5 Undrafted Free Agents Who Could Make the St. Louis Rams Roster
5 Undrafted Free Agents Who Could Make the St. Louis Rams
Each fall, the NFL receives its greatest batch of feel-good success stories when undrafted rookies survive the uphill battle and make their team's 53-man roster. Some of the league's greatest players have come from the ranks of the undrafted, and the St. Louis Rams have a special history with these types of players. On the 1999 Rams, the only Super Bowl-winning team in franchise history, undrafted quarterback Kurt Warner unexpectedly led the team to a 13-3 record and went on to become the most respected quarterback in the history of the Rams franchise. Defensive tackle D'Marco Farr and linebackers London Fletcher and Mike Jones, who were important anchors of the defense, were all undrafted free agents.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have shown no hesitation in keeping undrafted free agents. During the 2012 season, the team used eight rookies who were not selected in the draft. Several of them made an immediate impact, as Johnny Hekker was the team's punter all year, and Rodney McLeod led the squad in special teams tackles. These players were important contributors to a team that had the NFL's lowest average age.
In 2013, the Rams probably won't have as many undrafted rookies make the roster, but it would be a shock if at least a few weren't part of the team. Having traded away their sixth- and seventh-round picks, Fisher and Snead made sure that they brought in a good crop of players who had ability close to that of players who were drafted. Here are the five undrafted Rams players who have the best shot of being on the 53-man roster on opening day.
5. Cody Davis, S
Davis got the biggest signing bonus of any of the Rams' undrafted free agents, and he has been impressive so far. He's flashed some good hitting ability during practices, and he put together a good showing during Thursday's preseason opener, making two tackles and defending a pass. Davis is in a battle with veterans Matt Giordano and Matt Daniels and fellow undrafted rookie Rashard Hall for the Rams' fourth safety spot, though, it is conceivable that they could decide to keep a fifth. Although Daniels would seem to be the favorite for the spot right now, Davis still has a shot, and if he doesn't make the 53-man roster, the Rams almost certainly will try to get him onto the practice squad.
4. Benny Cunningham, RB
Cunningham is currently entrenched in a battle for the Rams' fourth running back spot with Terrance Ganaway, a second-year back from Baylor. So far, Ganaway has been more impressive than Cunningham during practice. However, Ganaway missed the first preseason game with an injury, giving Cunningham a chance to showcase his skill. The 5-foot-10, 209-pound Cunningham also has the ability to return kicks and help out in special teams coverage. He has a good chance to make the team, and is also a candidate to be a member of the practice squad if he doesn't crack the roster.
3. Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE
Lutzenkirchen has really come on after getting a late start during training camp. The 6-foot-3, 258-pound tight end immediately showcased his skill with some big catches in his first practice of the year, and he showed more of the same in the first preseason game, hauling in a difficult catch near the sideline. The Rams have three tight ends (Jared Cook, Lance Kendricks and Cory Harkey) who are safe bets to make the roster. They likely will keep a fourth tight end who they will want to specialize in catching the ball. With that said, Lutzenkirchen seems to be competing with veteran Mike McNeill for a spot on the 53-man roster. McNeill is a good special-teamer, but Lutzenkirchen may already be better than him in the passing game.
2. Ray Ray Armstrong, LB
Since the Rams are converting him from safety to linebacker at the professional level, the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Armstrong would seem to be a likely candidate to spend some time developing on the practice squad before he is pressed into action. However, since the Rams are so bare at the position, Armstrong seems to be one of the best guys if they decide to keep six linebackers. Armstrong's competition comes from Jabara Williams, who has been injured for most of training camp, and Daren Bates, an undersized backer whose forte is contributing on special teams. Armstrong can be an impact special teams contributor as well, and his athleticism and physicality would seem to give him the edge in this position battle.
1. Robert Steeples, CB
The Rams have a wide-open competition for their fifth cornerback spot, and Steeples seems to be leading the way right now. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound St. Louis product provides size, athleticism and coverage ability that is not as present in the other candidates for the spot. After going through an injury-free year with their cornerbacks last season, the Rams are bracing for impact this year and will want someone on their roster who is ready to go up against NFL receivers. While second-year-player Quinton Pointer is a great special-teamer, Steeples is superior in coverage and should have the edge.
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