The first half of the St. Louis Rams season was marked by unexpected contributions from unheralded rookies.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein, WR Chris Givens and RB Daryl Richardson have all played important roles in the early part of the season. Rookie P Johnny Hekker has also been a solid contributor on special teams, and CB Janoris Jenkins stepped in from day one as a starter on defense.
But for all the good the Rams have received from unexpected sources, they’ve received just as little from some of the players expected to play large roles on the team. First-round pick Michael Brockers struggled with a high ankle sprain for the early part of the season and is just now getting up to speed on the defensive line. He’s largely been a non-factor through the first eight games.
But even though they were second-round picks, WR Brian Quick and RB Isaiah Pead could both be classified as even bigger disappointments than Brockers thus far.
Quick has struggled to adapt to an NFL offense after playing in a very basic scheme at Appalachian State. Knowing where to be and when to be there, let alone making plays like the No. 1 receiver some fans hoped he would be out of the gate, has proven difficult for Quick. He’s showing some progress – he’s got at least one catch in each of his last three games – but it certainly has taken longer for him to get on the field than many would have expected.
Pead has an even bigger uphill battle facing him. Besides being outshined by fellow rookie Richardson, Pead is stuck behind one of the best running backs in the game in Steven Jackson. Pead’s slow start and Richardson’s reckless running style left Pead as the forgotten man in the Rams backfield, and only recently has he been getting game action. Two weeks ago against New England Pead had his best game as a pro, rushing three times for 32 yards including a 19-yard burst. Despite the fact that his carries came during mop-up time, Pead finally showed a flash of why the Rams used a high pick on him.
The Rams will need larger contributions from all three in the second half if they’re going to finish strong. The 15th overall pick in the draft, Brockers’ continued development is arguably most important. In the second half the Rams will face running backs Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch – along with notorious Rams killer Frank Gore two times – and Brockers will play a big part in stuffing those ground attacks.
With Givens establishing himself as a deep threat and returning WR Danny Amendola as QB Sam Bradford’s go-to guy, Quick has a chance to develop as a red zone target for the Rams. At 6’3″, 220 lbs., Quick brings something no other Rams receiver currently offers. If he can get on the field, he can be a difference-maker – if only on select plays – in the second half.
This year’s draft class has already provided more value than any class in recent memory. Contributions from their high picks could make it that much more memorable.