Significant Investments: 12 Questionable Checks that Stan Kroenke has Written Since Purchasing the St. Louis Rams

Nov 9, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke on the sidelines prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Rams 31-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 9, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke on the sidelines prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Rams 31-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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St. Louis Rams Lamarcus Joyner
Dec 27, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89) catches a touchdown pass against St. Louis Rams defensive back Lamarcus Joyner (20) at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports /

11. Lamarcus Joyner

The Rams’ selection of Lamarcus Joyner in the 2014 NFL Draft may be a greater testament than anything else to the assertion that the NFL is a “copycat league”. The NFC West was thriving at the time: the Seattle Seahawks were coming off a Super Bowl championship, they’d defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and the Arizona Cardinals had gone a very respectable 10-6 during the regular season, even though they still missed the playoffs. The Seahawks, with 5-foot-10, 200-pound Earl Thomas, and the Cardinals, with 5-foot-9, 185-pound Tyrann Mathieu, had both found defensive success with undersized players who were capable of serving as both free safeties and nickel cornerbacks.

After the 49ers selected a player in Northern Illinois’s Jimmie Ward at pick 30 who, though slightly larger than Thomas or Mathieu, provided basically the same skill set, the Rams apparently felt an overwhelming need to find their own undersized Swiss army knife for their secondary. They were so incensed by this desire that they not only set their sights on getting a player of this type with their next pick, but traded up to get him, trading picks 44 and 153 to the Buffalo Bills for the rights to select Lamarcus Joyner at pick 40.

It’s safe to say that the 5-foot-8, 184-pound Joyner has been a disappointment during his two years with the Rams. He’s continually played down to his size as a Ram, frequently lacking physicality or precision in coverage. He dealt with injuries as a rookie, and after opening the season as the Rams’ primary nickelback, he was relegated to the fourth corner role behind Trumaine Johnson, Janoris Jenkins, and fellow rookie E.J. Gaines late in the year, even becoming a healthy inactive on several occasions.

Joyner was lucky to get a second opportunity to contribute during 2015, as a preseason injury to Gaines forced him back into the lineup as the nickelback. He did show improvement in his second year and was healthy for all 16 games, but he still didn’t live up to his value as a second-round pick. In all honesty, Joyner’s most memorable moment as a Ram has been the hit to the head of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, which knocked Bridgewater unconscious and earned Joyner both a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty and a $23,152 fine by the league. If Gaines returns to full health in 2016 and Johnson and Jenkins are both brought back after hitting free agency, it’s difficult to see Joyner contributing from scrimmage much next year unless another injury occurs.

Interestingly, the Rams could’ve started their full-scale rebuild of their offensive line a year earlier if they just would have held onto their original picks. Buffalo attempted to add that type of front with picks 44 and 153, adding linemen Cyrus Kouandjio and Cyril Richardson. While those picks have been questionable at best–Kouandjio and Richardson have started a combined six games over two seasons–there were better options out there if the Rams wanted to make an investment in their offensive line’s future.

Two more respectable linemen who are now starters for playoff-bound teams were available at pick 44, though: the Seattle Seahawks’ Justin Britt (who’s started all 32 regular season games of his NFL career to date, as well as two postseason games), and Washington Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses, who has started every game this year after starting one in 2014. Notable players who came off the board shortly after Richardson at pick 153 include Green Bay Packers center Corey Linsley, who’s been a very good value pick while starting 29 games over the past two seasons, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron, who has looked very good in limited starting action this year and would have been a better long-term project than Garrett Gilbert or Sean Mannion, and New York Giants strongside linebacker Devon Kennard, who has started 15 games over the past two years and would’ve saved the Rams from having to invest $6 million in Akeem Ayers.

The Rams have already invested $3.1 million in Joyner and are scheduled to pay him just over $5 million over the length of his four-year rookie contract. That’s not a massive waste of money, but it’s ultimately more than a team should be paying a corner restricted to the nickel position who’d be no better than the fourth-best cornerback on the team if not for injury.

Next: 10. Brian Quick