Rams work on 'laying foundation.' take linemen with two first-round selections

News-DemocratMay 8, 2014 

— There were more glamorous options, but the St. Louis Rams chose two players who they felt could help them better compete in the physical NFC West during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Rams took Auburn offensive Greg Robinson with the No. 2 overall pick. They later selected Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the 13th overall pick.

"We definitely needed to address both sides of the ball up front," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "I really felt like this was the best thing for this football team right now."

Rams general manager Les Snead referred to drafting the two linemen as "laying the foundation" picks.

"When you lay the foundation for your skyscraper, it's probably the least exciting thing that you do, but that's the thing that holds that skyscraper up for a lot of years," Snead."

Snead said the Rams received a few trade inquiries for the No. 2 pick, including a call from the Buffalo Bills trying to move up to take Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

The Bills ended up working a deal with the Cleveland Browns to take Watkins with the No. 4 overall pick.

"We felt like Greg was a piece of the puzzle that was going to help us control the line of scrimmage because in our division you have to be physical and all three of those teams have really good front sevens," Snead said.

The addition of Robinson continues the Rams' transformation into a power running team under Fisher.

The 6-foot-5, 332-pound Robinson is an explosive run blocker.

From his spot at left tackle, Robinson anchored an offensive line that enabled Auburn to lead the nation in rushing yards with 4,596.

Robinson led the nation with 25 touchdown-resulting blocks. He doesn't just block people, he crushes them.

"The most important thing for me on the field is just to have fun, so if you say crushing people, that's a good way to describe it," Robinson said.

In the Tigers' 59-42 win over Missouri in the SEC Championship game, Robinson delivered 20 knockdown blocks and five touchdown-resulting blocks.

"That was real fun," Robinson said. "The season just got better and better. Playing against Missouri, especially in the SEC Championship, we knew they had a lot of great players and it wasn't going to be easy."

Snead said Robinson also possesses great quickness in addition to his great power.

"He's a dancing bear, there is no doubt about that," Snead said.

Robinson should have immediate impact on the Rams' emerging running attack, which is led by Zac Stacy, who rushed for 969 yards and scored a team-high eight touchdowns in 12 starts last season.

Robinson admitted that pass blocking, though, is an area where he still needs improvement.

"There is a few things that I need to work on, and I look forward to working on that, taking (instruction) from the coaches and learning from other players," Robinson said.

The Rams nabbed Robinson afar the Houston Texans took South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick..

Robinson should provide the Rams with some flexibility on their offensive line, especially with left tackle Jake Long coming off a season-ending knee surgery and right tackle Joe Barksdale slated to be a free agent after the 2014 season.

Fisher said Robinson could start out playing at guard for the Rams.

"We'll plug him in where we feel he has the best chance for being successful right now," Fisher said. "I don't know exactly where that is. He may start off inside before we move him back outside. You talk about an athlete. Powerful. Great quickness and strength. He has a chance to be a dominant player inside initially."

Robinson played exclusively at tackle in college, but he played some guard in high school.

"Whatever they ask of me, I'm willing to step in and try to help as best I can," Robinson said.

Robinson said he hadn't heard from Rams quarterback Sam Bradford yet.

"I look forward to blocking for him," Robinson said. "Whatever it is I can do to help, I look forward to hearing from him and working with him."

Robinson is the first offensive linemen that Fisher has ever selected in the first round during his 20 years as an NFL head coach.

He's the first offensive lineman taken in the first round by the Rams since Jason Smith, who is no longer in the NFL, was chosen with the No. 2 overall pick in 2009.

The Rams tried to come away with a third first-rounder on Thursday.

Snead said the they were unsuccessful in making a trade with the Baltimore Ravens for the 17th overall pick. The deal fell through when Dallas took their targeted player, Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin, at No. 16.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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