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Rams draft OT Robinson, DT Donald

2014-05-08T22:40:00Z 2014-05-19T20:25:30Z Rams draft OT Robinson, DT DonaldPOST-DISPATCH stltoday.com

By Post-Dispatch football writer Jim Thomas:

Greg Robinson had an inkling for quite some time that the Rams were interested in him at No. 2 overall in the 2014 NFL draft. But the massive offensive tackle from Auburn was taking nothing for granted.

“I knew they were very interested, and a lot of people projected me to go there,” Robinson said. “But I just wanted to wait it out, just to make things seem more real. Because I didn’t want to think I was there before it actually happened.”

In New York City on Thursday morning for NFL draft festivities, Robinson got a pretty good hint: the Rams called him just to double-check his phone number.

“It wasn’t a specific coach (on the line),” Robinson said. “They just wanted to confirm my phone number.”

It became real for Robinson right around 7:30 p.m. Thursday — when the Rams made him the second player taken in the draft, just behind South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who went as expected to Houston.

It was the first offensive lineman taken by the Rams in the first round since Baylor’s Jason Smith in 2009. (Uh, never mind.)

And it’s the first offensive lineman taken by Jeff Fisher in his 19 drafts as an NFL head coach in St. Louis, Tennessee, and Houston.

At No. 13 overall, with their second of two first-round picks, the Rams took Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a highly-decorated interior pass rusher. That may seem like a surprise to some Rams fans, but Donald did make a “top 30” visit to St. Louis, and the Rams have had him on their radar for some time.

Not many people, including reporters covering the team, thought defensive tackle was high on the Rams’ offseason wish-list when the offseason began. But the team made it clear through their actions that they considered that position a need area.

They considered several defensive tackles in free agency, eventually signing Alex Carrington of the Buffalo Bills to a backup role. And later, during the pre-draft process, the Rams brought in at least six college defensive tackles for “top 30” visits.

Donald won just about every award a defensive lineman can win this past season for the Pitt Panthers, including the Outland, Nagurski, Bednarik, and Rotary Lombardi awards. He told St. Louis reporters after his selection that he had to create additional room at the family home in Pittsburgh to display all of his trophies.

In 2013, he had 11 sacks, 16 pressures, and a staggering 28½ tackles for loss.

At 6-1, 285, Donald is undersized at the position, and there will be times he could get manhandled by 330-pound pulling guards defending the run. But with a very quick feet and penetration skills, Donald frequently gets by blockers before they can get to him.

There hasn’t been a coach or general manager in the history of NFL drafts that told the media they weren’t happy with their picks. But it was clear Fisher and general manager Les Snead were genuinely pleased with the night’s work.

“We’re jacked,” Snead joked. “We’d probably give ourselves an ‘A.’ ”

On Tuesday, Fisher said the Rams had six-to-eight players that they considered to be elite in this year’s draft. Fisher said Thursday that Donald was in that top tier of players. And obviously, Robinson was as well.

“Aaron’s very, very productive,” Fisher said. “Way ahead in hand use on the line of scrimmage. Does an outstanding job on the line of scrimmage.”

So it may not have been the glitziest first round, but in the rough-and-tumble world of the NFC West, you’ve got to have it in the trenches.

In Robinson, the Rams get a road-grader at 6-5, 332 who excels at run blocking. Fisher didn’t specify where Robinson would line up, but dropped some pretty good hints that it will be guard initially.

With the departure of Chris Williams in free agency to Buffalo, the Rams currently don’t have a starting left guard.

“We all know what Greg’s capable of doing,” Fisher said. “He’s an outstanding young man. And that workout last week (at Auburn) was really, really impressive. We’ll plug him in where we feel he’s got the best chance to be successful right now.

“I don’t know exactly where that is, but he may start off inside before we move him back outside. But you’re talking about an athlete. Powerful, great quickness and strength. He has a chance to be a dominant player inside initially.”

Some NFL analysts expressed doubts during the pre-draft process that Robinson could play guard in the NFL, but Fisher and the Rams’ coaching staff obviously have no qualms.

“He may initially have trouble blocking Aaron,” Fisher quipped.

But can he pass block? That’s the big question on Robinson. Fisher and Snead both feel Robinson will be able to handle pass-blocking in the NFL, even though run-heavy Auburn passed only 285 times in 2013 compared to 729 rushing attempts.

“He did more down-blocking, and run-blocking, and turn protection than he did kicking at the tackle position,” Fisher conceded. “But he’s very, very athletic and learns very well. ‘Boo’ (line coach Paul Boudreau) will get him going very quickly.”

There aren’t very many stats associated with blockers, but Robinson was credited with 38 touchdown-resulting blocks among the Tigers’ 64 TD runs during his two years as a starter. He was credited with 292 key blocks/knockdowns.

Robinson doesn’t block people as much as he crushes them in the run game. He liked that description.

“If you say crushing people, yeah, that’s a good way to describe it,” Robinson said.


Here are the updates posted by Joe Lyons of the Post-Dispatch during tonight's first round of the NFL Draft:

With pick No. 13, the Rams added to an already solid defensive line with tackle Aaron Donald from the University of Pittsburgh. He's a bit undersized (6-0 ¾, 285 pounds) but the ACC Defensive Player of the Year was incredibly productive for the Panthers. As a senior, he had 59 tackles, including 28 ½ for loss. He also had 11 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles and one blocked extra point.

Donald won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation's outstanding defensive player), Chuck Bednarik (defensive player of the year), Outland Trophy (nation's best interior lineman) and Rotary Lombardi Award (most outstanding lineman or linebacker).

AARON DONALD

PITTSBURGH DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Strengths

Quick off the snap, Donald stands a shade under 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 288 pounds and plays with a natural leverage as a explosive and disruptive force in the middle. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year, he had 59 tackles and was the NCAA leader for tackles for loss with 28 ½. Also had 11 sack, 16 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles.

Weaknesses

Lacks ideal height and has short arms. Can sometimes be overpowered in the run game and has been controlled by bigger, longer blockers.

Scout's view

 “Despite an array of schemes designed to slow him down, Donald was an unblockable force... Donald is a can't miss, hyperactive disrupter who dazes opponents at the snap with a dazzling John Randle-type skill set,'' Frank Cooney, NFLDraftScout.com.

 Prognosis

 It hasn't been flashy, but the Rams have strengthened themselves on both sides of the line with the additions of T Greg Robinson at No. 2 and DT Donald at No. 13. The first Pitt defensive player to earn unanimous All-America honors since High Green in 1980, Donald is considered the best interior lineman in this draft. As a senior, he won the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Outland Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award.

RAMS TAKE OT ROBINSON AT NO. 2

By The Associated Press

It was not a huge surprise to Greg Robinson when the St. Louis Rams made him the second overall pick of the NFL draft.

The team telephoned the Auburn offensive tackle earlier Thursday. Robinson said it was just to confirm they had the right number, but agreed it was quite a hint.

"It was just so unbelievable, I couldn't believe it," Robinson said. "I didn't want to get any high expectations or get my hopes up and something go wrong. So, I just waited it out."

The 6-foot-5, 332-pound Robinson was a third team All-American at left tackle last year, starting every game for the national runner-ups. The Rams need immediate help at guard, but Robinson could start at left tackle to begin the season if Jake Long isn't ready to go after offseason knee surgery.

Robinson said the Rams (7-9) hadn't discussed where they wanted to put him. He played some guard in high school in Thibodaux, La., and could be the replacement at left guard for Chris Williams, who took a free agent deal in Buffalo.

"Whatever they ask of me, I'm willing to just step in and try to help the best that I can," Robinson said.

The pick gives the Rams an upgrade up front for quarterback Sam Bradford, who's rehabbing from knee surgery. Earlier this week, coach Jeff Fisher swatted away trade rumors involving Bradford, the first overall pick in 2010 who has two years left on his contract.

"I look forward to hearing from him and blocking for him," Robinson said.

The pick was the final payout from the Robert Griffin III deal with the Redskins in 2012. They also held the 13th pick.

GREG ROBINSON

AUBURN TACKLE

Strengths

Combines excellent size (6-5, 332) and power in a prototypical body for competing on the offensive line in the NFL. Known for his run-blocking, with long arms, good hand placement and the power to drive defenders off the line. A developing pass blocker who has all the skills needed to eventually excel at left tackle.

Weaknesses

Only two years of starting experience in an run-dominated Auburn offense that played to his strengths. Pass-blocking technique needs to be refined; he was rarely asked to pass-block without some support in college. He's still learning to adjust to overload pressure and will need to learn to shift his feet more consistently to handle the bigger, stronger and quicker players in the NFL.

Scout's view

“Big, strong, athletic, overpowering left tackle with the rare potential to become a premier franchise left tackle... He is undeniably gifted and capable of walking into a starting left tackle job in the pros and paving the way in the run game.'' NFL.com

Prognosis

The Rams did what they needed to do, filling a need with a franchise-type tackle with loads of potential. Robinson started 25 of 26 games at Auburn, helping the Tigers lead the FBS in rushing yards per game (328.3). He provides insurance at tackle if Jake Long isn't ready to start the season after knee surgery and said he can also play guard.

More information coming immediately on STLtoday.com


The 2014 NFL draft is off and running.

With the No. 1 overall pick, after taking nearly the entire 10-minute period, the Houston Texans selected defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina.

After the Rams selected tackle Greg Robinson (Auburn), the Jaguars took QB Blake Bortles and Cleveland picked up a No. 1in 2015 and a No. 4 this year in a trade with Buffalo, allowing the Bills to select Clemson WR Sammy Watkins.

Oakland took Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 5 and Atlanta followed by selecting Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews at No. 6. At No. 7, Tampa Bay chose A&M wideout Mike Evans.

Cleveland selected Oklahoma State corner Justin Gilbert at No. 8, Minnesota picked UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr with the ninth pick and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron went to Detroit to close out the first 10 selections.

At No. 11, Tennessee picked up Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan. It's the New York Giants at No. 12.

After the Rams' selection of Aaron Donald at No. 13, Chicago took Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller, Pittsburgh selected LB Ryan Shazier, Dallas opted for Notre Dame G/T Zack Martin, Baltimore picked LB C.J. Mosley from Alabama, the Jets drafted S Calvin Pryor of Louisville, Miami took took T Ja'Wuan James of Tennessee, New Orleans drafted WR Brandin Cooks of Oregon State and Green Bay selected S Ha-Ha Clinton Dix of Alabama.

At No. 22, Cleveland traded up to take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Kansas City took DE Dee Ford of Auburn at No. 23, with corners Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State going to Cincinnati at No. 24 and Jason Verrett of TCU going to San Diego at No. 25. At 26, Louisville DE/LB Marcus Smith was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles.

To close out the first round,  Arizona took S Deone Buchannon (Washington State) at No. 27 Carolina picked WR Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State) at No. 28, New England opted for DT Dominigue Easley (Florida) at No. 29, San Francisco selected S Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois) at No. 30, Denver chose CB Bradley Roby (Ohio State) at No. 31 and the Vikings traded up to select QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) with the 32nd pick.

Rounds 2 through 4 will begin tonight at 6, with Rounds 5-7 scheduled for Saturday beginning at 11 a.m.

"Who is Houston taking?"

That was the question Rams general manager Les Snead had during his Tuesday pre-draft meeting with the media at Rams Park and it's the question most of the NFL is asking as the starting time of the draft nears.

The draft, which runs through Saturday, is set to begin at 7 tonight. The Rams enter the first round with picks No. 2 and No. 13.

But in two previous seasons under the direction of Snead and coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams have proven themselves as active draft-day traders.

“Man, people are still flirting. Nobody’s asked us to the prom yet,'' Snead kidded earlier this week. “I think this week it gets slightly more serious, but again I think with our pick at (No.) 2, hey just like we’re waiting on Houston to draw first blood, those teams somewhat have to wait on Houston as well. I think that’s why we’ve always said this stuff may really come down to they make the pick and you’ve got 10 minutes.”

The lengthy wait _ a couple of weeks later than usual this year _ is over. No more private workouts and no more mocks (thankfully). The time to start the draft is nearly at hand.

And the Rams are ready to go.

DRAFT CHAT: JEFF GORDON LIVE IS UNDERWAY

“We’ve identified six to eight players that we think potentially could fit us at (No.) 2,'' Fisher said. “And then, of course, we’ve gone on with the additional process at (No.) 13. That’s been the challenge for us upstairs is that we have two separate issues going on and we have to make sure we address _ equally _ each pick. You don’t get consumed with one and then get caught off guard with the other, so we’ve got a couple different scenarios.”

RAMS' PICKS

With 12 selections, the Rams and the New York Jets have the most choices going into the 2014 NFL draft. Houston, Jacksonville, Dallas and San Francisco have 11 picks apiece. At the other end, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay enter Thursday's draft with just five selections each.

“I'll say this, you have 12 picks to make the most of the opportunity,'' Snead said. “That can be using some of your picks to move up to go get a guy, could be trading a pick for a better pick in the future, it could be picking that player there... If we pick this player, what's his role on this team next year or the next two or three years and try to make the best choice.''

Snead continued: “I'd just say stack good decisions. Make them one at a time. Try to stack as many good decisions as possible and there will be a flywheel, there will be a snowball effect and guess what, it'll turn into good things.

The Rams' choices going into the draft:

Round ... Pick No. (Overall)

1 ... 2 (2) from Washington

1 ... 13 (13)

2 ... 12 (44)

3 ... 11 (75)

4 ... 10 (110)

5 ... 13 (153)

6 ... 12 (188)

6 ... 38 (214)*

7 ... 11 (226)

7 ... 26 (241) from Indianapolis

7 ... 34 (249)*

7 ... 35 (250)*

* — compensatory selections

DRAFT PICKS ON THE ROSTER

The Rams roster includes 12 players who were selected by the team in the opening two rounds of the NFL draft. A rundown (with overall selection) off Rams draft picks on the roster:

First round (6): DE Chris Long (2) in 2008, QB Sam Bradford (1) in 2010, DE Robert Quinn (14) in 2011, DT Michael Brockers (14) in 2012, WR Tavon Austin (8) in 2013 and LB Alex Ogletree (30) in 2013.

Second round (6): LB James Laurinaitis (35) in 2009, T-G Rodger Saffold (33) in 2010, TE Lance Kendricks (47) in 2011, WR Brian Quick (33) in 2012, CB Janoris Jenkins (39) in 2012) and RB Isaiah Pead (50) in 2012.

Third round (4): WR Austin Pettis (78) in 2011, CB Trumaine Johnson (65) in 2012, S T.J. McDonald (71) in 2013 and WR Stedman Bailey (92) in 2013.

Fourth round (2): WR Chris Givens (96) and OL Barrett Jones (113).

Fifth round (2): CB Brandon McGee (149) and RB Zac Stacy (160).

Sixth round (2): DE Eugene Sims (189) and K Greg Zuerlein (171).

Seventh round (1): RB Daryl Richardson (252).

Joe is a St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter.

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