With the number of top-100 picks (six) and holes on the St. Louis Rams’ depth chart, perhaps the easier question is “Which rookies won’t start for the St. Louis Rams?”
Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead did a tremendous job parlaying the No. 2 overall pick into a plethora of selections to recreate the roster in their own image.
The starting lineup for the season opener at the Detroit Lions will be dramatically different from the one that wound up the 2011 campaign with a loss to the 49ers. Which rookies could be part of it?
First-Round Defensive Tackle Michael Brockers
As Brian McIntyre of NFL.com put it on the occasion of Brockers signing his rookie contract, he’ll be an instant starter, probably focusing on running downs at the beginning.
Brockers only played two years at LSU before turning pro. His college statistics were modest (11 career TFL, two sacks), to put it kindly. The No. 14 overall pick’s impact and success will be measured mostly by how he progresses and whether he frees up teammates to make plays.
Second-Round Wide Receiver Brian Quick
St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Jim Thomas acknowledges “uncertainties” but writes that “expectations are that when all is said and done, rookies Brian Quick and Chris Givens and veteran Danny Amendola will be the top three receivers.” Since Amendola is a slot receiver, that means Quick has a good chance to start on the outside.
Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell passed on that the Rams think Quick is as good a prospect as No. 5 overall pick Justin Blackmon. Running back Steven Jackson has said the Rams will “lean heavily” on Quick.
If Quick isn’t on the field for the first offensive drive of the season and he isn’t injured, we’ll have to assume that he had a very disappointing camp and preseason.
Second-Round Cornerback Janoris Jenkins
It was very subtle, but head coach Jeff Fisher revealed that he plans on starting Jenkins opposite Cortland Finnegan in an interview with KMOX’s Tom Ackerman last month.
Former starter Bradley Fletcher has been recovering well from his second torn ACL and did receive some reps with the first team, according to Nick Wagoner from the Rams’ official website, but he’ll have to decisively outperform Jenkins to start ahead of the rookie.
Second-Round Running Back Isaiah Pead
Pead won’t push Steven Jackson to start—not this year at least—but he could be the team’s third-down back in addition to giving Jackson a series or two off a game, according to Thomas. The possible “starter” designation comes from the potential for Pead to take over the punt- and kick-return duties to preserve Amendola’s health.
Fourth-Round Wide Receiver Chris Givens
As was stated above, Givens is expected to be among the team’s top three receivers, which would put him running with the first team.
Givens’ speed is tops on the Rams’ wide receiver depth chart, so the mere threat of him being on the field could loosen things up for Quick, Amendola, tight end Lance Kendricks and the running game.
Givens has been working exclusively on the outside according to Wagoner. Greg Salas and Danario Alexander should be his main competition for a starting spot.
Fifth-round Offensive Lineman Rokevious Watkins
Yes, Watkins is part of the cast of thousands – well, five – that will compete to start at left guard. The Rams are going to let everyone compete in training camp and sort it out from there, according to general manager Les Snead. Watkins winning the starting job would be vindication for the Rams, who missed out on Mychal Kendricks and Bobby Wagner to fill one of their outside linebacker spots when they traded down five spots in the second round to acquire the pick used to take the offensive lineman.
Sixth-Round Kicker Greg Zuerlein
How confident are the Rams in Zuerlein as a rookie starter? They cut veteran kicker Josh Brown the day after the draft.
Undrafted Punter Johnny Hekker
The Rams have a wide open competition at punter between veteran Tom Malone and Hekker. 2011 starter Donnie Jones is gone, giving the 6’5″ 221 lb. the inside track to start unless he fails to impress in camp and the preseason