St. Louis Rams: Impact Rookies for the 2012 NFL Season

Jamal Collier@@JCollierDAnalyst IIIAugust 9, 2012

St. Louis Rams: Impact Rookies for the 2012 NFL Season

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    The St. Louis Rams entered the NFL draft this spring with more roster questions than draft picks with which to answer them.

    Because of that, GM Les Snead and Head Coach Jeff Fisher saw to it that their team compiled multiple additional selections. They then used those picks to choose several players from the collegiate ranks that can immediately help their football team improve.

    The following players are my picks to be the top five impact rookies for the Rams in 2012.

5. Chris Givens, WR (4th Round, Wake Forest)

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    The Rams' offense placed 26th last year in yards per reception (11.2) and 30th in yards per pass attempt (5.9).

    Part of the problem was the offensive line’s inability to protect Sam Bradford—the majority of the starters ended the season on injured reserve.

    St. Louis countered these problems in the offseason by signing four free-agent linemen (Scott Wells, Robert Turner, Barry Richardson and Quinn Ojinnaka) in addition to drafting Rokevious Watkins from South Carolina in the fifth round.

    But it’s the Rams’ fourth-round pick, the burner from Wake Forest, who gives the Rams an option to stretch the field.

    Chris Givens ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the 2012 combine, so he should be able to get behind the defense a few times and keep safeties out of the box for Steven Jackson to roam a bit more freely between the tackles.

    Givens shouldn’t have to rack up the receiving statistics to make an impact on the Rams in 2012 as long as he sees playing time, but he has a chance to do both.

4. Greg Zuerlein, K (6th Round, Missouri Western)

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    The fact that this kicker was drafted should tell you all you need to know about Greg Zuerlein.

    But it doesn’t.

    The dude is good from 60, and the Rams play their home games (well, most of them this year) in a dome. When the offense sputters (the Greatest Show on Turf wasn’t built overnight!), Zuerlein should be able to bang in three points from most spots on the defense’s side of the field.

    The kicker can also help the defense in the battle for field position.

    The Rams only had 15 touchbacks last season (31st in the NFL), and while that may be due in part to their lack of scoring opportunities (54 kickoffs—good for last in the league), St. Louis was also in the bottom five in touchback percentage (28th in the NFL).

    Greg’s leg should be able to fix that.

3. Michael Brockers, DT (1st Round, LSU)

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    Only two defenses saw more rushing attempts come their way than the St. Louis Rams did last season: the Indianapolis Colts and the Cleveland Browns.

    It’s no wonder why all three of those teams were granted top-4 selections in April’s NFL Draft.

    The Rams were the only team of the three to trade down out of their spot (the Browns moved up to acquire the rights to Alabama’s Trent Richardson).

    They did so twice, getting an absolute haul (two extra firsts and a second-round selection) for the second pick from Washington and picking up an additional second-rounder from Dallas as compensation for moving from the sixth pick down to No. 14.

    That 14th pick was used to select mammoth defensive tackle Michael Brockers from LSU. They signed him well before camp started and let him get to work (via Pro Football Talk).

    Brockers (paired with free-agent signee Kendall Langford) will be expected to take on blockers and free up the linebackers to make plays on ball carriers. He should help ensure that the Rams do not find themselves in the bottom two in rushing yards allowed again this season.

2. Brian Quick, WR (2nd Round, Appalachian State)

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    St. Louis was the only team in the NFL last year with single-digit passing touchdowns (nine). They also struggled to move the chains, ranking 26th in the league in total passing first-down conversions.

    Brian Quick, the big-bodied wideout from Appalachian State, has an opportunity to help the Rams keep the offense on the field and put six points on the board.

    The Rams took Quick with a second-round pick in April’s NFL Draft at No. 33 overall, meaning they likely had a first-round grade on the small-school talent. He’ll be given every chance to take on the role of the Rams’ primary receiving threat, and he is almost required to make plays for the offense to work.

    Brandon Lloyd took the majority of the Rams’ receiving touchdowns with him (five of the team’s nine) when he departed for New England this offseason.

    Quick will be relied upon to soften the blow of losing one of St. Louis’ few offensive playmakers in 2011.

    With a healthy Sam Bradford, he should be up to the task.

1. Janoris Jenkins, CB (2nd Round, North Alabama)

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    St. Louis gave up the seventh-fewest passing yards last season.

    But with such minute resistance on the ground level, the Rams’ opponents had little reason to throw the ball.

    If opponents opted to pass on the Rams last year, they would have found success through the air as well. The Blue and Gold were completely ravaged by injuries at the cornerback position last year, and the players weren’t among the most skilled in the league in the first place.

    With an overhaul of the front seven (the Rams are likely to start new faces at each outside linebacker and defensive tackle spot) St. Louis’ run defense can only improve, forcing opponents to pass more often.

    St. Louis should be ready for that.

    This offseason, the Rams added three cornerbacks who should find themselves in the top three positions on the team’s depth chart by year’s end in Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.

    Jenkins is already penciled in as a starting corner and should begin the year matched up against opposing teams’ second receivers while Finnegan takes on the primary threats (via CBS Sports).

    He has the skills to succeed just fine in that role, even as a rookie.