Running back Melvin Gordon was drafted No. 15 overall by the San Diego Chargers, while right tackle Rob Havenstein was taken in the second round (57th overall) by the St. Louis Rams. It's the third time in four years a duo of Badgers went in the first two rounds, joining Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz (2012) and Travis Frederick and Montee Ball (2013) to hold that distinction.
Bucky's 5th Quarter (B5Q): Overall, what was the buzz from St. Louis fans after drafting Havenstein?
Joe McAtee (JM): Well, I think there were two different sentiments. First and foremost, Rams fans were just relieved to get an offensive lineman. Going into the draft, we only had two starting offensive linemen. We knew the 2015 draft was going to have to address it, but after taking a running back in the first round which was not a position of need, many were worried how much talent we'd get out of the draft on the line. The second sentiment from many Rams fans was one of not knowing Havenstein (despite my having touted him since early in the 2013 season...). He wasn't offered up as a high pick in mock drafts, so Rams fans who aren't intimately plugged into the draft hadn't seen/heard of him. Of course, offensive linemen don't exactly have the most star power so much of that wasn't even because of Havenstein specifically. I think with the opening at right tackle and the Rams' clear intent to lean on the running game more than in years past, Rams fans have certainly grown into the decision.
B5Q: Havenstein anchored the Wisconsin offensive line -- starting all 41 games his last three years as a Badger. Are they projecting him to be at right tackle, and starting from day one?
JM: For me, the answers are yes and yes. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was unequivocal about former Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson being locked in as the 2015 Rams' starting left tackle. Of course, Fisher's public statements should always be taken with a grain of salt, but I don't think Robinson did anything to lose the starting gig he earned after a few games. On that last part though, Fisher is always slow to integrate rookies into the team. Fisher didn't even start Aaron Donald until week 5 and he earned the 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
So while I expect Havenstein to move over to the right side and to start day one, I wouldn't be surprised if Fisher opts for some other scenario to start the season.
B5Q: Is there legitimate competition for the Rams' offensive line that Havenstein will have to battle through to be a starter?
JM: Oh absolutely, but I'm biased in favor of Havenstein. The Rams have a ton of depth to work through during the NFL gallimaufry of offseason stuff: minicamp, offseason training activities, training camp and preseason games. I think the only real competition from what the Rams have right now (I say that only because free agency could change things between now and August) would be former Iowa right tackle Andrew Donnal. He's got experience at right tackle and as a fourth-round pick, he's not going anywhere. My guess? Havenstein's the starting right tackle going into preseason and coming out of it for the 2015 regular season.
B5Q: Looking at the entire draft picks for St. Louis, what message did they send with their draft picks, and did they address positions of need?
JM: Did they ever. As I mentioned above, the Rams were extremely thin on the offensive line. Left tackle Jake Long was injured again and cut. Center Scott Wells and right guard Davin Joseph were at the end of the career; Wells was released and the team isn't pursuing Joseph to re-sign. Right tackle Joe Barksdale is still floating in the free agent waters. So the Rams had depleted the stores when it comes to the line. They came out of the draft with four new offensive linemen as well as an undrafted free agent. Coupled with the selection of Georgia running back Todd Gurley at No. 10, the clear indication is that the draft was part of Jeff Fisher's intention to go back to a physical, run-heavy brand of football. The Rams' secondary coach said simply, "We're gonna be going old school on 'em." It's certainly not holding to convention in the modern, pass-happy NFL (of the top 13 single seasons by passing yards among all NFL quarterbacks, 11 of them were in 2011 or since...). It's an interesting counterstrategy and I guess we'll have to see how it plays out, but the Rams haven't had a winning record since 2003. Whatever works, we'll be fine with it.