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Ram Draft Review a Mixed Bag : Football: There is plenty of good and bad to go around regarding the team's young talent.

November 19, 1994|MIKE REILLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — After bypassing quarterback Trent Dilfer and failing to trade for Alvin Harper, Ram Coach Chuck Knox summarized his team's draft last April by telling reporters that "time will tell."

Seven months later, time has told us that only one of the Rams' 10 draft picks has cracked the starting lineup--right tackle Wayne Gandy, the 15th overall selection.

Time has told us that safeties Toby Wright (second round) and Keith Lyle (third round) have shown promise on special teams but aren't starting.

And time has told us that the Rams' investments in small college defensive end Brad Ottis (second round) and Auburn tailback James Bostic (third round) haven't paid off yet.

Ottis barely plays and Bostic, who hasn't suited up for a game all season, is on the injured reserve list after aggravating an old wrist injury in practice.

"Right now, I would give the Rams' draft a 'B,' " said Joel Buchsbaum, draft analyst and contributing editor for Pro Football Weekly. "I think they did a pretty good job because they went out and got a lot of players that look like they can contribute down the road."

A vision for the future?

The Rams?

Last spring, they went shopping for overall depth and speed for their lackluster special teams. Rather than spend the fifth pick overall on Dilfer, as Knox had promised he would, they traded down with Indianapolis and San Francisco, picked up lower-round picks and invested in:

* Gandy, who was a bust at left tackle until he replaced an injured Jackie Slater at right tackle a month ago.

* Bruce, the first of the Rams' three second-round picks, has three touchdown catches, which is three more than Jessie Hester, who starts ahead of him.

* Wright, the Rams' projected starting strong safety, returned a fumble for a touchdown against New Orleans and proved himself as a heavy hitter on special teams by breaking Kevin Lee's jaw in an exhibition game against New England. But he can't beat out Marquez Pope.

* Lyle, the first of three third-round picks, has played on passing downs and kick returns and coverages and backs up Anthony Newman at free safety.

None of the Rams' low-round picks have made a significant impact, although D'Marco Farr, a rookie free agent from the University of Washington, played well in place of an injured Sean Gilbert for two games.

As for the others: Wide receiver Chris Brantley (fourth round) has two catches for 12 yards and linebacker Ernest Jones (third round) has been out with a knee injury since August. Tight end Rickey Brady (sixth round) and offensive tackle Ron Edwards (sixth round) have yet to play a down.

"I think we have an excellent rookie group," Knox said. "Wayne is starting and D'Marco was a big plus for us. The two safeties have done an outstanding job and Isaac Bruce is going to be a great receiver."

The Rams haven't had a winning season since 1989, giving them the luxury of drafting high and landing impact players. Their previous two first-round selections--Gilbert and tailback Jerome Bettis--reached the Pro Bowl last year.

But only four players the Rams drafted since Knox replaced John Robinson in 1992 are in the starting lineup--Gandy, Gilbert, Bettis and tight end Troy Drayton.

Four players from the 1992 draft have started in spots--quarterback T.J. Rubley, offensive tackle Darryl Ashmore, fullback Tim Lester and wide receiver Todd Kinchen.

Tailback Russell White, a third-round pick last year, was overweight, too slow and never played. The Rams cut him on the first day of training camp this summer, and receiver Sean LaChapelle, a fifth-round pick in 1993, was out the door a few weeks later.

Bostic has emerged as this season's version of White, spending all season on the scout squad until injuring his wrist in practice. The Rams placed him on the injured-reserve list Wednesday to clear a roster spot to re-sign backup quarterback Jamie Martin.

Ottis, discovered by defensive coordinator George Dyer at Division II Wayne State in Nebraska, has played on special teams and in goal-line situations. But he toils as a third-stringer on the defensive line.

"Ottis is playing and there are a number of second-round and third-round draft picks who have been cut by teams," Knox said. "Bostic, in my opinion, is going to be a fine running back. We have some running backs here right now that have more experience than he does."

Of the 73 players taken in the second and third rounds last spring, six have been cut, but 10 have made impacts as starters.

Among them: Philadelphia running back Charlie Garner, Cincinnati receiver Darnay Scott, San Francisco kicker Doug Brien and Pittsburgh running back Bam Morris, who filled in nicely for an injured Barry Foster.

The Rams drafted Bostic as a backup tailback and fullback, but couldn't find room for him in a crowded backfield that includes Bettis, David Lang and Johnny Bailey at tailback and Howard Griffith and Tim Lester at fullback.

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