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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2010

NFL draft: Carriker trade shows how poorly Rams have drafted in past decade


By Bryan Burwell
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS There were a little more than 48 hours to go before he will pull the trigger on the most important draft of his professional life, but instead of looking a bit frazzled or a tad freaked out, Rams general manager Billy Devaney was cracking jokes.

It was Tuesday morning, and the GM and his draft day tag-team partner Steve Spagnuolo were doing their final meet-and-greet with the local press at Rams Park. When one inquisitive mind tried getting Devaney to divulge how many trade offers have already come his way for the No.1 overall pick in Thursday night's prime time first round, he tried to play it coy.

"There's been, I don't know, there hasn't been that many," Devaney said. "I haven't kept score, to be honest."

OK, Billy, could you possibly be a little less vague? Was it more than 10? Less than 10? Somewhere between five and 10 or maybe four and 3,481 potential trade offers on the table?

"You're getting warmer," Devaney grinned.

Even though he spent most of the day in front of the TV cameras and microphones being intentionally cryptic, behind the scenes, Devaney was showing that these last critical hours before the start of the NFL draft can be somewhat revealing. We may not know what Devaney has up his sleeve as he tries to shape the franchise's future, but at least we can see what he's trying to do about distancing himself even further from its failed past.

If we needed any more reminders of the spectacular draft day failures of the previous Rams regime, Devaney gave us a big one Tuesday. For the second time in the past seven months, the Rams general manager dumped another failed first-round draft pick for little more than a pittance. In September, it was 2006 first-rounder Tye Hill, who was dealt to Atlanta for a seventh-round pick. Then on Tuesday afternoon, Devaney did a little more important house cleaning, making room for the next draft class by shipping off another first-round failure of the previous regime 2007 draft bust Adam Carriker as a throw-in for changing draft spots in both the fifth and seventh rounds with Washington.

Good for him. Out with the old, in with the new.

This is one more opportunity to highlight why draft day is a make-or-break moment. Carriker and Hill are the most obvious reminders of why the Rams are in this sorry predicament in the first place and serve as cautionary tales for what Devaney must avoid repeating if he wants to turn this franchise around in a hurry.

I don't know what Devaney has up his sleeve on this extended draft weekend, whether he is going to play it by the numbers and select Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with that No. 1 pick, or give us a Thursday night surprise (trade the pick for tons of additional picks), or veer back toward Nebraska's beast of a defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh (I haven't forgotten you, big fella).

But whatever he does, please let it be known that Devaney must not take the Rams back to the horrid nightmares of the past decade where draft day was an unmitigated disaster. Hopefully, we are done with the last remnants of a negative drafting history that has put the franchise in this deep hole.

When you show up on draft day, this is supposed to be the best tool to fortify your roster for years to come. Yet it didn't work out that way for the Rams. In the eight drafts between 2000 and 2007, when the team should have been stocking up on its core group of veteran players, the Rams came away nearly empty.

Between 2000 and 2003, the Rams have only one drafted player still on their roster, long snapper Chris Massey. By comparison, the Pittsburgh Steelers have two Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu and starting cornerback Ike Taylor. It doesn't get much better the deeper we go into the decade. While the Steelers still have 10 players on their roster from the '03 through '07 drafts (including nine current starters and four Pro Bowlers), the Rams have retained seven players (four starters, one Pro Bowler).

You can go back and see over and over again why the Rams are in the predicament they're in now, and every time the trail leads to the failures on draft day. In 2007, the previous regime (do we have to say their names?) took Carriker with the 13th pick in the first round. The next two picks in the first round were Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis (best cover corner in the league) and Pittsburgh's stud linebacker Lawrence Timmons (seven sacks last year). Ouch!

In '06, it was the Tye Hill draft (15th overall). Four slots later, San Diego took another defensive back in Antonio Cromartie, who proved to be an exciting player capable of doing what Hill never could do, cover people and create interceptions. So as Carriker leaves, we are once again reminded of what a disaster the last decade has been for the Rams on draft day.

Why are they so sorry now? Well, when you have only two first-round picks still on the roster between '00 and '07 and the eight Rams' first-rounders of that era are either no longer with the team (Carriker, Hill, Jimmy Kennedy, Damione Lewis, Ryan Pickett) or totally out of the league (Trung Canidate, Robert Thomas, Adam Archuleta), that's a recipe for the disaster that this team has become.

Now it's time for Devaney to change it all up. He doesn't have anyone handicapping him anymore. Scott Linehan is gone. Jay Zygmunt is a distant memory and Mike Martz is nowhere to be found. It's Devaney's draft board and he's assembled a crew of smart pro football lifers in his personnel department whose judgment he respects.

I don't care how coy he plays it before the draft. I just want to make sure that when the clock starts ticking, Billy D is the smartest man in the room.