NFL St Louis Rams

St. Louis Rams’ Highly Touted 2013 NFL Draft Class Proving To Be a Mixed Bag Thus Far

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Grading St. Louis Rams' 2013 NFL Draft Class

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

When trying to find success in the NFL Draft, sometimes the best philosophy is simply to maximize the selections you have and hope that some of the picks pan out. Another way of saying that same thing would be the age old cliché of ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks.

What all of this boils down to is a large portion of luck really. The St. Louis Rams are finding that out this season with what was a highly anticipated draft class from them given the team’s two first round picks. Sometimes player assessments aren’t flawless, regardless of how skilled a talent evaluation staff is, and that turns out to be what separates the middling franchises of the league from the elites.

With all of this left up to chance it begs the question of just how much skill is actually involved when it comes to make draft selections. Players come from the later rounds or sometimes even the undrafted ranks to have Hall of Fame worthy careers. Likewise, some top 10 picks never live up to the billing and fade away quickly into an NFL wasteland of what might have been.

Some things just can’t be evaluated like a player’s heart, desire, and mental fortitude when the game is on the line. Until there is an exact science for truly estimating just how well a player can thrive in a given environment the element of mystery will remain a part of the drafting process.

The Rams had high hopes for their draft class from this past April, and some of those hopes have proven to be quite warranted. Unfortunately some have gotten off to a rocky start and appear to have a long way to go before they live up to the billing as draftees. Here’s an evaluation of the five most prominent Rams rookies and just how they have fared thus far this season.

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5. Barrett Jones, OL -- Grade: F

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

This grade could also be considered incomplete, but it’s hard not to give a fourth round pick an F when he has been on the inactives list all season. Barrett Jones was a stellar offensive lineman with the Alabama Crimson Tide, but his NFL career to date has been nonexistent. The Rams had to have been expecting more when they spent a fourth rounder on this versatile lineman.

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4. Tavon Austin, WR -- Grade: D-

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Putting a top 10 overall pick at this position already is tough but warranted. Tavon Austin has seemed incapable of fitting into a pro-style offense, and the open field just isn’t what it was during his days at West Virginia. 31 catches for 207 yards with two touchdowns and only 6.7 yards per catch is quite troubling for a player drafted to be a difference maker, but his league-leading seven drops thus far are even more cause for concern. Is it offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s poor design or is Austin destined to flame out in the NFL? The potential is still there for something explosive which is why a failing grade can’t yet be handed out yet, but improvement must be seen over the closing stretch of games to give hope for a better tomorrow.

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3. T.J. McDonald, S -- Grade: Incomplete

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

It would actually be okay to give T.J. McDonald a middling grade for his first four games in an NFL uniform because he produced when on the field. 18 combined tackles and solid run support really gave McDonald a solid start to his time in St. Louis, but his broken leg in Week 4 is forcing him to miss out on valuable development time. Hopefully the extra time spent in the film room pays off just as well because at 6-foot-2, 217-pounds it’s clear the potential is there for a solid defensive starter.

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2. Zac Stacy, RB -- Grade: A+

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

When a fifth rounder comes in and takes the league by storm the way that Zac Stacy has since being appointed to the starting running back spot in Week 5, an A+ is more than deserved. His powerfully built frame at 5-foot-8, 224-pounds allows him to literally bowl over would-be tacklers en route to positive yardage. With 475 yards on 103 carries for an impressive 4.6 yards per carry average, Stacy is exactly what the Rams needed after turning the page on Steven Jackson. He could be the pillar of the ground game for the next decade just like SJ39 was during his run with the Rams.

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1. Alec Ogletree, LB -- Grade: A+

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to deny Alec Ogletree the top spot given the impact he has had on a defense that has been lackluster outside of a few players. His 59 combined tackles is second on the team to only James Laurinaitis which is an incredible feat for a rookie. The three forced fumbles and one interception that he has have shown Ogletree is a turnover producing machine, and his 98-yard touchdown return on this lone pick showed just what elite athleticism he possesses. With tremendous instincts, ridiculous range, and an obvious knack for forcing turnovers, the Rams hit a home run with Ogletree.