In a league where parity reigns, even the Cincinnati Bengals make the playoffs every once in a while. Try telling that to football fans in St. Louis, where the Rams are coming off of the worst five year stretch in NFL history.
Play that bad, and you are going to accumulate some high draft picks. With their premium draft picks, the Rams haven't done half bad.
Chris Long, the No. 2 overall pick back in 2008, recorded 13 sacks last season. Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year before playing poorly behind an O-line decimated by injuries a year ago. Bradford still looks like a keeper. Robert Quinn, the No. 14 overall pick in 2011, looks like a star opposite Long on the defensive line. The Rams' first-round pick from a year ago, defensive tackle Michael Brockers, is a mountain of a man who, by all accounts, is going to be a run stuffer in the middle of the defensive line.
Of course, I just skipped 2009. That was the year the Rams picked Jason Smith.
I won't rehash the entire story, because I don't have to. Rams' fans know that Smith has been a major disappointment in St. Louis. I knew we were in trouble when, holding the No. 2 overall pick, we drafted a tackle that started training camp on the right side.
You don't draft a right tackle with the No. 2 overall pick, period. You don't do it. That's just stupid. So when the Rams were moving Smith to the right side, it was so that Alex Barron—yes, the Alex Barron that was a draft bust himself—could play left tackle.
If you aren't a better left tackle than Alex Barron, you aren't going to cut it in the NFL.
So we wasted the No. 2 overall pick on a right tackle. That's really stupid, but hey, that's why Billy Devaney got fired. He did stuff like that all the time. Remember him picking Mardy Gilyard? Yeah, Devaney should have his own footnote right next to every sentence that says "the Rams are coming off of the worst five year stretch in NFL history."
Having said all that, shouldn't Smith at least be a competent right tackle? I mean, can't we get some bang for our buck with that No. 2 overall pick? Through his first three seasons in the NFL, Smith was one big disappointment. He had a brief moment in 2010, when the Rams finished 7-9, where he was actually halfway decent, Smith's horrible pass blocking wasn't a huge liability because the Rams were running the ball and making short, quick passes.
Then 2011 rolled around, Josh McDaniels was named the Rams' offensive coordinator, and he thought it was a good idea for Sam Bradford to take five and seven step drops, which meant Smith would have to pass protect for a long time. We all know how that ended: with Bradford in therapy, and head coach Steve Spagnulo fired.
So entering 2012, Smith had to know this was his last chance.
With new O-line guru Paul Boudreau hired by the Rams, a lot of fans, including yours truly, were really hoping this was the year Smith figured out how to be a competent offensive lineman. Instead, we're reading stories about how Smith is getting killed by Long in training camp (St. Louis Post Dispatch), and now reports are coming out that Barry Richardson, a free-agent pickup from Kansas City, is taking reps with the first unit at right tackle (Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post Dispatch).
"Barry's created some competition at right tackle," said Jeff Fisher.
Translation: I didn't draft you, I've never coached you and I don't care that you were the No. 2 overall pick. We're not going to carry your dead weight anymore and let you ruin Sam Bradford.
The Rams have two first-round picks the next two years. There is a lot of speculation that they'll probably use one of their picks this year on a left tackle and then move Rodger Saffold, the Rams' current left tackle, over to the right side. That plan makes a lot of sense.
Personally, I'd love to see Smith, in a contract year, finally play up to his enormous potential. I'd love to see the big man put it all together. I'd love it if the Rams could make that No. 2 pick back in '08 stick so they could spend their upcoming first rounders on an outside linebacker, a receiver or maybe a hard hitting safety.
Instead, it's looking like Smith is having a hard time holding off Barry frickin' Richardson. If that's the case, there's no way the Rams won't draft some young stud left tackle in next April's draft.
Barry frickin' Richardson. Somewhere, I bet Sam Bradford is shaking his head.
As always, thanks for reading.