Joyner focused on returning the favor

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As Lamarcus Joyner waited for his name to be called through the NFL draft's first night and midway into the second round, he never let it bother him.

“It didn’t matter where I went," Joyner said. "To me, I just wanted to play football. I just needed the opportunity. A lot of people were asking me, ‘How do you feel about your size? Why do you feel you’re not rated as a high first-round guy?’ That stuff doesn’t get to me. I tell people all the time, ‘If I go first round, if I go seventh round, all I need is the opportunity.’ I know what I’m made from, so all that stuff really doesn’t matter.”

As the Buffalo Bills came on the clock with the 41st overall pick on the draft's second night, the St. Louis Rams decided that they, too, knew what Joyner was made from and that he had been waiting long enough. The Rams traded their second-round pick, No. 44 overall, and a fifth-round choice to move up three spots. Joyner was the target they had established after they were through with the first round, and they didn't believe they could wait any longer.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher had some intel that indicated the Tennessee Titans, picking No. 42 overall, had eyes for Joyner as well. Whether that's the case is unconfirmed, but there is some evidence that it's true considering the Titans traded out of their pick right after the Rams selected Joyner.

Joyner sat surrounded by friends and family in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He pondered how the Rams, in a talent-rich draft, not only called his name, but gave up an extra pick to secure his services.

It's a move Joyner doesn't intend to forget.

“I felt as though they made a sacrifice for me, and I’m good with returning favors," Joyner said. "I think that I owe them the same. I’m going to give all my heart, all my soul to this organization, because that meant a lot for them to be able to do that, especially with all the great talent that’s out here. Trying to get into the National Football League and for these men to make that sacrifice for me, then I owe them the same thing in return.”

For a Rams secondary in need of more talent and an influx of leadership after parting ways with veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan in the offseason, Joyner represents an ideal fit.

Sacrificing a fifth-round pick probably cost the Rams a shot at one of their preferred quarterback targets, but it's a sacrifice Fisher and general manager Les Snead made happily, because the net gain was Joyner.

Joyner will play a variety of roles for the Rams.

"We didn’t want to lose him, he’s just an outstanding player," Fisher said. "He plays all over their defense. He plays outside, he plays in the slot, he plays high, he blitzes, so he’s a plug-in Day 1 nickel back. He’s very, very aggressive, tackles well."

Of those many roles, Joyner said he doesn't have a preference of where he plays.

“All I know right now is I’m a second-round draft pick for the St. Louis Rams, and whatever Coach wants me to do, I’m going to do it," Joyner said. "If I have to pack on 100 pounds and move to offensive guard, I’m going to do it. I’m going to do whatever I need to do to help the organization.”

That is not going to be necessary. As it stands, Joyner's first opportunity will come as the team's primary slot corner. When he visited the Rams during the pre-draft process, he had a conversation with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in which Williams asked him his preferred NFL position. Joyner responded with an answer similar to the one above.

Make no mistake, Williams has plenty of ideas for how to deploy Joyner. At 5-foot-8, 182 pounds, Joyner doesn't cut an imposing figure but plays bigger than his listed size. His ball skills could use some work, but the Rams expect him to do well in coverage right away.

Where Williams can really have some fun using Joyner is as part of his many exotic blitz schemes. Joyner's blitz skills belie his size, as he posted 5.5 sacks, second most among FBS defensive backs in 2013.

“Wherever we are weak in the secondary, I’m going to make the team better, because I’m going to give my all and make that position better," Joyner said. "I’m a team person, so I’m going to do whatever Coach wants me to do in the secondary.”

And repay a debt in the process.