Rams' talent expands by the power of RG3

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 16, 2012 - 7:23 AM

St. Louis' new leadership used the Robert Griffin III card to stockpile draft picks - just what the team needed.

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Rams first-round draft pick Michael Brockers sacked 49ers quarterback during their tie last month.

Photo: Nhat V. Meyer, MCT - MCT

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As the chants in Washington grow louder -- "RG3! RG3!" -- fans in St. Louis have a longer list of young players to keep a close watch on -- guys named Bradford and Brockers, Jenkins and Johnson, Pead and Watkins.

Oh, and two promising yet still unknown college kids who'll be plucked early in the 2013 and 2014 drafts.

Allow us to explain.

In early March, shortly after accepting new posts in St. Louis, Rams coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead found themselves flooded with trade offers. It seemed as if just about every team that wanted a quarterback had cast a hook their way.

After all, the Rams essentially had access to two young guns capable of taking a team to the championship level. (Insert basic supply-and-demand principles here.)

The pre-draft hype, of course, centered around Baylor's Robert Griffin III, who was so mobile and so accurate. Intelligent and charismatic, too. And as owners of the second overall pick, St. Louis had become the Griffin gatekeeper.

The Rams already had their own promising quarterback: Sam Bradford, the top overall pick from 2010. And Bradford, too, attracted plenty of interest from teams wondering whether RG3's magnetism might suck St. Louis in.

Decisions, decisions.

For Fisher, however, the vision was always clear. The Rams coach never gave the Bradford trade pitches significant thought.

He and Snead never were troubled by Bradford's 2011 struggles in a year in which the young quarterback had his development disrupted by a lockout, a coordinator change and a nagging ankle injury, plus issues with the line and receiving corps.

To Fisher and Snead, everything they saw from Bradford's rookie season in 2010 led them to believe he had all the tools to propel a Rams rise.

Fisher's thought process can be quickly summed up.

"We have a franchise quarterback back here," he recalled this week. "And we certainly need picks."

There it was, Fisher's first big fork in the road -- a vote of confidence in Bradford as the long-term answer.

So then came the auction for Griffin. Ultimately, Fisher and Snead deemed the Redskins the highest bidder, eagerly accepting four picks to move out of the No. 2 slot. The Rams received Washington's No. 6 and No. 39 picks plus first-round selections in 2013 and 2014.

Miami, Fisher said, had also been in the discussions. And Cleveland reportedly offered St. Louis both their 2012 first-round picks.

But Fisher preferred having more first-round currency for future drafts.

The trade with Washington created widespread buzz. But it wasn't the only deal Fisher swung. On the draft's first night, the Rams traded down again, this time to No. 14, with Dallas swapping places and delivering the 45th pick as well.

It was perfect for St. Louis. But surprising, too. The Rams needed cornerback help and might have benefited from taking Morris Claiborne at No. 6. But Fisher also felt confident he could land secondary aid in the second and third rounds and saw a massive and instinctive defensive tackle in Michael Brockers, who figured to be available at No. 14.

So there it was, rather than Griffin or Claiborne, the Rams' top 2012 pick became Brockers.

And then came the later benefits of the Redskins deal. In Round 2, St. Louis used the No. 39 pick on cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who became an immediate starter.

Later in the round, they traded the 45th pick (originally from Dallas) to Chicago for selections 50 and 150 and wound up using those picks on running back Isaiah Pead and offensive tackle Rokevious Watkins.

Sandwiched in the middle was the third-round selection of lanky defensive back Trumaine Johnson, whose upside had made it easier to pass on Claiborne.

In a month's time, Fisher and Snead had been bold yet decisive.

History will always remember they passed on RG3. But the final verdict on that move will need years to materialize.

So the Rams now have more players captaining their ship: Bradford and Brockers, Jenkins and Johnson, Pead and Watkins. And those two future first-round picks as well.

Dan Wiederer dan.wiederer@startribune.com

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