I am sure that everyone is feeling that postseason sadness right about now...like something is empty as Sundays pass by. The Super Bowl was awesome, and the ever so popular Pro Bowl has passed as well.
What is a fan, especially a Rams fan such as myself who is left feeling so empty, to do? Look for what next season will be like!
It is extremely challenging to try to analyze much of this year's upcoming draft, so while thinking about the draft, I have come to realize why Rams fans should be VERY satisfied about last year's draft, and think about why the Rams had a successful '08 draft.
Let's start off with our first round.
Let me start off with three statistics:
* 33 solo tackles
* Four sacks for 34 yards
* One forced fumble
Now these numbers do not seem very special for a vet, but to me they are extremely successful-sounding numbers for a rookie. Chris' passion was undeniable through the season, and he started all 16 games. Now everyone is familiar with his father, Howie Long, and so it is obvious where some of his passion and talent comes from.
These numbers will continue to grow, especially under new head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who led the incredible Giants defense to a Super Bowl victory and to a first round bye in the playoffs. These were his first two years as the defensive coordinator, and it was immediately obvious how he likes to play the game. Chris will thrive under this fiery coach.
On top of this, as the Rams and Spagnuolo try to build on a defense which allowed the 30th-most points in the league, Chris Long will prove to be a leader of the defense, and of his team.
* 53 receptions for 674 yards
* Average of 12.7 yards a catch
* Three receiving touchdowns
Donnie Avery was probably the biggest surprise for the Rams this year. Avery went as the first receiver in the draft (overall 34th pick), and many fans were left wondering why the Rams didn't select the other top receivers such as Devin Thomas, DeSean Jackson, or even Eddie Royal. Nobody expected this guy to be successful.
Donnie Avery showed unparalleled speed (he even had a rushing touchdown!) and that he could blow past a defense. Donnie also showed some rookie mistakes, such as not seeing a blitz, and these things should all leave Rams fans excited. It almost seemed as if he was more exciting than Torry Holt!
Fans who were able to see him and Marc Bulger connect will realize how much of an impact player he will be in years to come. He will have better field IQ and will strengthen up, and will be a huge playmaker through the air, which the Rams need especially since Torry Holt's age is obviously starting to show what it will do to a great player.
Donnie gives the Rams a more balanced offence, which will be based off of running in '09.
John has shown to be a solid lineman, who as the Rams try to rebuild their line, which contains the aging Orlando Pace, will remain as a piece they can rely on. This is important as it seems that the Rams will draft an elite lineman in the upcoming '09 draft such as Andre Smith, Eugene Moore, or Michael Oher (my personal favorite).
Keenan may not have had as explosive a year as Donnie, but Keenan has shown that even as a fourth round pick, he is a strong receiver. While not as fast as Donnie, he is more built and is tougher. Keenan had one touchdown near the end of the season and only had 13 receptions for 172 yards, but once it was obvious he blossomed towards the end of the season.
The Rams (and myself) seem that they will rely on young receivers (including Derek Stanley) as Holt winds down his career, but they do so rightly. Keenan parallels Donnie with a stronger build and more reliable hands.
The Rams have been known to have extremely UN-successful drafts in the past, and as the '09 draft begins to trigger the imagination and hopes of Rams fans, it should be kept in mind that the '08 draft gave the Rams some exceptional pieces to work and was in fact successful.