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Chris Dufresne

Rams' Draft Shows More Than Is Told

May 10, 1987|Chris Dufresne

The NFL draft has come and gone, yet we know so little about how the Rams made out. We know they got a Donald and a Cliff and a Doug and a Larry, but what sets them apart from, say, a Moe and a Curly?

There are some media experts who say the Rams did a flying belly-flop in this year's draft, with one East Coast writer claiming that only two teams performed worse.

We, moreover, are troubled by the anonymity of the Rams' choices. Three people interviewed for this story were sure that Donald Evans, actually the Rams' first choice in the second round, was somehow linked in the Iran- contra affair. They figured that anyone who went by Donald and not simply by Don must surely be involved in counterintelligence.

Of course, no one had even heard of the Rams' remaining 10 draft choices, the players who will make up the very heart of this summer's training camp scout squad.

They are names only true Ram fans will commit to memory: Cliff Hicks, Doug Bartlett, Larry Kelm, Scott Mersereau (sounds like Merserwho?), Jon Embree, Michael Stewart, Tracy Ham, David Smith, Alonzo Williams and Fred Stokes.

These sent-from-heaven 11 will take their first forearm shots Monday when the Rams open their annual four-day minicamp at Rams Park. Of more pressing concern is to cut through the front-office rhetoric and find out the real behind-the-scenes stories behind these guys.

Not surprisingly, the Rams' scouting reports on all 11 are glowing. But are they objective reports? Hardly.

At great expense, we staked several reporters near the home of each Ram draft choice last week. The assignment was to watch all points of entry and exit in around-the-clock shifts and report back with the details.

The results, we believe, are quite astonishing and sensational, a bit more than the "has great potential" line you always get from coaches on draft day.

The following is a report on the Ram draft choices, first a capsule summary from the Rams on the players and then the Real Story.

1. Donald Evans. Defensive end. Winston-Salem State. Second round, 47th pick overall.

Rams: The team expects Evans to contribute immediately as a pass rusher. He is big (6-feet 2-inches, 209 pounds), and fast, reportedly running the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds. The Rams love his quickness and are not at all worried that Evans is a relative no-name from a tiny Division II school. Ram Coach John Robinson says Evans has "great potential." Also has great field vision.

Real Story: Evans, it was learned, recorded his best 40-yard dash time when chasing a car with a cardboard replica of Ram Vice President-Finance John Shaw fastened on the bumper. It was Shaw who last year squeezed first-round choice Mike Schad into signing a record-low, four-year deal at slightly more than a million dollars. Evans also has made an appointment with an optometrist to have his field vision checked.

2. Clifford Hicks. Cornerback. Oregon. Third round, 74th pick overall.

Rams: Hicks had some ankle problems at Oregon, but if he remains healthy, the Rams believe he will provide great support for Pro Bowl cornerbacks Jerry Gray and LeRoy Irvin. Hicks is small, only 5-9, but has great strength and anticipation skills. Rams think he is a real sleeper.

Real Story: It turns out that Hicks is a real sleeper. In a period of three days of surveillance, Hicks did not come out to get the morning paper until after noon. Oh, yes, he was limping badly, mumbling one morning that the pain was like someone was "sticking needles in my ankles."

3. Doug Bartlett. Linebacker. Northern Illinois. Fourth round, 91st pick overall.

Rams: An All-American honorable mention as a senior, although he played only three games because of ankle injuries. A very physical and aggressive down lineman, the Rams say.

Real Story: Was seen talking nightly on the phone to a man later identified as Clifford Hicks from Oregon. Excerpts of phone conversation, obtained by our reporters, included Bartlett asking Hicks, "Did the Rams ever check out your ankles? Mine neither."

4. Larry Kelm. Linebacker. Texas A&M. Fourth round, 109th pick overall.

Rams: Kelm was a two-year starter in college and had a strong senior year although he broke his arm during spring drills. An intelligent player who reacts quickly.

Real Story: Kelm reacted real quickly when he spotted one of our guys tracking mud out of his flower bed. Add to Kelm's bio that he can knock smallish reporters down with one forearm blow. Also, Rams not worried about Kelm's broken arm. More concerned with ankles.

5. Scott Mersereau. Defensive lineman. Southern Connecticut. Fifth round, 136th pick overall.

Rams: Very strong and agile player who finished second on team in tackles and quarterback sacks. Majored in marketing. A project.

Real Story: Mersereau, surprisingly, did no marketing in the two days we tailed him. Seemed bored. Needs a good project to work on.

6. Jon Embree. Tight end. Colorado. Sixth round, 166th pick overall.

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