For this week’s Top 5, we’re examining some of the best players selected by the Rams in the fourth round or later of the NFL Draft.
It’s no secret that teams can go from good to great by finding hidden talent in the draft’s final few rounds, and surely head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead will be looking to do just that in a few short months.
This list includes only players from the modern draft era (1970-present), and I’ve tried to keep it constrained to players whose prime contributions came during their time in blue and gold. If we were to expand the list to players who were drafted by the Rams but had most of their success elsewhere, we could throw in names like quarterbacks Doug Flutie (Round 11, 1985) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (Round 7, 2005) or wide receiver Drew Hill (Round 12, 1979). Anyway, here’s our take on the Rams’ top late rounders in the modern era:
5. Zac Stacy, running back – Round 5, 2013
Stacy comes in at No. 5, only because his overall contribution to the Rams remains to be seen. He was undeniably a success in his rookie season, however, breaking Steven Jackson’s team rookie rushing record by piling up 973 yards and adding seven touchdowns. Stacy appears poised to not only become the team’s go-to back in 2014, but a fixture in which the entire offense is built around moving forward. By the time it’s all said and done, Rams fans will hope to see his name much higher on this list.
4. Fred Miller, tackle – Round 5, 1996
Miller was selected 141st overall in the 1996 draft, and ended up becoming a key contributor in the team’s historic 1999 season. He wouldn’t see much playing time in hist first two seasons as a Ram, but started 15 games at left guard in year three before making the switch to right tackle the next season. He’d start every game in ’99, and did well to hold off ferocious Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse in Super Bowl XXXIV. Kearse didn’t register a single sack for the game, as Miller kept him well in-check. For that contribution alone, he makes the list. Miller would go on to spend nine more years in the league after that season, signing with the Titans after 1999 and finishing his career with the Bears.
3. Az-Zahir Hakim, wide receiver – Round 4, 1998
Hakim was a fan favorite during the “Greatest Show on Turf” era, and while he never emerged as one of the team’s top receivers among the likes of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, he was a solid contributor and a dangerous return man. Some may remember him for his susceptibility to fumbles, but Hakim was an ideal third receiver and role player. He managed 36 receptions for 677 yards and eight touchdowns in 1999 on an offense with Hall of Fame playmakers at most positions. He also made the Pro Football Writers All-Pro first team in 2000 as a punt returner. He’d go on to spend the final four seasons of his career in Detroit and New Orleans.
2. Carl Ekern, linebacker – Round 5, 1976
The late Ekern, a stalwart among the Rams’ defense throughout the 1980s, left an undeniable mark on the organization after being selected 128th overall in 1976. Ekern started 107 games for the Rams, and his play earned him a Pro Bowl appearance in 1986. More importantly, after his passing in 1990, the team honored him by creating the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game Award, which is given annually to the player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, work ethic, and commitment to his teammates. The award was most recently given to linebacker James Laurinaitis in 2013, his second time earning the distinction.
1. Kevin Greene, linebacker – Round 5, 1985
Greene is the runaway No. 1 on this list, as the 113th overall selection in the 1985 draft trails only NFL legends Bruce Smith and Reggie White on the career sack list with 160. Greene was a model of high-level consistency, registering fewer than nine sacks only four times in his 15-year career. In his eight seasons with the Rams, Greene racked up 72.5 sacks, 375 tackles, 15 forced fumbles and three safeties for good measure. Greene’s time in the NFL also included stints with Pittsburgh, Carolina, and San Francisco. He even managed an impressive 12 sacks in his 1999, his final season, and started all 16 games as a Panther at age 37. He went to five Pro Bowls, and holds a place on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-1990s first team.
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