The fans were looking for glitzy picks. The experts were saying expect a glamour pick or two.
But when the time came for the St. Louis Rams to turn in the player cards for their two first-round selections in Thursday’s NFL Draft, the Rams decided they wanted two of the best linemen available and picked offensive lineman Greg Robinson from Auburn (No. 2 overall) and defensive lineman Aaron Donald from Pittsburgh (No. 13 overall).
“We’re jacked,” general manager Les Snead said. “We’d probably give ourselves an A.”
Head coach Jeff Fisher agreed.
“We’re a lot better now,” Fisher said. “We all know what Greg (Robinson) is capable of doing. He’s an outstanding young man, and that workout last week was really, really impressive. We’ll plug him in where we feel he’s got the best chance to be successful right now.
"You talk about an athlete. Powerful, quick, great quickness and strength. He’s got a chance to be a dominant player inside initially. Then of course, Aaron (Donald) is very, very productive; he’s an outstanding young man. He’s way ahead in hand use on the line of scrimmage. He does an outstanding job with his hands.”
Robinson, a 6-foot-5, 332-pound mountain of a young man, who helped lead Auburn’s brilliant rushing attack to an SEC championship and a berth in the BCS championship game, was considered the absolute best run blocker in this year’s draft.
And with St. Louis’ clear plan of becoming one of the league’s best power rushing teams, selecting Robinson seemed like a no-brainer.
“Obviously the power is … a big man, that tall, that big, can bend,” Snead said. “That means he can get under defensive linemen’s pads, very quick first step to go reach people. And then a dancing bear, he’s a dancing bear, there’s no doubt about that.”
The surprise pick though, was the Rams selecting Donald.
Hardly anyone expected St. Louis to go after a defensive tackle. Not with so many talented receivers, linebackers, corners, and safeties still available.
But Donald (6’1, 285), who won nearly every award a defensive lineman could win in college last year, including the Outland, Nagurski, and Bednarik awards, after posting 11 sacks, 16 pressures, and a whopping 28 1/2 tackles for loss, was also still available when the Rams picked at No. 13.
Snead and Fisher were hoping Donald might fall to them, and that’s exactly what happened.
“We were (hoping Donald would still be there),” Fisher said. “Les’ guys did a great job with the research and we felt like there was a pretty good chance that he would disappear, and then a couple things happened. We were rubbing our lucky coin and he was there.”
Clearly, St. Louis got the two players it coveted most in Round 1. Now the focus will shift to landing the right players in Rounds 2 and 3, which will commence in New York, Friday night at Radio City Music Hall.
The Rams have one second-round pick (No. 44 overall) and one third-round pick (No. 75). But with eight other picks in Rounds 4 through 7, including four picks in Round 7 alone, expect St. Louis to be busy trying to package deals to move up and possibly get more picks in the second, third, or fourth rounds.
“We’ll always look into what move we can make that will make our team better,” Snead said. “We’re happy with the picks we have left. But if there is a player that we want at some point that we feel we need to make a deal to go get, we’ll try to do that.”
The second night of the 2014 NFL Draft will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday.