Cornerback Janoris Jenkins could step in and start right away for the Rams.
Soon after Rams coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead put the finishing touches on the blockbuster trade with Washington that netted a cache of valuable picks, Fisher, Snead and Co. turned their attention to formulating a plan on how to use this year’s selections.
Suddenly armed with an additional second rounder and sitting at sixth in the first round out of the reach of some desirable offensive skill position players, the Rams set their sights on adding as many picks for the second day as possible.
The logic, according to Snead and Fisher was to load up on picks in the second and third round where valuable starters could be found and massive holes could be filled.
Following a flurry of activity in which the Rams picked four times between picks 33 and 65; Fisher and Snead believe the Rams became a much better football team on Friday night.
“We felt because of the value of the pick and the deal with Washington and the fact that we got the two, that this was going to be our day,” Fisher said. “That’s really when it started.”
In the process, the Rams grabbed a big time receiver in Appalachian State’s Brian Quick (No. 33), a pair of lockdown corners in North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins (No. 39) and Montana’s Trumaine Johnson (No. 65) and a change of pace running back with home run ability in Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead (No. 50).
And oh by the way, just so they don’t get bored during the final day Saturday, Snead and Fisher engineered a trade down with Chicago for the 45th pick to move down to No. 50 and pick up an a fifth-round pick. The team previously traded its fifth rounder to Denver for wideout Brandon Lloyd.
Armed with nearly a full day to field calls and investigate another potential trade down option, Fisher and Snead went to bed Thursday night promising each other that they would ignore any phone calls.
“We jumped up and down last night when the draft was over,” Fisher said. “There was no doubt in our mind. I wouldn’t let him take a phone call, nor would he let me take a phone call.”
That’s because they knew exactly which player they wanted to take with the first pick of the second round. In fact, they knew as far back as last weekend when they were part of a Rams contingent that visited Appalachian State to take one last look at Quick that he was going to be the apple of their eye in the second round.
“I’ve seen him live four times and Combine can get a little carried away because you have a lot of things going on, but three of the four I know was a, ‘Wow.’ And that was the first time I saw him practice, all the way to last weekend’s workout,” Snead said. “I kind of looked at Jeff and we kind of looked at each other and you didn’t really have to say much. We knew what we were thinking.”
In landing Quick, the Rams grabbed the receiver they coveted above nearly every receiver on their board. At more than 6’3, 222 pounds, Quick gives the Rams a big, physical outside threat that they have found themselves in search of for some time.
The Rams hope that legendary Rams receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt announced the pick will provide some good karma but for now Quick is focused on what he can bring to the table.
In his senior season, Quick posted 71 catches for 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns. His ability to not only make plays vertically but make catches, break tackles and gain yards after the catch makes Quick a versatile receiver capable of doing damage in multiple ways.
That’s not to say Quick is a finished product. In many ways, he’s only scratching the surface on his potential after he just picked up organized football as a senior in high school.
“My strengths are my yards after the catch, just trying to get the extra yards,” Quick said. “I have great hands. I have good speed. I wouldn’t say I have any weaknesses, but I will tell you this, I have a lot that we can work on at the next level. I have to get myself prepared for the next level and the defenders. It’s going to be a little tougher. I have to get my mind prepared and get myself prepared physically and mentally for what I’m about to face.”
After grabbing the wideout they wanted most, the Rams stayed on the outside, grabbing someone who can help slow down opposing wideouts with two of their three remaining picks.
Headlining that duo is Jenkins, one of the most polarizing players in this year’s class.
Widely regarded as one of the most talented cover corners in the entire draft, Jenkins also comes with some off the field risk after a series of incidents that resulted in him being kicked off the team at Florida and landing at North Alabama.
With little question about his ability to play the game, the Rams set about getting a handle on whether he’ll be as good a citizen as he is a player once he gets to the NFL.
Fisher said the Rams attacked the research on Jenkins voraciously, going so far as to send someone to Jenkins’ hometown of Pahokee, Fla. to look into his past and project his future.
For his part, Jenkins said he didn’t hide anything about his past in the pre-draft run up and believes he’s ready to grow up in St. Louis.
“I (would) just be honest,” Jenkins said. “I don’t have anything to hide. That was my past. That was a year ago, and I took my second rap to go to UNA for a reason, just to show people that I wasn’t a bad kid, that I wasn’t running from my problems.”
For the Rams, Jenkins is talented enough to step in and start right away opposite
Jenkins is 5’10, 193 pounds with top end speed who had 10 interceptions in his college career and earned a reputation for his blanket coverage after shutting down top tier former SEC receivers such as A.J. Green and Julio Jones.
Fisher said the Rams felt comfortable early on that Jenkins will be just fine and acknowledged that there’s a detailed plan to help Jenkins adjust to adult life on his own in St. Louis.
“We talked to many, many, many people that crossed paths with him since he was a young boy growing up in Pahokee, Florida. So we did our work and every person we talked to said, ‘Take him.’ They said he’s a great kid. He’s an exceptional football player. Made a few mistakes in school, obviously has a young family, but he’s got all that stuff under control. We’ve got plans in place and we’re excited about his future here.”
As if Jenkins isn’t enough, the Rams also picked up Johnson with their third round pick. Much like Jenkins, Johnson was rated by some including the Rams as a first round talent.
Johnson brings more size to the table at 6’1, 204 pounds and though he has potential as a safety, Fisher said Johnson projects exclusively to cornerback at the NFL level.
Fisher and Johnson actually have a long standing relationship from Johnson’s time at Montana. Johnson and Brandon Fisher, who now is an assistant on the Rams staff played together for two seasons and Jeff Fisher said he saw Johnson play about four times in his first two years at Montana.
“I’m so excited,” Johnson said. “Me and Jeff, I’ve known Jeff since I was at Montana just because his son played. He used to come to some games, so I feel like I knew Coach Jeff a little more. I’m excited. I’m ready to meet all those guys up there.”
Make no mistake, though, nepotism had nothing to do with Johnson landing in St. Louis. Rather, the selection of Johnson had everything to do with his play making skills for the Grizzlies.
There, Johnson started 42 games and posted 15 interceptions to go with 35 pass breakups and developed his reputation as a legitimate ball hawk.
“First off, he’s got great ball skills,” Fisher said. “He can go get the football. He had a bunch of interceptions. He’s a big corner, he’s got long arms, he can press, he’s going to work at the off coverage, and he’s physical, and he’ll tackle.”
In continuing the theme of adding speedy play makers on day two, the Rams finally addressed the need for a speedy backup to running back
Pead caught the attention of the Rams a long time ago and solidified it with an MVP performance at the Senior Bowl where he showed home run ability as a runner but also as a returner.
After two potential outside linebackers came off the board following their trade, the Rams turned to Pead to solve a longstanding problem.
In his four years with the Bearcats, Pead posted 3,288 rushing yards and 721 receiving yards to add up to 33 total touchdowns.
Immediately, Pead figures to step in as Jackson’s backup and provide the Rams an explosive element they’ve been lacking as a player capable of taking it the distance anytime he touches the ball.
“Isaiah has got great change of direction quickness, vision, a jump-cut runner,” Fisher said. “He’s got acceleration; he’s got hands out of the backfield. He’s just a great change of pace runner that we need here right now for Steven. He’s a smart young man.”
Of course, Pead has grander plans down the road as a potential future feature back. In the meantime, he hopes to learn all he can from the Rams’ all time leading rusher.
“I’m going to be in Steven Jackson’s hip pocket learning everything,” Pead said. “He’s a pro and he’s a pro for a reason- and a successful one. I’m looking to going in there; I’m going to of course compete. I’m going to learn as much as I can and try to make my career last as long as his.”
A busy Friday will be followed by a Saturday in which the Rams hope to turn over some late round gems. On the heels of adding the aforementioned fifth-round selection, the Rams will pick once in rounds four, five and six and twice in round seven.
They still have needs at guard, outside linebacker and punter as well as a variety of depth needs at other spots.
But for the day that the Rams have planned for since making the trade with Washington, the Rams couldn’t have come out much happier.
“I think, you know what, it was a good day for us,” Snead said. “I think it was a very good day. I think every player we got is going to help us next year.”