St. Louis Rams  

 

St. Louis Rams: Best and worst draft picks

In the days leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, NFL.com will allow users to determine the best and worst draft picks for every team. We continue the proceedings with the team that owns the No. 16 overall pick in this year's draft, the St. Louis Rams.

The St. Louis Football Club has a long history, which includes its humble beginnings in Cleveland and followed with moves to Los Angeles, Anaheim and St. Louis. It's hard to really talk about the franchise's draft history because the folks in St. Louis have no connection to some of the club's all-time greats (as you will see), while a large number of Los Angeles-based fans gave up after 1994. So the idea of splitting the two groups was tossed around, but ultimately this will be a look at the entire club history.

A couple of notes before we begin. Of course, Mr. Pick Six will note the club's top six best and worst draft picks all time.

Also, did you know Bill Goldberg was an 11th-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1990? I wanted to include Goldberg when you consider his professional wrestling career, but I'm going to be overruled on this one by my editor, so forget that. (Ed. Note: Actually, that's not the case. I'm a Goldberg fan even after suffering a viewing of "Ready to Rumble".) But seriously, Goldberg! This might be the best ironic jersey to ever own.

If you're also still reading this and haven't jumped ahead to complain about Torry Holt not being included here, that's cool. Oh, and before you ask, Dieter Brock was not drafted by the Los Angeles Rams.

Best picks

Flipper Anderson -- 1988 (No. 46)
There was little salvaged from the 1988 NFL Draft (more on that draft in the worst section), but Anderson was a great pick in the second round. Anderson led the NFL in yards per reception in 1989 and 1990, and still holds the record for most receiving yards in a game (336 yards) he set against the Saints in 1989. His most memorable moment might have come in the 1989 NFC divisional playoffs when he caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Jim Everett in overtime against the New York Giants and raced up the tunnel in the Meadowlands as the game ended. Anderson's career kind of floundered in the 1990s, but I blame that mostly on ownership which pulled the "Major League" on the club. Plus, Everett was never the same after the phantom sack which happened a week after Anderson's touchdown.
» 1988 NFL Draft

Eric Dickerson -- 1983 (No. 2)
When looking look back at Dickerson's career, I grow less fond of it. Especially when you read his remarks about football in Los Angeles (it's not favorable) and what his teammates truly thought of him. However, as a very young fan in the 1980s, my earliest memories were of Anaheim Stadium being electrified every time Dickerson touched the football. From his record-breaking rookie season (1,808 yards), the follow-up with the all-time single-season rushing mark (2,105 in 1984) and the domination over the Cowboys in the 1985 playoffs, it's hard to find fault with this pick. Sure, the Rams could have had Dan Marino (could you imagine Marino vs. Joe Montana for the NFC West), but they could have had Todd Blackledge or Ken O'Brien, too. The Rams followed up this pick with Henry Ellard in the second round. Back-to-back Hall of Famers. (Well, Ellard isn't in, but he was better than Cris Carter, I guarantee you.)
» 1983 NFL Draft | Video: NFL Films: Dickerson

Jack Youngblood -- 1971 (No. 20)
All right, I wanted to avoid going after first-round guys because you should hit with those guys. But since I have Dickerson on the list, Youngblood deserves a mention, too. Plus, he was the second first-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1971 (you can't fault the first, LB Isiah Robertson, who was a six-time Pro Bowler for L.A.), so he belongs on the list. For you kids out there, Youngblood is fondly remembered for breaking his leg in the L.A. Rams' playoff win at Dallas and then playing in the 1979 NFC Championship Game, Super Bowl XIV and the Pro Bowl with a broken leg. Yes, the Pro Bowl. Remember that next year when guys like Tom Brady won't condescend to go to the Pro Bowl with whatever ailment they have.
» 1971 NFL Draft | Photos: Youngblood through the years

Kevin Greene -- 1985 (No. 113)
The Los Angeles Rams selected Greene in the fifth round of the 1985 NFL Draft and he had his breakout season in 1988 when he recorded 16.5 sacks, including 4.5 on Joe Montana in the season finale to send the Rams to the playoffs. However, he wasn't selected to the Pro Bowl for having as many sacks as Reggie White that year, but whatever. Greene got his first Pro Bowl appearance the following year when he again notched 16.5 sacks. He was productive in every year after for the L.A. Rams, but he also was a victim of the "Major Leaguing" of the franchise and left in 1993 for the Pittsburgh Steelers, for whom he continued to dominate. And Hall of Fame voters, can you put him in already?
» 1985 NFL Draft

Roman Gabriel and Merlin Olsen -- 1962 (No. 2, No. 3)
Having two of the top three picks in the NFL draft seems like a good idea, but it doesn't always work out that way. Just ask the Indianapolis Colts. But the Los Angeles Rams really nailed it when they took Roman Gabriel and Merlin Olsen with the second- and third-overall selections in the 1962 NFL Draft. Gabriel was a four-time Pro Bowl selection (and I will contend the team should have held on to him through the 1970s). Olsen was a key member of the famed "Fearsome Foursome" the greatest defensive line in the history of the NFL. Olsen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. If you're curious, the L.A. Rams selected tackle John Carollo in the second round and he played seven consecutive years with the club and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1968.
» 1962 NFL Draft | Video: Olsen tribute

Deacon Jones -- 1961 (Pick 14)
The Los Angeles Rams used a 14th-round selection in 1961 on little-known Mississippi Valley State defensive end David Jones; or better known as Deacon Jones. The man who coined the phrase "sack" would go on to be one of the most feared pass-rushers in NFL history. Quarterbacks still bristle at the mere mention over his very name. Of course, sack didn't become and official statistic until the 1982 NFL season, otherwise he would have retired as the all-time leader in the category. And he was joined with Olsen, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier on the "Fearsome Foursome."
» 1961 NFL Draft | Photo: Jones through the years | Video: Jones

Worst picks

Trung Canidate -- 2000 (No. 31)
Yeah, St. Louis did select at the end of the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft because of its Super Bowl championship. Still, this wasn't a very good fit for the club. He did play admirably in two starts for the team in 2001, but that was pretty much the highlight reel. What makes this delicious (depending on your viewpoint) is St. Louis chose the wrong running back from an Arizona college during the 2000 NFL Draft. The New England Patriots used a third-round pick on ASU's J.R. Redmond, who St. Louis fans might remember from Super Bowl XXXVI.
» 2000 NFL Draft

Cleveland Gary -- 1989 (No. 26)
The Los Angeles Rams were still in this sad, trying-to-replace-Eric-Dickerson phase when they selected Gary with their second first-round pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. (Don't worry, the team completely whiffed on its first pick of Bill Hawkins, who like Gary, was from the University of Miami. Guess picking players from the best college program at the time wasn't the best strategy. Nice work, John Shaw.) Gary wasn't terrible for the Rams, as he led the NFL with 14 touchdowns in 1990. But he just couldn't hold on to the football. And then he entered this weird phase where he was hanging out with Philip Michael Thomas of "Miami Vice" and it all sort of went downhill from there.
» 1989 NFL Draft

Jason Smith -- 2009 (No. 2)
We could pretty much cut to the chase and label nearly every first-round pick of St. Louis a bust, with the exception of Orlando Pace, Steven Jackson and Torry Holt ... and maybe Sam Bradford. But the St. Louis era has produced some doozies and it's tough to match Smith. Seriously, I've been kind to some of the more recent draft picks in fairness. Smith was the second-overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft and he just barely found a gig again with the Saints. What a gigantic waste. St. Louis has been starved for receivers for a long time and the team didn't take a chance on Michael Crabtree, Percy Harvin or Hakeem Nicks. Knowing St. Louis' history, it probably would have ended up with Darrius Heyward-Bey, so really, it's not so bad.
» 2009 NFL Draft

Not drafting RG3 -- 2012 (No. 2)
Les Snead told the Rich Eisen Podcast he made the right move in his trade with the Redskins. Because what else is he going to say? "Oh yeah guys, I traded one of the most electrifying players in NFL history, my bad!" Of course not. However, picks don't always translate into greatness (wait until the final entry for a further explanation). And you know this is really going to bother me if the Los Angeles Rams resurface in 2015 without RG3 under center. That won't be funny at all.
» 2012 NFL Draft

Lawrence Phillips -- 1996 (No. 6)
To use the sixth-overall pick on a talented running back with character issues is pretty bad. Teams felt Phillips was the most talented player in the draft, but his off-the-field character issues allowed him to fall to No. 6. What makes this most disconcerting is the club didn't even need a running back. It still had Jerome Bettis, who went on to find a lot of success with the Pittsburgh Steelers. This whole draft was a disaster for St. Louis. The team had another first-round pick, which it wasted on WR Eddie Kennison. And then in the second round it selected QB Tony Banks. Obviously, the team would go on to win a Super Bowl in a few years, but could you have imagined the success if, instead of Phillips and Kennison, the team drafted Eddie George and Marvin Harrison? Maybe you could argue the team doesn't trade for Marshall Faulk or draft Holt, fine. How about Ray Lewis then?
» 1996 NFL Draft

Gaston Green -- 1988 (No. 14)
If you ever wanted to know what killed the Los Angeles Rams, it wasn't necessarily the Eric Dickerson trade. The Rams received a lot of draft picks and still had a top offense despite getting rid of Dickerson. No, the complete botch job of the 1988 NFL Draft killed this franchise and ultimately led to the team closing shop after the 1994 season. With a bounty of picks, the L.A. Rams selected Gaston Green and Aaron Cox in the first round with Anthony Newman in the second. Talk about your franchise killers. You might not remember Newman, but the 49ers' John Taylor does. Newman TWICE failed to make a tackle which allowed Taylor to catch two 90-yard touchdown receptions as San Francisco rallied to defeat the Los Angeles Rams on "Monday Night Football". (Had the Rams held on to win, the Rams sweep the season series and the 1989 NFC Championship Game is probably a little different.) And James Washington (selected in the fifth round) ended up being a better player and won Super Bowls for the Dallas Cowboys. Green thought he could salvage his career by switching from No. 30 to No. 44 because it made him look tougher (true story). Good thing they passed on Thurman Thomas for Green! And Cox wasn't as good as the receiver they drafted in the second round (Flipper Anderson). Kudos all around, everybody.
» 1988 NFL Draft

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.

Best and worst draft picks
April 3: Chiefs | Jaguars
April 4: Raiders | Eagles
April 5: Lions | Browns
April 8: Bills | Cardinals
April 9: Jets | Titans
April 10: Chargers | Dolphins
April 11: Bucs | Panthers
April 12: Rams| Saints
April 15: Cowboys | Steelers
April 16: Bears | Giants
April 17: Bengals| Redskins
April 18: Colts | Vikings
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April 24: 49ers| Ravens

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