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Another weapon in the arsenal

Rams go for more speed, select Arizona RB Canidate

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Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 12:06 AM

  Trung Canidate is the Rams' fifth offensive first-round pick since 1996. Tom Hauck/Allsport

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams had the luxury Saturday of taking a player to fill in during Marshall Faulk's rare breathers.

With the final pick of the first round the Rams stretched to take Arizona running back Trung Canidate, whom they're counting on to make the NFL's top offense even more explosive. The Rams scored 526 points last year, third highest in NFL history, and new coach Mike Martz wants more.

"Absolutely. There's no law against scoring points," said Martz, the offensive coordinator last year.

Faulk didn't seem to need much help last year, becoming only the second player in NFL history to amass 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. He broke Barry Sanders' total yardage record with 2,429 yards and was named offensive player of the year.

Canidate was projected by many as a second- or third-round pick. And a greater area of need for the Rams, who admittedly entered the draft searching for quality backups, was offensive line.

But Martz said Canidate "took my breath away" when he ran a 4.25 40-yard dash for him and running backs coach Bobby Jackson last month. He also said there will be plenty of offensive linemen available later in the draft.

"He ran the fastest 40 I've ever seen on grass or artificial surface," Martz said. "Nobody runs a 4.25."

Rams First-Round Draft Picks
Year  Player  Pos  School 
2000  Trung Canidate  RB  Arizona 
1999  Torry Holt  WR  N.C. State 
1998  Grant Wistrom  DE  Nebraska 
1997  Orlando Pace  Ohio State 
1996  Lawrence Phillips  RB  Nebraska 
1996  Eddie Kennison  WR  Louisiana State 
1995  Kevin Carter  DE  Florida 
1994  Wayne Gandy  Auburn 
1993  Jerome Bettis  RB  Notre Dame 
1992  Sean Gilbert  DL  Pittsburgh 
1991  Todd Lyght  CB  Notre Dame 
1990  Bern Brostek  Washington 
1989  Bill Hawkins  DE  Miami 
1989  Cleveland Gary  RB  Miami  
1988  Gaston Green  RB  UCLA 
1988  Aaron Cox  WR  Arizona St. 
1987  NO PICK       
1986  Mike Schad  Queen's (Canada) 
1985  Jerry Gray  Texas 
1984  NO PICK       
1983  Eric Dickerson  RB  SMU 
1982  Barry Redden  RB  Richmond  
1981  Mel Owens  LB  Michigan  
1980  Johnnie Johnson  Texas  
1979  George Andrews  LB  Nebraska  
1979  Kent Hill  Georgia Tech 
1978  Elvis Peacock  RB  Oklahoma  
1977  Bob Brudzinski  LB  Ohio State 
1976  Kevin McLain  LB  Colorado St. 
1975  Mike Fanning  DT  Notre Dame  
1975  Dennis Harrah  Miami (Florida) 
1975  Doug France  Ohio State 
1974  John Cappelletti  RB  Penn State 
1973  NO PICK        
1972  NO PICK       
1971  Isiah Robertson  LB  Southern 
1971  Jack Youngblood  DE  Florida 
1970  Jack Reynolds  LB  Tennessee 
Since 1970

The Rams chose cornerback Jacoby Shepherd of Oklahoma State in the second round and took center John St. Clair of Virginia in the third round with the final pick of the first day. All three players were very high on the Rams' draft board, with general manager Charley Armey pegging Trung between 20th and 24th overall, Shepherd 27th and St. Clair 32nd.

"I'm very excited about all of them," Armey said. "I'm probably as excited about our No. 2 pick as I have been anybody since I've been here."

The 5-11, 203-pound Canidate had a school single-season record 1,602 yards with a 6.3-yard average and 11 touchdowns as a senior. He also set a school career record with 3,824 yards.

He's named after a character in a 1970s movie, "Green Eyes," and has no shortage of confidence. He took a nap just before the Rams called and spoke as if he and Faulk would battle for playing time.

"I said all along I'm a first-round pick," Canidate said. "I have tremendous respect for Marshall Faulk. I love the guy and I love what he does, but I also love what I can do."

Martz said the pick will prolong Faulk's career. He also said whenever Faulk came out, the offense had too much of a dropoff.

"You've got to spell him in every quarter," Martz said. "Trung may take five rushes away from Marshall and a pass or two. By utilizing him in a real smart way, I think Marshall's productivity will continue to climb."

The Rams concluded a marathon first round that lasted 5 hours, 30 minutes. The first five seasons after their move to the Midwest, the team entered the draft with the sixth pick, so it was a lot more waiting than usual.

"There's a big poker game going on out there," Martz joked.

Martz said nothing much surprised him in the first round, not even the selection of kicker Sebastian Janikowski by the Raiders with the 17th pick. He wasn't surprised that the 49ers didn't take a quarterback, either.

"I think they've got so many things they've got to replace, I don't know that quarterback is the most pressing need right now," Martz said. "To be honest with you, I don't feel real sorry for them."

In the second round the Rams took another sleeper. The 6-1, 195-pound Shepherd played only one season after transferring from junior college and started only two games, but the Rams love his size.

"If you look at tape, there's a track record," Armey said.

They love it so much they considered taking Shepherd, rated as the 16th best corner by one service, in the first round. Shepherd is the third cornerback they've selected in the second round in four seasons, following Dexter McCleon (1997), and Dre' Bly (1999). But three of the Rams' cornerbacks - McCleon, Todd Lyght and Taje Allen - could become unrestricted free agents after next season.

"We honestly didn't believe he'd be here," Martz said. "The talent there is so obvious it kind of overwhelms you."

Shepherd declared early despite his lack of playing time. Not before calling the NFL advisory board, which advised him he'd go no later than the fifth round.

"I had done my homework," Shepherd said. "What makes me a high pick is my size and my speed as well as my jamming ability."

The Rams also considered their third-round pick a steal. They plan moving him to tackle because at 6-5, the team is worried that defenders will have leverage against him.

"Tall guys have a hard time at center," Martz said.

St. Clair, a first-time All-America by College Football News and CNN/SI, made the switch from tight end to center in 1996. He wasn't worried about changing positions again.

"I'm willing to try anything," St. Clair said. "Just give me a chance."

St. Clair was the final pick of the first day of the draft. That was a major relief for the top-rated center, who had hoped to go much earlier.

"I wouldn't have slept well," St. Clair said. "I'd have been worrying all night."

Related information
Browns take Penn State DE Courtney Brown with first pick
NFL Draft First-Round Breakdown
St. Louis Rams Draft Page
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