When Jeff Fisher took over as coach of the St. Louis Rams, he inherited a team that had won a combined 15 games over the past five seasons and had a plethora of needs.
Fisher first gave pink slips to several aging veterans and added a few free agents to replace them. The next step in filling those holes came last weekend in the NFL draft. The Rams addressed every one of the team's needs by selecting a defensive tackle in the first round, a pair of cornerbacks, a couple of wide receivers, a linebacker, an offensive lineman, and two speedy running backs who will compete to be Steven Jackson’s backup.
While the Rams did address every need, the team didn’t have that one “wow” pick to fire up the fan base. Fisher and general manager Les Snead also took several gambles: The top receiver they selected is from FCS (I-AA) Appalachian State, the linebacker they took is undersized, and three of the 10 draft picks have arrest records. The Rams also raised some eyebrows when the team released veteran placekicker Josh Brown after using a sixth-round pick on a kid from a Division II school. All of the picks unquestionably have talent, but most of them come with big question marks.
This draft will go a long way in defining Fisher’s tenure in St. Louis. The Rams did improve the roster, but only if the troubled second-round cornerback keeps his nose clean, if a talented but raw receiver from a small school turns out to be a diamond in the rough, and if an offensive lineman with fluctuating weight can develop a consistent work ethic.
Fans were hoping for a big-name, high-impact offensive weapon for quarterback Sam Bradford. Instead, the Rams missed out on the top two receivers in the first round and selected defensive players for three of the first five picks. That’s not to say first-round pick Michael Brockers of LSU was a bad pick. The Rams were woefully bad against the run last season, and the 6-foot-5, 322-pound Brockers is a huge defensive tackle known as a run-stuffer who can also collapse the pocket.
If Fisher’s high-risk, high-reward approach to this year’s draft pans out, then the Rams could be on the way to redemption. If it doesn’t, then the already restless fan base could become listless.