceived to be a little bit overrated, considering the fact that he's been featured in many first round mock drafts.

With representatives from nearly every NFL franchise on hand for his Pro Day, however, Liuget turned in a workout that one long-time scout characterized as "one of the best workouts I've ever seen from a defensive lineman."

Liuget, 6-2 and 303 pounds, didn't run, jump or lift at the workout, but demonstrated great explosiveness, hip flexibility and quick feet during defensive line drills conducted by Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, according to the scout.

"A lot of [team representatives] went to this workout to see what kind of shape [Liuget] was in. He answered that in the workout. I'm not sure the kid broke a sweat. He had [Marinelli] working, not the other way around. I'm telling you, it was an impressive workout."

Also impressing scouts on hand was running back Mikel LeShoure. Weighing in at 232 pounds, LeShoure demonstrated very quick feet and soft hands catching passes. Like Liuget, LeShoure did not do any of the measureable drills Wednesday.

As good as his teammates workouts were -- and considering that he looked fantastic in the measureable drills at the Combine -- expectations were high for linebacker Martez Wilson.

Unfortunately, those expectations were dashed when Wilson struggled in positional drills, run by the Bengals' Jeff FitzGerald.

The scout, who works for a team unlikely to select a linebacker in the first half of the draft, didn't pull any punches.

"Everyone left that workout disappointed with [Wilson]. His footwork was bad, his hands were bad, even his countenance was bad. The other kids were having fun and seemed to enjoy the competition. He didn't look like he wanted to be there," the scout said. 

"It wasn't a good workout for him - but one more indicative of how he actually plays. He looked great in the measureables at the Combine and everyone was talking about him, but he's not a very instinctive player so that speed doesn't translate onto the field."

While most of the attention was heaped upon Illinois' three stars, a few unheralded players caught the eyes of scouts.

Cornerback Travon Bellamy (5-11 3/4, 198 pounds) was timed at 4.52 in the 40-yard dash and looked "dynamite" in the shuttle drills and position workout. 

Defensive end Clay Nurse checked in at 6-2 (3/8) and 261 pounds and was slower than scouts would like at 4.95-5.0 in the 40-yard dash, but looked very good in defensive line drills.

There were several decision-makers at the workout, including Jets' head coach Rex Ryan. Also present were Chicago Bears' Director of Player Personnel Tim Ruskell, New England Patriots' Director of Pro Personnel Jason Licht and New York Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. The St. Louis Rams were strongly represented with three scouts attending the workout, including Director of College Scouting John Mancini.

 


Posted on: February 24, 2011 10:30 am
 

Schedule for NFL personnel speaking at Combine

The Combine is, of course, about the prospects weighing in, taking medicals, doing interviews and working out.

For much of the media sitting inside the Lucas Oil Stadium, however, the Combine is more important in that many of the NFL's teams' head coaches and front office executives take questions.

For those of you interested, here is Thursday's schedule:

  • 10:00 Chan Gailey, head coach, Buffalo Bills
  • 10:15 Steve Spagnuolo, head coach, St. Louis Rams
  • 10:30 Ron Rivera, head coach, Carolina Panthers
  • 10:45 Jeff Ireland, general manager, Miami Dolphins
  • 11:00 John Fox, head coach, Denver Broncos
  • 11:15 Trent Baalke, general manager, San Francisco 49ers
  • 11:30 John Harbaugh, head coach, Baltimore Ravens
  • 11:45 Jim Schwartz, head coach, Detroit Lions
  • Noon Mark Dominik, general manager, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • 12:15 Kevin Colbert, Personnel Chief, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • 12:30 Rick Spielman, Vice President of Player Personnel, Minnesota Vikings
  • 12:45 Jim Harbaugh, head coach, San Francisco 49ers
  • 1:00 Hue Jackson, head coach, Oakland Raiders
  • 1:15 Mike Munchak, head coach, Tennessee Titans
  • 3:00 Howie Roseman, general manager, Philadelphia Eagles
  • 3:30 Rex Ryan, head coach, New York Jets
  • 3:45 Mike Tannebaum, general manager, New York Jets
  • 4:00 Jason Garrett, head coach, Dallas Cowboys
Posted on: December 1, 2010 1:32 pm
 

Bradford, Pierre-Paul earn Rookies of the Week

There have been few weeks this season easier to pick out my NFL Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Week than this past weekend's action.

St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford was spectacular in the Rams' defeat of the Denver Broncos. In completing 22 of 37 passes for 307 yards, a career high three touchdowns and zero interceptions, Bradford has passed the Rams into first place in the NFC West. St. Louis is currently tied with Seattle atop the divisional race at 5-6, but owns the tie-breaker after having beaten Seattle earlier this year.

The strong performance continues what has been a spectacular rookie campaign for Bradford. As Sports Illustrated's Peter King noted, Bradford appears well on his way towards unanimously winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award considering the spectacular performance he's put on lately while the Rams battled back into first place. Over the past six games, Bradford has completed 64.3% of his passes for 1,307 yards and a sparkling 11-1 TD to INT ratio.

This type of production is nothing new to  Bradford, of course, who used a dazzling 50-8 TD to INT ratio his sophomore season to win the Heisman Trophy and take Oklahoma to the 2009 BCS Championship game.

Unlike Bradford, who has started every game for the Rams, the Giants' first round pick, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had struggled to make a consistent impact this year.

Playing against a Jacksonville team that many thought would consider Pierre-Paul (and ultimately selected defensive lineman Tyson Alualu), the former South Florida product was spectacular, doubling his previous career highs in tackles (eight, including six solos) as well as registering the first two sacks and forced fumbles (two) of his young career.

While I was among Pierre-Paul's biggest critics heading into the draft, Pierre-Paul deserves credit for his breakout performance. The Giants, blessed with one of the league's best collections of pass rushers, have often moved Pierre-Paul inside to defensive tackle on obvious passing downs. There, Pierre-Paul's marginal hand technique and marginal strength is exposed and his best attribute -- his spectacular speed and overall athleticism -- has been more easily contained by opponents. This, of course, wasn't the case against an injury-depleted Jacksonville offensive line.

It is worth noting, however, that prior to Pierre-Paul's strong game against the Jags, he'd recorded only 11 tackles in 11 games.

Pierre-Paul's stellar play beat out New England cornerback Darius Butler, who on Thanksgiving Day against the Lions put on a show. McCourty's two interceptions in the Pats' 45-24 road victory showed off the athleticism, IQ and ball skills that made him one of the best all-around corners in the 2011 draft.


Posted on: November 17, 2010 12:04 am
 

Toledo C Kowalski earns Diamond in the Rough

Typically when I list a Diamond in the Rough prospect I focus on D-II or D-III prospects. Toledo, currently in second place in the West Division of the MAC and already eligible for their first bowl game since 2005 is hardly "the rough."  That said, their talented senior center Kevin Kowalski isn't generating enough national attention in my opinion, considering that NFL scouts tell me he is a legitimate draft selection and, in fact, worthy of being listed among the top five senior pivots in the country. Kowalski currently is NFLDraftScout.com's third-rated senior center prospect for the 2011 draft.

I was impressed with Kowalski's play last week in a nationally televised MAC showdown with West-division leader Northern Illinois. While the NIU Huskies ultimately prevailed in this contest, Kowalski legitimized the chatter about him in scouting circles with his performance.

The 6-3, 299 pound Kowalski started at center for the Rockets, as he has for the past 21 games. Kowalski started the 12 games of his sophomore season at right guard and has now started 44 games for Toledo.

Kowalski's intelligence, strength and balance stand out on film. He has the agility and size to potentially slide back outside to guard at the next level, though as he demonstrated with his line calls, he has the smarts to remain inside. He did a nice job of combo blocks, taking on one defender and sliding off to hit another.

Though Toledo operates out of a spread offense, Kowalski was at his best as a drive blocker, demonstrating good upper body strength to latch onto the defender and eliminate him from the play. Northern Illinois ran various defensive formations at him, lining up a nose guard, three-technique and blitzing linebackers throughout the night.

Kowalski plays with good knee bend and his school-high 465 pound bench press is evident in the way he can absorb the bull rush. He has good lateral agility and balance to mirror in pass protection, though he has a tendency to resort to cut blocks a little more often that I'd like. One other concern is that Kowalski only showed moderate overall agility when asked to block on the move. While he can get to the second level, he struggles to break down and hit the moving target. He does provide good effort, however, and understands blocking angles, forcing defenders to run around him before getting to the ball-carrier. Still, scouts would like to see Kowalski improve his effectiveness in this area.

Scouts will question Kowalski's level of competition -- just as they did former Toledo standout offensive linemen Nick Kaczur (Patriots) and John Greco (Rams). Like each of these former Rockets, however, Kowalksi should emerge as an NFL contributor relatively early in his pro career, likely earning a mid round selection.

 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com