Letter grades for drafts the day after it's over? Among the dumbest things we do in the sportscasting business. That's way too early to draw conclusions. Instead, I'll offer observations. What I like about what Scott Linehan's regime has done in two drafts is to address needs and not reach on guys. That's at least a start. Last year, number one pick Tye Hill became a starter and so did second round pick Joe Klopfenstein and seventh round selection Mark Setterstrom. And Victor Adayanju and Claude Wroten were part of the defensive line rotation. This year, Adam Carriker should be a starter in 2007. Beyond that, Brian Leonard should play quite a bit. The rest? Good question.
No real reaches in the draft class. A reach is taking Trung Canidate(2000) when you have more pressing needs(like a declining defense). A reach is taking Jacoby Sheppard(2000) in the second round even though he had no track record of success in college. A reach is using a third round pick to convert Eric Crouch(2002) to wide receiver. A reach is using a fourth round pick on Travis Scott(2002). I will always acknowledge the brilliance of Mike Martz' offense but there was no rhyme or reason to the Rams drafts in those years. Not that it was all Martz' fault.
I like the Carriker pick and love the Leonard pick. First of all, Carriker is a two time all Big 12 player who was the conference's defensive lineman of the year as a senior. So, he excelled on the field. Then, you throw in a great motor and work ethic and a great attitude. He's ready to embrace the move to defensive tackle. And his strength as a player is playing the run which is the Rams' top deficiency. Jim Hanifan spent a week with Carriker in February getting him ready for the combine. He loves the guy. Hanny says he's a tireless worker who will absolutely be effective inside at tackle. He says he has great hands and leverage and can easily put on 15 pounds to get to 320 pounds. He doesn't need to be great to improve the Rams defense, he just needs to be solid.
Leonard is the perfect back up to Steven Jackson in the Rams offense. Again, he had a highly productive career at Rutgers--both as a tailback and fullback. He has 4.5 speed at 230 pounds. He also has good hands and caught a lot of passes in college. And, I think he'll be a good special teams player.
The rest? Time will tell. But most of the other draft picks were very productive players in college. Unfortunately, I suspect that two NFC West rivals helped themselves in the draft. The 49ers had a great first round drafting linebacker Patrick Willis and then trading up to get tackle Joe Staley. Two guys who should help now and for years to come. I wrote six weeks ago that the Arizona Cardinals would finally improve with Ken Whisenhunt as coach. Their first pick in the draft is the first sign I'm right. They took tackle Levi Brown addressing an overwhelming need. The Cardinals will finally start moving in the right direction.
I admit to being skeptical when I heard the news that Rick Majerus was on his way to SLU and I still am to some degree. I wonder about his stamina and staying power. But, if nothing else he should give SLU a short term jolt back into contention. I was very impressed with his opening day press conference. It was the best first impression in this town since Dick Vermeil took over at Rams Park. Both introductory press conferences were emotional and entertaining. The guy clearly is cerebral and charismatic. But, is he also the other things that some media guys in Utah say he is? We're about to find out.