2011 NFL Draft Grades: Rams Earn High Marks For Robert Quinn

The St. Louis Rams select defensive end Robert Quinn with the 14th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

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NFL Draft Grades: St. Louis Rams Earn High Marks For Robert Quinn Pick

The St. Louis Rams were beneficiaries of a surprisingly early run on quarterbacks and a massive class of defensive ends and tackles, but NFL Draft grades don’t operate on a curve, and the Rams are earning major plaudits for their selection of Robert Quinn with the 14th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Quinn is a great example of a player falling in the draft for reasons that are often difficult to connect to his future productivity as an NFL player. He’s an outstanding pass rusher and a great physical talent who fell to No. 14 not because of his skills but because a garden-variety shady transaction with an agent caused him to forfeit his remaining NCAA eligibility. Shady transactions are symptomatic as much of a corrupt and outmoded NCAA structure as they are Robert Quinn; it’s difficult to say that accepting money for football stardom makes Quinn unique among his NFL Draft peers.

As for his benign brain tumor, it comes down to how much trust you can put in the St. Louis Rams doctors who cleared him. I’m not a doctor; I have no reason to doubt their prowess, and while a brain tumor is certainly a terrifying thing, it’s something that has to be treated, on football terms, like any other potential injury problem. Right now there’s no indication that Quinn’s brain is anywhere near as bad, for instance, as Danario Alexander’s knee.

No pick is a sure thing, but the Rams managed to get themselves a potential Pro Bowler, a Top Five talent, in the middle of the first round. That’s a major coup, and, for SB Nation St. Louis, a solid A.

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St. Louis Rams Draft Picks: Lance Kendricks A Josh McDaniels Special

The St. Louis Rams' second pick of the 2011 NFL Draft was a surprise to fans who thought the team was set at tight end, but for an offense run by Josh McDaniels there's no such thing as too many tight ends; Lance Kendricks, a specialist who behaves at times more like a wide receiver than a tight end, is a perfect fit for McDaniels's system, if still a tight fit for the Rams' roster.

Prior to the Kendricks pick, when the Rams were being tied to Kyle Rudolph, the Rams had three tight ends likely to compete for playing time in the 2011 season—second-year pass-catcher Michael Hoomanawanui, who made some excellent plays for the Rams when he wasn't dealing with a pair of high-ankle sprains; Daniel Fells, a veteran who served while Hoomanawanui was out as Bradford's pressure-relief valve; and Fendi Onobun, the 6'6" basketball star with outstanding physical skills who the Rams drafted in 2010 in spite of his obvious rawness.

Most analysts consider this proof that McDaniels's two-tight-end sets will show up in St. Louis, and if that's the case Kendricks and Hoomanawanui could be a dangerous combination for Sam Bradford to utilize, and not just in traditional tight end roles. 

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: Lance Kendricks A New Receiving Option For St. Louis Rams

The St. Louis Rams did end up going for a receiver for Sam Bradford in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but not a wide receiver—the Rams have selected tight end Lance Kendricks of Wisconsin with the 47th overall pick in the draft. Kendricks is the third tight end the Rams have drafted in two years, joining Michael Hoomanawanui of Illinois and raw project-pick Fendi Onobun. Kendricks is a pass-catching specialist who should become one of Sam Bradford’s favorite targets in the mid-range passing game to which Bradford might finally not be tethered.

As a senior with Wisconsin Kendricks caught 43 balls for 663 yards and five touchdowns, all career high. It was only his second year as a major weapon for the Badgers; in 2009 he caught 29 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns.

The Rams’ tight end situation looked pretty full already, but it appears that Josh McDaniels is already making his presence felt as St. Louis’s new offensive czar. It’ll be interesting to see what he has planned for Kendricks.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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St. Louis Rams Draft Picks: Robert Quinn Grades High In Early Analysis

The St. Louis Rams' first pick of the 2011 NFL Draft was a surprise—and a pleasant one, if the early returns on Rams fans' responses to Robert Quinn's selection are any indication. Turf Show TImes describes the UNC defensive end as "a steal", a top-five talent with quickness and explosiveness, and after nearly 700 votes 80% of TST readers consider Quinn an A pick.

Mocking The Draft went even further, suggesting that, if he had been eligible to play in 2011, he could have elevated himself into becoming the No. 1 selection in the draft.

The Post-Dispatch is slightly more reserved in their quick capsule on Quinn, but realistically so—they note that at least at the start of 2012 he's most likely to see action strictly as a pass-rushing specialist, where he might already be a dominant force.

As for the official SB Nation St. Louis ruling, this is an outstanding pick, and the Rams should thank the Tennessee Titans in particular for selecting Jake Locker and initiating the series of picks that saw Robert Quinn and Nick Fairley slide toward the middle of the first round.

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Robert Quinn's Brain Tumor And Other Incredible Stories

There are a lot of incredible stories in the 2011 NFL Draft—26-year-old ex-firefighter Danny Watkins is one of them—but St. Louis Rams first-round pick Robert Quinn might be the most incredible. Two things kept Quinn from being one of the top two or three picks in this year's draft. One was a year of ineligibility handed down by the NCAA after he accepted gifts from an agent; the other is that he has had a benign brain tumor since high school, one that kept a few NFL medical staffs from clearing him as a possible draft pick and that might have helped him fall to the Rams at 14 in the first place. 

Quinn has to have the tumor checked every six months to make sure nothing changes, but in the meantime the Rams staff has cleared him to play. It's a scary situation, but it's not an especially uncommon one if you look at it from a strictly football standpoint. Every player is at risk of a career-ending injury, and some more than others. The Rams take on a miniscule amount of extra risk in selecting Quinn, but it's likely no more than the Atlanta Falcons took on by picking Julio Jones, with his history of football-related injuries. 

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2011 NFL Draft: Why The St. Louis Rams Picked Robert Quinn

Robert Quinn wasn’t expected to be around by the time the St. Louis Rams made the 14th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but once they had the chance it was a no-doubter: The Rams had to pick Robert Quinn. Perhaps the best pass-rusher in the draft, Quinn might have been a top-five pick back in 2010 if he and his UNC cohort hadn’t been caught in a scandal involving an agent and the usual NCAA sleaze. The Rams trusted his character enough to fit him into Steve Spagnuolo’s Four Pillars scheme; why should you trust him to fit into the Rams’ defense?

The easy answer: Quinn, just 21 years old next month, is already a constant danger to quarterbacks from the right end. Nobody questions his drive or his talent, which is rare in the kind of player you can get in the middle of the first round, and in 2009 he put together some highlight tackles as a sophomore.

Quinn didn’t play last year, but he’s kept in shape, as evidence from his excellent draft-season performance in workouts. He’s got flaws, but they’re the kind of flaws that make a top-five player available at 14. Get excited.

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2011 NFL Draft: Robert Quinn A Defensive Weapon For St. Louis Rams

The St. Louis Rams weren’t expected to get the chance to take Robert Quinn, long considered one of the top defensive ends in the 2011 NFL Draft, but the run on quarterbacks initiated by the Tennessee Titans’ surprise selection of Jake Locker caused players like Quinn and Nick Fairley to leak into the middle of the first round. The Rams don’t have a wide receiver for Sam Bradford, but they do have one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the draft to line up alongside Chris Long.

Turf Show Times calls the Robert Quinn pick a home run, suggesting that the Rams’ problems with getting to quarterbacks were one of their major defensive flaws in 2010. The rough quarterback situations in the NFC West just got considerably rougher for the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and Seattle Seahawks.

The Rams might have had a more pressing need at defensive tackle, where Corey Liuget had become a popular mock draft option, but when a guy like Robert Quinn—considered one of the top five players in the 2010 NFL Draft before being declared ineligible—falls to No. 14, you have to draft him while you can.

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