When the Rams came on the clock with the sixth pick of the first round, they gave strong consideration to drafting LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
In fact, the Rams had Brockers rated as one of their top players in the entire draft, certainly in the top six. But, instead of drafting Brockers, they struck a deal with Dallas to move down to No. 14 and pick up a second-round pick.
After dropping eight spots, the Rams began considering what their options would be and looking at other players. But when they came back on the clock, they found themselves overjoyed to see Brockers staring them in the face again.
Coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead briefly considered trading down again but didn’t hesitate much to make the move to get the guy they coveted eight picks before. As it happened, Fisher and Snead actually watched film on Brockers again Thursday morning before making the decision.
“We had Michael up there with number-six value and he was one of our considerations,” Fisher said. “We had other players up there with that number-six pick value, so when you have a number of players up there and the guy that you have interest in is no longer there, it makes sense to go. We talked about our needs and to be able to get pick number forty-five from Dallas was a deal we couldn’t refuse. So now you wait and things start falling into place, and there was a run on defensive tackles and the only club we really had to wait on was Arizona and Michael fell to us.”
For those paying attention when Fisher and Snead discussed the numerous options the Rams had entering Thursday night’s first round, the possibility of making a move to add picks to help fill their numerous needs continued to crop up.
In one of the wildest openings to a draft of all time, every pick from No. 2 through No. 7 changed hands at least once and the sixth pick was moved twice.
Cleveland started it off with a bang, dealing three picks to Minnesota to move up one spot to grab Alabama running back Trent Richardson. With Richardson off the board, the Rams soon began exploring trade options.
Fisher acknowledged the Rams still had Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon in the crosshairs but after Minnesota took USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, Jacksonville jumped over the Rams to No. 5 to snatch Blackmon away.
That left the Rams considering whether to take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne in a group that also had Brockers and Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
Dallas didn’t hesitate to capitalize on the chance to move up for Claiborne, though, as it coughed up its second round pick (No. 45) overall and the 14th pick to move up and grab Claiborne.
The Rams scooped up Brockers and suddenly found themselves with one of the league’s most formidable young defensive lines led by one of the league’s most respected defensive line coaches, Mike Waufle.
In other words, the Rams are confident that Waufle can help Brockers reach his vast potential.
“Our defensive line coach is one of the best in the NFL,” Snead said. “I’ve always heard that, but now living with him, I see it and feel it. He has a philosophy, and I think everyone who visits our games will see his philosophy. I think pass rush comes from a unit and we’ve got four players. We’ve got two ends that can rush the passer. This guy is very strong. He can push the pocket and can cause the quarterback not be able to step up and now the ends…I don’t know if we can still hit quarterbacks in this league, but at least we can pressure them or maybe touch them, two-hand touch. But it’s not all about sacks when you’re talking about rushing and pressuring the quarterback.”
A 6’5, 322 pound monster, Brockers will be expected to step in right away next to free agent signee
“He was one of our top rated players on the board,” Snead said. “We felt like we have two young, good to very good ends and we signed Kendall Langford, so being one of our better players on the board, not only do we get one of the players we wanted, but we made the defensive line unit one of our strongest units on the team.”
Although Brockers was just a one-year starter for the Bayou Bengals, he made an immediate impact in the run game, regularly taking on and forcing multiple offensive linemen into a stalemate.
In his final season in Baton Rouge, Brockers posted 54 tackles, 10 for loss with two sacks and a forced fumble as LSU’s defense was nearly impossible to run against, holding opponents to just 90 yards rushing per game, good for fifth in the nation.
That performance was enough to draw the attention of scouts everywhere labeling Brockers as one of the premiere run stuffers in the nation. That is what Brockers believes is his biggest strength.
“I want to make a team one-dimensional like I did at LSU,” Brockers said. “I want to make a team want to throw the ball and then as a professional, turn into a great pass rusher as well so I can get some of those sacks I didn’t get in college and just become an All-Pro player in the league.”
Although Brockers doesn’t have a ton of game experience, Fisher said he’s not concerned with his ability to develop into a well-rounded tackle with the pass rush skills to complement his run stuffing ability.
“He’s a big man,” Fisher said. “At 322 pounds he’s explosive, he’s very instinctive. For not having played, for not being a four-year starter, he’s very, very instinctive. He can play across the face of blocks, he pushes the pocket, he can collapse, he can get on an edge, he plays with effort. I mean, what else can you say? And there’s so much more ahead of him. He’s going to develop into a fine player. And he’s an outstanding young man, great character guy, hard worker. He’s the complete package, now. He’s what you want in a defensive tackle, especially in our division with the down-hill runs and things like that.”
With Brockers on board and the need for a defensive tackle checked off the shopping list, the Rams now turn to what figures to be a busy Friday night.
Between now and the 6 p.m. start, the Rams will likely field plenty of phone calls for the first pick of the round, No. 33 overall. Of course, they follow with picks 39 and 45 and hold the second pick of the third round.
Talented receivers, outside linebackers, cornerbacks and offensive linemen remain, positions of serious need for the Rams. Essentially, no team is better prepared to load up on talented players and fill needs in the second and third round.
“That’s exactly right,” Fisher said. “We feel real good. There’s not a head coach or a general manager right now talking about their pick that doesn’t feel good, but we feel really good about this. We’ve got different needs than other clubs. We got another pick. We’re going to get a top-notch player at 45, and we’ve got a guy that’s going to be a dominant impact player for our defense.”