If the NFC West is to be decided by trench warfare, then the St. Louis Rams have shored up their front lines for the long haul.
The team on Thursday night both added protection for quarterback Sam Bradford and bolstered a robust front four even further, snagging Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Instead of trading down from No. 2 overall, the Rams opted to stay put and pick the hulking Robinson. As a redshirt sophomore, the 6-foot-5, 332-pounder spearheaded the run-intensive Tigers’ march to the 2013 national title game with his road-grating ways.
“We felt like Greg was a piece of the puzzle that’s going to help us control that line of scrimmage,” general manager Les Snead said. “In our division, you have got to be physical. All three of those teams (Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona) have really good front sevens.”
Depending on incumbent starter Jake Long’s rate of recovery from ACL surgery, Robinson could begin his professional career on the inside at guard. Yet there’s no question about his long-term importance to the Rams’ profoundly clear approach on offense.
“Football teams, you build from the inside out,” Snead said. “I always say that’s when you are building your foundation. At the end of the day, when you lay your foundation for your skyscraper it’s probably the least exciting thing that you do but that’s the thing that holds that skyscraper up for a lot of years. But it was definitely a strategy to say ‘You know what, we’re going to get our foundation stronger’ and I think that’s going to help us.”
The selection of Donald at No. 13 also supports the club’s stated goal of becoming tougher vs. common opponents. In his senior campaign, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year registered 11 sacks, 16 pressures and a nation-leading 28.5 tackles for loss.
Donald becomes the fourth first-round pick on the Rams’ defensive line, joining Chris Long (second overall, 2008), Robert Quinn (14th, 2011) and Michael Brockers (14th, 2012).