NEW YORK -- Musings, observations, and the occasional insight as we review the doings of day two, and rounds two and three, of the NFL Draft Friday night in Radio City Music Hall....
• I suppose when you're the St. Louis Rams, coming off the soul-deadening debacle that was last season's 2-14 humiliation, you can't help but fill some holes and meet some needs in the opening rounds of the draft. Just by turning in your selections. But as it turns out, the Rams have played the draft game a whole lot better in the Jeff Fisher era than they did their actual games last season.
I like what I'm seeing so far from St. Louis and new general manager Les Snead on draft weekend. The Rams have been in near constant motion in this year's draft, dropping down from No. 2 to sixth, and ultimately to 14th in the first round, and then moving down again from 45th to 50th with the third and final of their second-round picks. All along the way, they kept stockpiling players, and taking steps in a bid to become one of the NFL's turnaround teams in 2012.
I'm not quite ready to pass judgment on how far cellar-dwelling St. Louis might ascend in the suddenly rugged NFC West, but the Rams are rapidly picking up the pieces after hitting rock bottom in the final season of Steve Spagnuolo's coaching tenure. The haul for Friday night was impressive in a cumulative sense: Appalachian State receiver Brian Quick, a tall, rangy possession receiver at No. 33, with the first pick of the second round; gifted but baggage-laden North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins at No. 39; and versatile Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead at No. 50, a much-needed situational runner to pair with lead rusher Steven Jackson.
Near the top of the third round, at No. 65, the Rams doubled down on the talented but character-challenged cornerback set, selecting Montana's Trumaine Johnson.
For the Rams, the centerpiece selection of the night came when they rolled the dice and took Jenkins with the middle of their three second-rounders. The story of the ex-Florida Gator cornerback is well-known at this point: arrested three times at Florida, he left Gainesville with a string of incidents trailing him, including a bar fight and two marijuana possession charges. Jenkins has four children by three different women, with the kids all age 3 and under. It's a challenging personal history for the Rams to deal with, to say the least.
But that's where Fisher's experience might well prove valuable. He was, of course, the head coach in Tennessee when the Titans drafted talented but troubled West Virginia cornerback Adam "Pacman'' Jones in 2005's first round. The Jones era didn't wind up being worth the trouble in Tennessee, but the Rams' second-round investment in Jenkins means the stakes won't be as high for a Fisher-led team this time.
Not that Jenkins himself is buying the Pacman comparison. Asked about it during his first interview with the Rams media on Friday, Jenkins scoffed: "I mean, no, because I never shot up a strip club or nothing like that.''
The bottom line in St. Louis is that the Rams are in mass acquisition phase this weekend, and my quick read is that they're getting both quantity and quality. I like a team in loading up mode come draft time, and consider what the Rams turned their original No. 2 overall pick into from early March on: LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers at No. 14, plus two extra first-round picks; and two extra second-round picks. And with the five picks they've made in the first three rounds, the Rams have every right to expect three or four rookie starters, with a key contributor in Pead. That's the kind of draft class, or at least the start of one, that can wind up laying a cornerstone of sustained success for a struggling franchise.
After a lost 2011 from start to finish, the turnaround in St. Louis may have just begun.
• Smart move by the Colts, snapping up Stanford tight end Coby Fleener with the second pick of the second round. Getting new Indy quarterback Andrew Luck at least one receiver he can throw to in his sleep gives the Franchise a security blanket of sorts to clutch when games get tight and the pocket gets crowded.
Luck went first overall in the first round, and Fleener, his friend and former collegiate teammate nearly matched him, being taken just one slot shy of first in the second round.
And for good measure, the Colts went out and got Luck another target to aim for in Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen with the first pick of the third round. Luck, Fleener and Allen give Indy a little more hope on offense than they had at the beginning of draft weekend.
• The primary drawback that seemed to knock Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw down into the early stages of the second round was some confusion about just where he best fit in the NFL: at linebacker or defensive end. But the Ravens have no such doubts about where they want him to line up. They've been looking for a complementary outside linebacker-edge rusher opposite of Terrell Suggs for a while now, and took Texas outside linebacker Sergio Kindle in 2010's second round with that role in mind. Kindle hasn't worked out so far, but Baltimore has much higher hopes for Upshaw, who went 35th overall, third in the second round.
• Count me among those who like Seattle's third-round pick of Russell Wilson, the undersized ex-Wisconsin quarterback the Seahawks took 75th overall. No, he's not prototypical NFL QB height at just under 5-foot-11, but all he does is make plays and find ways to compensate for his limitations. I'll take a shot on a guy who has consistently shown the ability to figure out how to rise to the level of his competition, no matter the league.
It doesn't hurt that Wilson has intangibles galore, and leadership qualities that seem to translate wherever he plays. Living in Madison, Wis., until recently, I watched Wilson play all last season, at times in person at Camp Randall Stadium. Call me a believer, even if he only has a developmental role or perhaps Wildcat quarterback assignment this season as a rookie. Whatever he does, Wilson will make a contribution to Seattle's success this season.
• In the can't-make-this-up department, one thing the Rams' two rookie cornerbacks have in common is that both Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson have had the experience of being tasered by police in the not too distant past.
Jenkins was tasered as part of his arrest in a 2009 bar fight, and Johnson was tasered by police in Montana last October, in an alcohol-related incident that occurred at an on-campus party.
That should make for some interesting first-day conversation between the newbies at Rams mini-camp. I guess after you've been "tased, bro,'' getting beat in coverage doesn't sting quite so badly.
• Don't know if any karma was involved or not, but kind of a nice twist to see the Bengals wind up drafting Rutgers receiver Mohammed Sanu, who got cruelly pranked Thursday night by an anonymous caller who reached him and said he had just been selected by Cincinnati in the first round.
The money in the third round isn't the same (Sanu went 83rd overall), but here's hoping the opportunity is just as abundant. Sanu is a solid young man who I got the chance to write about this spring, and couldn't help but be impressed with.
• That was quite a little run on offensive tackles in the second round, with four quarterback protectors being picked in the eight slots from No. 37 to 44. Cleveland took Cal's Mitchell Schwartz at 37, Buffalo took the highly-rated Cordy Glenn of Georgia at 41, Stanford's Jonathan Martin went 42nd to Miami, and the No. 44 Chiefs took Illinois's Jeff Allen. For good measure, Ohio State's Mike Adams landed in Pittsburgh at No. 56, which was a round later than many mockers originally expected.
Glenn is the most intriguing of that bunch. The Bills will apparently be counting on him to handle their troubled left tackle slot and guard Ryan Fitzpatrick's blindside. But some NFL talent evaluators aren't convinced he has a left tackle's footwork and would be better suited at either right tackle or guard.
• The Eagles took Arizona quarterback Nick Foles in the third round, No. 88 overall. You know what that means. Andy Reid will fleece some poor, unsuspecting team for a second-round pick or two in exchange for Foles by 2014, or so. Once in Reid's possession, reserve Eagles quarterbacks invariably turn into lucrative trade bait -- and mediocre starters.
• Speaking of quarterbacks, I don't know if Arizona State's Brock Osweiler will be the future in Denver in the post-Peyton Manning era or not. But I bet it's going to be strange for Manning to have a backup who's taller than he is for a change. I actually had the Broncos taking Osweiler in my second-round mock Friday morning, but mainly because I didn't think the league could withstand another extended starting stint from Denver No. 2 Caleb Hanie.
• Not sure the match of Oregon scat-back LaMichael James and the ridiculously slow track of Candlestick Park's bog-like field is a great one. James is used to running on the fast turf of Autzen Stadium in Eugene, and he's about to hit the 49ers">49ers' notoriously slow homefield with a full head of steam. On one of those particularly soggy days by the bay, James could all but disappear in the marsh.