Work in Sports
Another weapon in the arsenal
Rams go for more speed, select Arizona RB Canidate
Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 12:06 AM
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."
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."