Woooooo boy, this is a hell of a category!
When we examined positions such as interior lineman and quarterback, the conclusions were kind of underwhelming. In fact, that’s true for a lot of positions in Rams history when it comes to drafting and development.
But defensive end is not one of them. The Rams have historically kicked ass when it comes to drafting and developing defensive ends, including two former first-rounders on the team right now*.
*This is a big reason the Rams should strongly consider drafting defensive end Jadeveon Clowney if he’s available this May.
You can take a look at the list of drafted Rams defensive ends here if you don’t believe me. There are so many dynamic players on that list, it’s kind of hard to believe. More recent sackmasters such as Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Grant Wistrom, Leonard Little and Kevin Carter are littered among old school quarterback-terrorizers such as Hall-of-Famer Jack Youngblood, Lou Michaels, Reggie Doss and many others.
Ultimately, everyone’s playing for second place though because one of the greatest defensive linemen of all time happened to be drafted by the Rams. His name? The recently departed Deacon Jones, who was drafted in the 14th round (!), 186th overall (!!!), in 1961.
Sadly, Jones played in an era that preceded the statistic we now know as sacks, which was implemented in 1982. But some statisticians have gone back to look at Jones’s tape in order to retroactively determine how many sacks he had. The results are astounding.
This article from 101sports.com says Jones had 159.5 sacks in 151 career games with the Rams. For his career, he had 173.5 sacks in 191 games. That total would place him third all time among NFL sacks leaders.
Even crazier, Jones had back-to-back season-long sack totals of 26 and 24 in 1967 and 1968. Those totals came in 14-game seasons, mind you. Michael Strahan currently holds the season-long sack record with 22.5 sacks, which obviously came in a 16-game season.
Jones was part of the LA Rams’ Fearsome Foursome back in the 1960s and revolutionized the way defensive linemen played the game. Even if Robert Quinn ends up playing 15 more seasons with the Rams and breaks Bruce Smith’s career sack record, I’m not sure anyone will ever overtake Jones’s title as best defensive end the Rams have ever drafted.