Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 4/25/12
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ST. LOUIS The two men trusted to repair the St. Louis Rams sat behind a table at Rams Park, one day before beginning a draft that could mark a rise. On one side, new general manager Les Snead spoke about preparing to make eight picks in the next three days. On the other, new coach Jeff Fisher addressed areas of need to bring life to a franchise that has failed to reach the playoffs for the past seven seasons. Starting Thursday night, both men will be judged by their selections. No team has the potential to improve more with young talent than the Rams. No team has more to gain if players are signed who can help create a winning culture in a place that has become familiar with boos and boredom on home Sundays. This draft will either set the foundation for a recovery or be remembered as a painful miss. Fisher knows there's much work left to do. "With the eight picks, we feel like we have a pretty good chance of filling some holes," Fisher said. "We've discussed that, and it's going to take some time. At this point, we're happy with where we are. We expect to pick up some starters in this draft. Guys that can come in and start right away hopefully guys that may take some time depending on the position and where we get them. It's going to be a process." The process of remaking the Rams is three months old, of course. It began in January with Fisher's hire, it continued in February with Snead's addition, and it gained momentum in a March trade with the Washington Redskins in which the Rams received the Redskins' next three first-round picks as well as their second-round selection this year. Starting Thursday, though, attention will turn from promise for the future to analyzing the present. To this point, Snead and Fisher have meant optimism. They have stood for stability after the final moments of the previous regime under Billy Devaney and Steve Spagnuolo felt directionless. But the Rams' selections in the coming days will reflect upon the new leadership alone. For the first time, Snead and Fisher will identify and develop young talent together. They will shape their franchise's future, and judgments about their performance will begin. "Obviously, Jeff and I are new, but you go through this together, you get really close, and I think we've definitely grown," Snead said. "We obviously had respect before the process started, but you get to know him well. Some late nights up here." In those sessions, Snead and Fisher studied the obvious holes that led to the Rams' 2-14 finish last season. Their biggest need is a deep wide-receiver threat for Sam Bradford, who threw for almost 1,400 yards less and 12 fewer touchdowns than when he was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Either Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or Notre Dame's Michael Floyd would be intriguing options. And then there are issues with the offensive line. Oh, are there issues with the offensive line: The Rams gave up a league-high 55 sacks last season. Sometimes, they looked like a professional team in name only while averaging a league-worst 12.1 points per game. "I think you can make a case that every position on this team is going to have an impact on Sam's performance, production," Fisher said. "Weapons are a priority of ours, but there are numerous needs on this football team. We're not going to reach. We're not going to overreact. We're going to make the right decisions and put these pieces together." If the right decisions are made, this draft could mark the moment when St. Louis escaped its spiral. There's curiosity in what can be done at Rams Park for the first time since Mike Martz, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce roamed the sidelines here. Fisher is a large reason why. The former Tennessee Titans coach brings credibility with a sense that he understands the tall task in front of him in trying to lift St. Louis from the NFC West cellar. The Rams' slide over the past seven seasons occurred largely because inexperienced head coaches like Spagnuolo and Scott Linehan were overwhelmed and failed to grow into the demanding position. That won't be an issue for Fisher. His 16 full seasons as head coach in Tennessee gave him patience and perspective in dealing with the challenges that come with NFL life. He'll need both traits to thrive with the Rams. Sure, an adjustment in his first season should be expected, especially since he spent a year away from the game. But his comfort with the job should come quicker than it did for his recent predecessors. "We gave the analogy when we met in the draft room Monday morning two weeks before the combine, several days after Les joined us for the first time with the scouts, it was like it was the first day in school," Fisher said. "We were in the classroom, and everybody was looking around. We almost had to have introductions. To see how far it's come from that point, it's been very impressive. We've come a long way, and the board's just about set, and we're ready to go." Yes, this draft will provide an early glimpse at what personality the Rams will adopt under Snead and Fisher. Until this point, both men offered hope for a better future. Now we'll learn where they intend to lead.
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