Finding the Fits -- Could K Zuerlein prove the Rams' best value pick?
Over the next 31 days, NFLDraftScout.com will look at the drafts of each of the NFL's teams in an attempt to "Find the Fits." As the original owners of the No. 2 overall pick, today we'll look at the St. Louis Rams. New GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher enjoyed a strong first draft together. The player who'll make the most immediate impact, however, may have been given the least attention.
In trading down only four spots, new general manager Les Snead and veteran head coach Jeff Fisher were given a bounty of picks by the Washington Redskins. The Rams will have the Redskins' first round picks in each of the next two drafts, which frankly, they may need because while St. Louis added an awful lot of talent to their roster last weekend, they also drafted several players with a history of making poor decisions off the field - which limits their potential to make a reliable contribution on it.
In fact, the player in best position to make an immediate impact would seem to be kicker Greg Zuerlein, who the Rams selected with the first pick of the sixth round, No. 171 overall. The Rams thought enough of the Missouri Western State product to release veteran kicker Josh Brown. Brown, incidentally, was signed by the New York Jets one day later.
It is easy to understand why the Rams might feel confident in the rookie's chances at making big kicks in the NFL - just take a peek at his statistics. Zuerlein nailed 23 of 24 kicks this year for MWSU and was a perfect nine for nine on kicks over 50+ yards. He showed some grit under pressure too, drilling a 57-yarder late against rival Missouri Southern that wound up being the game-winner. And this was Zuerlein's first year in the program. He'd spent his previous time earning All-American recognition at Nebraska of Omaha, but had to transfer once the university elected to drop football as part of their jump to Division I. As one might expect considering Zuerlein's success as a field goal kicker (of the six field goals he missed in 2010, five were blocked) and kickoff weapon (43.1% of his kicks from 2008-10 went for touchbacks), he was heavily recruited by FCS schools but an eligibility snafu limited his options.
Once the Rams cut Brown they essentially gave Zuerlein the job. Sure, the Rams signed free agent kicker Garrett Lindholm in January and he could, technically, win the job but only if the rookie falls on his face. Once St. Louis drafted Zuerlein, the Rams were essentially "pot-committed." During Jeff Fisher's 16-year run as head coach of the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans, his club never invested a draft pick in a kicker.
Perhaps most intriguing for Zuerlein (and possibly hardcore Fantasy Football enthusiasts) will be his fit with Fisher - a relationship that could lead to plenty of field goal opportunities as a rookie. Fisher will demand a ball-control approach that will move the chains with more consistency than the team saw a year ago under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Furthermore, Fisher has shown uncommon courage in allowing his kickers of the past to attempt long field goals. While under Fisher, current Titans' kicker Rob Bironas attempted 22 field goals over 50+ yards, including a memorable 60-yarder in 2006.
If Zuerlein can continue his deep accuracy in the NFL, he could prove quite the unsung find of the Rams' 2012 draft.
The rest of the Rams' picks:
1st Round - No. 15 overall - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
2nd Round - No. 33 overall - Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State
2nd Round - No. 39 overall - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
2nd Round - No. 50 overall - Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati
3rd Round - No. 65 overall - Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana
4th Round - No. 96 overall - Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest
5th Round - No. 150 overall - Kevious Watkins, OG, South Carolina
6th Round - No. 171 overall - Greg Zuerlein, K, Missouri Western State
7th Round - No. 209 overall - Aaron Brown, OLB, Hawaii
7th Round - No. 252 overall - Daryl Richardson, RB, Abilene Christian
Read more about all of the Rams' draft picks here.
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