<
>

RG III trade with Washington paved way to Rams' line-heavy 2015 draft

The Rams were able to draft Rob Havenstein and address their offensive line in the this year's draft in part because of their 2012 trade with Washington. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- So a cornerback, a running back, a defensive tackle, a wide receiver, a linebacker and an offensive tackle walk into a coin toss. Sounds like the start of a football joke, right? Well, technically that's what it was.

Before last year's game between the St. Louis Rams and Washington Redskins, Rams coach Jeff Fisher sent Janoris Jenkins, Zac Stacy, Michael Brockers, Stedman Bailey, Alec Ogletree and Greg Robinson to midfield to handle coin toss duties. Most days, nobody would've batted an eyelash; Fisher has long offered different players the opportunity to do the job.

But the common denominator was too obvious to ignore. Those were the six players on the Rams' active roster who were acquired with picks from the Robert Griffin III trade with Washington in 2012 and subsequent deals with other teams.

Fisher has already said he probably won't go for an encore when the Rams visit Washington on Sunday. If he has a change of heart, it might be more appropriate to send a different group of players to midfield, namely the five offensive linemen the Rams selected in this year's draft: tackle Rob Havenstein, guard Jamon Brown, tackle Andrew Donnal, guard Cody Wichmann and tackle Isaiah Battle, who is on the practice squad.

Were it not for the 2012 trade that landed so many picks and filled so many needs elsewhere, the Rams likely wouldn't have been in position to restock their offensive line this year.

"It had a lot to do with it," said Fisher, now in his fourth season as the Rams' coach. "Just particularly because of our needs early on once we got here. The trade certainly helped us and we benefited from it. You look at your roster, go into this year's draft and it's an opportunity to build your offensive line. Not that we saved that for last, but we just didn't have any other options there other than try to plug people in. So, now we've got a young group that we think is going to grow together."

As Fisher points out, the offensive line didn't necessarily have to be the last thing the team addressed. It should, however, serve as another cautionary tale of the dangers of spending big free-agent money. The Rams invested money rather than draft capital in the offensive line, handing big free-agent contracts to center Scott Wells and tackle Jake Long, whose Pro Bowl days were behind them by the time they arrived in St. Louis. In 2012 and 2013, the first two years under Fisher and general manager Les Snead, the Rams spent a total of two draft picks on offensive linemen, fourth-rounder Barrett Jones and guard Rokevious Watkins.

Finally, with the last of their picks from the trade with Washington, the Rams used the No. 2 overall pick on Robinson in 2014 and began the process of rebuilding the line through the draft. With the roster mostly stocked at other positions and Wells and Long released in March, the Rams pushed their draft chips in on this year's crop of offensive linemen.

Whether those choices work out will be determined in time, but Havenstein and Brown are already starting with Wichmann and Donnal serving as depth.

"We felt like it was going to be a good year, but we didn't know that two years ago," Fisher said. "You just don't know. You do your work. We spent a lot of time on it. Obviously, it has paid off for us so far."