2011 NFL Draft: Ranking the Rams Top 10 Draft Selections of the Decade

Ethan NovakAnalyst IIApril 11, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Ranking the Rams Top 10 Draft Selections of the Decade

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    Over the last ten seasons, the Rams have selected more than seventy players.

    Most of them have come and gone as draft picks often do.

    There have been those rare picks though that fans won't soon forget.  Whether they met all their expectations or greatly exceeded them, they made a large impact during their time wearing the horns.

    Some of these were first round picks, some were mid-rounders; one of them was even a seventh-rounder, one of the last selections in the draft.

    Here is a list highlighting the ten best picks the Rams have made from the 2001-2010 NFL Draft.

10. Chris Massey, FB, Marshall, 2002

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    People drastically underestimate the importance of the long snapper. 

    A lot of players in the league can long snap, sure.  There are only a select few that can do it well though. 

    Of the 703 long snaps Massey has made over his career, only one snap hasn't been clean. 

    One.  Single.  Snap.

    The position of long snapper is a lot like a referee.  98 percent of the time they do their jobs right, it's only when they do it wrong that everyone notices them (with plenty of berating usually following). 

    The fact that the Rams have found a guy that can do his job right 99.99999 percent of the time, that is pretty special.

9. Roger Saffold, OL, Indiana, 2010

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    It is difficult to include Saffold on this list because he is only one year into his career, but you can't ignore the season he just had. 

    A rookie who was projected to be the starter at right tackle, Saffold took over the left side after an injury to Jason Smith. 

    Saffold dominated, playing a huge role in the Rams turnaround on the offensive line in 2010.  It appears he will be the long-term protector of Sam Bradford's blindside and I believe all of Ram Nation can rest easily knowing that. 

8. Pisa Tinoisamoa, LB, Hawaii, 2003

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    The only reason I'm glad Pisa is gone is because I hate having to type out his name.

    Frequently leading the team in tackles, Pisa was a dominant force for the Rams.

    Over his time in horns, he collected 445 tackles, 10 sacks, seven interceptions and eight forced fumbles.

    Injuries began to hamper him however and after six solid seasons, he left the Rams.  He, like former Ram safety Adam Archuleta, rejoined former defensive coordinator Lovie Smith in Chicago where he started ten games last season.

7. Kevin Curtis, WR, Utah State, 2003

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    Kevin Curtis was an adequate slot receiver who I would've loved to see in horns a little longer. 

    In his four seasons in St Louis, Curtis tallied 1700 yards, 12 touchdowns and 136 receptions. 

    What makes the pick even more impressive is that a large portion of the players selected around Curtis never made much of themselves in the NFL. 

    Overall, this was a great pick by the Rams.

6. Adam Archuleta, S, Arizona State, 2001

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    Adam Archuleta was incredible in Lovie Smith's Cover 2 defense.

    In his five seasons in St Louis, Archuleta thrived, becoming one of the better safeties in football.  He was by no means a turnover machine, but his tackling ability and football smarts were off the charts. 

    It was unfortunate when he bolted for the Redskins, signing the largest safety contract in league history.  Once he left the Rams he could never seem to get it together, and was out of football just three seasons later.

    Regardless, Rams fans will always remember him as a great safety that excelled in Lovie Smith's defense, providing five years of solidity in the secondary. 

5. Chris Long, DE, Virginia, 2008

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    For most of Chris Long's life he's been known as the son of Howie Long.  Judging by his game though, it won't be long before people are calling Howie Long 'Chris's father'.  

    Coming out of Virginia, Long was pegged as the best pass-rusher in all of college football.  His big, physical build mixed with excellent speed was a deadly combination the Rams were desperately in need of. 

    It appears Long is not only going to live up to those expectations, but exceed them as well. 

    Currently, Long is considered a top-15 defensive end and still has plenty of time to move up that list.  The Rams finally got a premiere pass rusher with this pick.

4. James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State, 2009

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    I remember when the Rams selected James Laurinaitis. 

    It was almost a guarantee the Rams would select a middle linebacker in the second round and there were two solid prospects waiting to be selected: James Laurinaitis and Rey Maualuga.  I hoped for Maualuga, seeing him as the big, physical linebacker that could be great in the middle of the defense for years to come.

    I've never been so happy to be wrong in my entire life. 

    In a very short period of time, Laurinaitis emerged as the leader of the defense.  In a couple years, Laurinaitis should be recognized as one of the better linebackers in all of football. 

    In two seasons Laurinaitis has 234 tackles, three interceptions, and five sacks.  If he continues to get better, he will move up on this list. 

3. OJ Atogwe, S, Stanford, 2005

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    It isn't every day that your third round pick turns into your defensive leader and that is exactly what happened with Atogwe.

    The 2005 third-round pick has been incredible for the Rams the last six seasons, collecting 22 interceptions, 390 tackles, five sacks and a touchdown. 

    Unfortunately, the two sides never seemed to agree on a contract and next season Atogwe will be suiting up for the Redskins

    I speak for all of Ram Nation when I say: Atogwe, you will be deeply missed.

2. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma, 2010

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    In 2010 the Rams were in the market for a quarterback.  Marc Bulger couldn't stay healthy, Keith Null wasn't an NFL quarterback and AJ Feeley wasn't the long-term answer at the position. 

    They pondered a trade for Michael Vick, considered Jimmy Clausen and ultimately settled on the unfairly-ruled 'injury-prone' quarterback out of Oklahoma, Sam Bradford

    Looking back on 2010 it is kind of funny.  All the scouts, the talent evaluators who watch games and judge an athlete's abilities based on their performance, said that Bradford wasn't a healthy quarterback and would be a giant liability at the next level.

    Meanwhile all the doctors, who are experts on the human body and its capabilities having gone to school for it for a decade, said Bradford's shoulder was full strength and that he'd be fine in the NFL.

    The Rams trusted the experts and it all paid off. 

    Bradford has emerged as the future face of the organization and will one day be an elite quarterback in this league.  His impressive rookie season, which saw him lead the Rams from a 1-15 season to missing the playoffs by game, was all without the help of a legitimate NFL receiving core.

    Once the Rams put weapons around Sam it is going to be scary how good he will be.

    If his progress continues, it is very likely he will turn out to be the Rams' best pick of this decade.  Until then, that award goes to...

1. Steven Jackson, RB, Oregon State, 2004

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    In my opinion, Jackson might have been the greatest draft-pick in Rams' history.

    Coming out of Oregon State, there was a lot of cause for concern when it came to selecting the 6'2, 240 lb running back.  Looking back on it they weren't completely crazy.  SJ was coming off of a significant knee injury, was overweight, and didn't have the speed to be an NFL runningback. 

    The Rams, needing to find the future replacement for Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, took the risk. 

    The result?  SJ rewarded St Louis with six straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons, 54 touchdowns, three Pro-Bowl selections, two second-team All-Pro selections, and 10,000 total yards from scrimmage. 

    Oh, and he just passed Eric Dickerson as the Rams all-time leading rusher.