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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    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 19: James Laurinaitis #55 of the St. Louis Rams is introduced prior to playing the Kansas City Chiefs at the Edward Jones Dome on December 19, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Chiefs beat the Rams 27-13.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwana
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    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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    TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 23:  Long snapper Chris Massey #45 of the St. Louis Rams sets for a play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on September 23, 2007 in Tampa, Florida. The Bucs won 24 - 3. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    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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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Offensive lineman Roger Saffold of Indiana runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Scouting Combine presented by Under Armour at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Imag
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    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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    SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 16:  Pisa Tinoisamoa #50 of the St. Louis Rams sets during the game against the San Francisco 49ers on November 16, 2008 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    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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    ST. LOUIS - DECEMBER 24: Kevin Curtis #83 of the St. Louis Rams walks off the field after the last home game this season on December 24, 2005 at the the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the St. Louis Rams 24-20. (
    Elsa/Getty Images

    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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    PHOENIX - SEPTEMBER 18:  Safety Adam Archuleta #31 of the St. Louis Rams stands on the field during warm-ups prior to a game against the Arizona Cardinals at Sun Devil Stadium on September 18, 2005 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Rams won 17-12.  (Photo by Robe
    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    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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    BLACKSBURG, VA - NOVEMBER 27:  Defensive lineman Chris Long #91 of the Virginia Cavaliers lines up against the Virginia Tech Hokies on November 27, 2004 at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia. Virginia Tech defeated Virginia 24-10. (Photo By Grant Halver
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    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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    COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 20:  James Laurinaitis #33 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates on the field during the game against the Troy Trojans on September 20, 2008 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State won the game 28-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamu
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    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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    PALO ALTO, CA  - OCTOBER 18:  Wide receiver Chris Jordan #2 of the Washington State Cougars makes a touchdown catch on the game's first series as safety Oshiomogho Atogwe #21 of the Stanford Cardinal defends on October 18, 2003 at Stanford Stadium in Palo
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    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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    ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #14 of the Oklahoma Sooners warms up before a game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Cowboys Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    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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    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 6:  Running back Steven Jackson #34 of the Oregon State Beavers runs the ball during the game against the University of Southern California Trojans on December 6, 2003 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. USC
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    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.