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Rams' draft goes 'according to plan'

Sunday, April 26, 2009 | 9:35 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — At first blush, the St. Louis Rams' third-round pick may not seem to fit the organization's oft-stated desire to populate the roster with character players.

The team is convinced Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher's DUI in 2007 is an isolated case, so they took him Sunday to begin Day 2 of the draft.

"We did our due diligence thoroughly with this guy and it kept coming back that he messed up, he made a mistake," general manager Billy Devaney said. "We weren't going to take anybody off the draft board just because they made a mistake or did something silly that a lot of college kids do.

"We had everybody vouch for him at Iowa that he's a strong character guy."

The Rams picked 312-pound defensive tackle Darell Scott, a three-year starter at nose guard for Clemson, in the fourth round. They waited until the fifth before addressing a shortage at wide receiver by taking Brooks Foster of North Carolina, dipped into Division II for prolific West Texas A&M quarterback Keith Null in the sixth and took Texas running back Chris Ogbonnaya in the seventh.

Ryan Leaf, the former No. 2 overall NFL draft pick in 1998, was Null's quarterback coach for most of three seasons before resigning during an investigation for a drug crime last November. Devaney was with the Chargers when they selected Leaf, one of the all-time NFL busts, and did not consult Leaf about the pick.

"I don't want to say you can't hold that against the guy," Devaney said. "It was kind of weird the way it worked out."

On Day 1, the Rams took Baylor offensive Jason Smith with the second overall pick and added a linebacker with first-round grades, Ohio State's James Laurinaitis, in the second round.

"We're like 31 other teams, we're pleased with the way it went," Devaney said. "For the most part, it went according to plan."

The 6-foot, 196-pound Fletcher blossomed as a senior, when had three interceptions, a team-leading 10 pass breakups and was fifth in tackles. He was arrested in 2007 after running a stop sign.

"That situation is something that I learned from," Fletcher said. "I made a mistake and I learned from it and I'm ready to move forward."

Scott, like Fletcher, fits coach Steve Spagnuolo's wish for larger players. He was on the Outland Trophy watch list as a senior before struggling due to a knee sprain, with numbers dropping off everywhere except for tackles for loss.

"It wasn't the season I had hoped for," Scott said. "We had a young group of guys and I was forced to take a lot bigger role than I had previously, so it was OK."

The Rams like Scott's quickness and pass rush ability for a big player and believe he can fit into a rotation.

"We kind of like the idea of having waves of players on the defensive line, where you can roll those guys in and out," Devaney said. "It's nice to have 3-4 you can rotate in there."

Foster joins a wide receiver corps thin on experience after the release of seven-time Pro Bowler Torry Holt, with second-year man Donnie Avery leading a crew that has combined for only 119 NFL catches.

Foster was the third Tar Heel wide receiver taken after first-rounder Hakeem Nicks (Giants) and Brandon Tate (Patriots) in the third. He had 30 receptions for 334 yards and two touchdowns as a senior, and underwent knee surgery after the season.

Null passed for 5,097 yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior for West Texas A&M, with 15 interceptions, and passed for a school-record 595 yards in a 93-68 loss to Abilene Christian in the second round of the Division II playoffs. Null, who had no Division I scholarship offers out of high school, had no idea the Rams were interested in him.

"I had no clue it would have been them," Null said. "They weren't even on my radar at all."

Null was the MVP of the Cactus Bowl, which featured the best talent in Division II. He said working under Leaf was a positive experience.

"Coach Leaf was a great guy," Null said. "He just knows the game. It was great to have him around, have that experience."

Ogbonnaya, 6-1 and 215 pounds, started seven games at tailback last year. He had 373 yards rushing and a 5-yard average with four touchdowns and one of his best games, 65 yards rushing and two touchdowns, came against Missouri.


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