Round 4, Pick 112: Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii (64th overall prospect)
The St. Louis Rams came into the 2011 NFL Draft with a major need at the wide receiver position and got a great bargain by getting Greg Salas early on Day 3.
Salas was extremely productive in the Hawaii passing attack, leading all receivers in the NCAA last year in receptions and receiving yards. He is a well-rounded receiver with a solid combination of size and speed. He has reliable hands, and while he may not be much of a deep threat, he will be a great addition to the receiving corps for Sam Bradford to work with.
Salas would have been good value in Round 3, so getting him in the fourth round is a bargain.
Round 7, Pick 229: Jonathan Nelson, FS, Oklahoma (284th overall prospect)
The St. Louis Rams needed reinforcement in their secondary, so Jonathan Nelson was a decent choice in Round 7. Nelson is a solid free safety who has the versatility to play cornerback as well, although his major area of contribution in the National Football League will likely be on special teams.
The Rams could have added better value to the secondary at this point in Georgia Tech free safety Jerrard Tarrant or Oregon State cornerback James Dockery, but as a solid athlete and pass coverage back, Nelson can make an impact on the field for the Rams.
Round 3, Pick 78: Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State (88th overall prospect)
The Rams were in serious need of a big wideout and certainly got a big receiver in Austin Pettis. Pettis has size and strength, which will make him a good possession receiver and red-zone threat, but he does not have great athleticism.
Pettis is a very reliable wide receiver who should be a good weapon for Bradford in the passing game. However, another big receiver, and one of the best wideouts in the draft class in Leonard Hankerson, was still available, and great value in the third round.
Pettis was of value in the third round, but Hankerson has as much size as Pettis while he is also a much better athlete and downfield playmaker, so the Rams made a mistake in passing him up for Pettis, although Austin is still a player who should help the Rams. Not a bad choice, but not the best choice.
Round 5, Pick 158: Jermale Hines, FS, Ohio State (206th overall prospect)
While the Rams really needed to draft a free safety, they made somewhat of a reach by selecting Jermale Hines in Round 5. Hines is a very talented player who displayed flashes of brilliance in his collegiate career that I at one time thought would make him a Day 2 prospect. However, Hines’ play was inconsistent throughout his career at Ohio State, and he never secured a long-term starting spot on the Buckeyes defense.
Therefore, while Hines is a hard-hitting, athletic safety who has shown the potential to be a playmaker at the position, he is a developmental project who should not have been selected above the sixth round. Considering there was not much better value available at the free safety position, this was not necessarily a bad selection, for Hines’ upside could end up making him a diamond in the rough. However, he was a reach selection that the Rams should have passed upon in favor of better value.
Not the Best Pick
Round 1, Pick 14: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina (25th overall prospect)
The St. Louis Rams will certainly benefit from adding an impact pass rusher in Robert Quinn. However, Quinn is overrated, and after missing all of last season due to NCAA violations, he was a reach as a top-15 selection.
Quinn is a very good athlete with good pass rush skills, but he is weak against the run and needs to learn better technique to succeed in the National Football League. The Rams could have addressed a greater need at the defensive tackle position while also gotten better value by selecting California’s Cameron Jordan, but instead reached on Quinn.
Quinn could end up becoming a star pass rusher for the Rams, but he could also be a major bust, making this a questionable selection.
Round 2, Pick 47: Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin (66th overall prospect)
Tight end was a major need for the St. Louis Rams, but Lance Kendricks should not have been the second tight end off of the board. Kendricks is a good all-around tight end who can also play as an H-back, with solid receiving and blocking skills.
However, there were still two better tight ends available in Tennessee’s Luke Stocker and Arkansas’ D.J. Williams, and Kendricks was a small reach in the second round. Kendricks should be a productive addition to the Rams’ offense, but not the best choice with better value available.
Round 7, Pick 216: Mikail Baker, CB, Baylor (not in Top 400)
Mikail Baker is a player who was not on my draft radar at all, and certainly not the best choice for the St. Louis Rams. Baker does have potential as a special teams player, which is why Baker does not fall into the “What the …?” category. However, his productivity collegiately was subpar, and there was a better defensive back from Baylor still available in Byron Landor, along with many cornerbacks, including North Carolina’s Kendric Burney.
Baker could make the roster as a special teamer, but he is a player who the Rams should have waited to pursue as an undrafted free agent.
Round 7, Pick 228: Jabara Williams, OLB, Stephen F. Austin (not in Top 400)
The St. Louis Rams needed to draft an outside linebacker, but could have done better than selecting Jabara Williams in Round 7. Better outside linebacker prospects, including Boston College’s Mark Herzlich and USC’s Malcolm Smith, were still available.
Williams was a standout at the FCS level and has a very intriguing combination of size and athleticism, so he is a sleeper project worth developing, and not necessarily a bad seventh-round choice, albeit not the best value.
The Picks They Traded
The St. Louis Rams traded Round 6, Pick 180 in September 2010 in exchange for wide receiver Mark Clayton (and Round 7, Pick 228).
Mark Clayton appeared to be well on his way to a career year last season prior to suffering a serious knee injury that ended his season. Clayton is not back with the team for another season, and in fact has yet to be signed by any team, likely due to the injury status of his knee. However, considering that the Rams only gave up a Round 6 pick and did get a Round 7 pick back in return, this was a trade worth making for the Rams.
The St. Louis Rams failed to address major needs at the defensive tackle and outside linebacker position, and did not take great advantage of value in the 2011 NFL Draft. Both Robert Quinn and Lance Kendricks were reaches in the first two rounds.
The Rams doubled up on wide receivers in the next two rounds, getting a great Round 4 bargain in Greg Salas, along with a decent Round 3 choice in Austin Pettis. However, the rest of the Rams’ picks all went to developmental prospects or special teams players, preventing the Rams from adding many player who can contribute offensively or defensively for the team this season.
With only one great selection, an overall poor sense of value and needs left unmet, the St. Louis Rams grade out with a C-.