St. Louis selects offensive weapons

Sunday, May 1, 2011

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams loaded up on options for new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after adding a pass rusher in the first round of the NFL draft.

The Rams selected their second straight wide receiver in the fourth round Saturday, taking prolific Greg Salas of Hawaii. They took Wisconsin tight end Lance Kendricks in the second round then added Austin Pettis of Boise State in the third round.

Wide receiver appeared to be the neediest position entering the draft for the Rams, who lack a No. 1 threat to go with quarterback Sam Bradford.

St. Louis made do last year with practice squad graduates like slot man Danny Amendola, who had 85 catches and three touchdowns, and other low-profile types, especially after Mark Clayton was lost for the season with a knee injury early in the season.

Clayton is not under contract, but Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "Mark's an important piece."

St. Louis averaged 5.95 yards per passing attempt last year, 30th in the NFL, and now has more options even if the offense still appears to lack breakaway speed.

Rams general manager Billy Devaney said McDaniels has used the term "stressing" the defense rather than "stretching" it.

"I think there's all different ways you spread a defense out," Devaney said. "You could put a dadgum track guy out there and stretch the field and he can't catch the thing, but you've got a flyer out there. Big deal."

The Rams did not draft a running back to back up workhorse Steven Jackson, another area of need. Devaney said when it was time to pick, the value never was there.

"If it happened, it happened," Devaney said. "We didn't force it."

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Salas, chosen with the 112th overall selection Saturday, had a very productive senior season with 119 receptions for 1,889 yards and 14 touchdowns. He topped 100 receptions each of the last two seasons, and is third on the WAC list with 285 career receptions.

Salas' initial reaction: "The best day of my life. I know I can catch the ball. I would say I'm a tough receiver with great hands and physical. Just a tough competitor."

Like Pettis, lack of blazing speed may have held him back. Salas made no visits to NFL cities but tried not to fret too much heading into the draft.

"I didn't look into it too much," Salas said. "My agent told me not to look into it too much and just keep doing what you can do, and that's what I did."

The Rams opened the draft by adding one of the top pass-rushing prospects, taking former North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn with the 14th overall pick.

They went back to defense in the fifth round and took Ohio State safety Jermale Hines, an All-Big Ten first-team pick despite unimpressive statistics. Hines had 66 tackles as a senior, third on the team, with one interception and four pass breakups.

Spagnuolo said Hines was a player who "kind of runs the show."

"I'm a physical guy. I like to impose my will on my opponents," Hines said.

The Rams traded down with the Falcons in the fifth round, swapping picks and ending up with three seventh-rounders.

Devaney said in the later rounds there's not that much difference in player quality so stockpiling could be a plus, and added the team got the player it wanted later in the fifth anyway.

St. Louis took Baylor cornerback Mikail Baker earlier in the seventh, then finished with outside linebacker Jabara Williams of Stephen F. Austin and safety Jonathan Nelson of Oklahoma on consecutive picks. The Rams used most of their 10-minute allotment before winding up their selections Saturday.

"When we get down to this point, you're looking at developmental guys," Devaney said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: