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Rams add OT Battle in supplemental draft

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The Sports Xchange

The 2015 supplemental draft came and went Thursday with the St. Louis Rams investing a fifth-round pick in former Clemson left tackle Isaiah Battle, making him the first player selected in the NFL’s annual “summer second-chance draft” since 2012.

Battle was one of seven players ruled eligible by the NFL but the only one selected. The six others — West Georgia edge rusher Darrius Caldwell, Houston defensive end Eric Eiland, Connecticut tight end Sean McQuillan, Kansas defensive back Kevin Short, West Georgia defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey and North Carolina Central wideout and returner Adrian Wilkins — are now considered street free agents and may sign with any club.

The selection of Battle is a fascinating decision by Rams general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher. St. Louis invested heavily in offensive linemen only a few months ago — spending second-, third-, fourth- and sixth-round picks on Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, Andrew Donnal and Cody Wichmann. Havenstein and Brown lined up with the first team at right tackle and right guard during the Rams’ offseason practice sessions.

Havenstein and Battle could duke it out for the starting right tackle position, opposite left tackle Greg Robinson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2014.

Battle played in 27 games for the Tigers over the past three seasons, starting 11 of 12 games at left tackle a year ago and 16 contests overall. He did not allow a sack in the 12 regular-season games in 2014.

Physically, Battle is exactly what NFL scouts are looking for at the tackle position. His combination of height (6 feet 7), arm length (35 3/8 inches) and easy movement make Battle a potentially formidable pass blocker as edge rushers struggle to get around him. He’s also quick to the second level when run blocking and can redirect to hit moving targets once there.

While undeniably gifted, Battle remains quite raw and some scouts questioned whether he had the competitiveness to ever take full advantage of his talent. Battle offers only average functional strength at this time and too often bends at the waist rather than at the knees, which leaves him vulnerable to the bull rush and counters back to the inside.

Concerns about Battle’s playing strength were only enflamed after he completed just 12 repetitions of 225 pounds at his Pro Day workout before cramping up. As a point of comparison, the lowest number of repetitions in the bench press by any tackle selected in the 2015 draft was 16 — from Havenstein.

Lapses in technique and below-average strength were viewed by some scouts as examples of Battle’s laziness on the field. Like most of the other players available each year in the supplemental draft, Battle’s decisions off the field threatened his eligibility, which is why he declared early.

In a statement on Clemson’s official athletic website, Battle cited family obligations as a reason for his pursuing the NFL early. Battle also failed several drug tests at Clemson, NFLDraftScout.com learned.

The supplemental draft is very different from the media bonanza that occurs each spring. It is carried out via email among teams and is not televised. The selection order is different as well.

The teams are slotted into three groups based on their won/loss percentage the previous year and are then placed in a lottery, with the official order not being released to the public. According to league sources, the Jacksonville Jaguars “won” this year’s lottery and held the first pick of each round and the Seattle Seahawks, not the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots, were awarded the final pick.

Teams interested in selecting a player contact the league via email with a list of the prospects they would draft and the round in which they would take them. As such, it is possible that another team picking after the Rams also placed a fifth-round bid on Battle but lost out because St. Louis was slotted ahead of it.

The draft was created for players who had lost eligibility between the primary draft and the beginning of the next season. Typically they are players who have run afoul of the law or failed to keep up with their academic obligations. A total of 44 players have been selected since the draft’s inception in 1977. The most notable selections have been quarterback Bernie Kosar (Cleveland, 1985), wide receiver Cris Carter (Philadelphia, 1987), linebacker Brian Bosworth (Seattle, 1987) and wide receiver Josh Gordon (Cleveland, 2012).

Of the remaining prospects this year, the two former West Georgia standouts — Caldwell and Stuckey — are likeliest to attract attention as undrafted free agents.

The 6-foot-5, 238-pound Caldwell dominated the Gulf South Conference last season — his first at that level — to the tune of 18.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. He initially signed with Illinois, where he recorded 17 tackles, including five for loss and 2.5 sacks, in 2012 after redshirting a year earlier.

Academic issues forced him out of the Big Ten in 2013, however, and Caldwell landed at Pearl City Community College. Despite posting just 12 tackles and four tackles for loss there, he earned an offer from Arizona State and was hyped as a possible replacement at Devil-backer for Carl Bradford, a 2014 fourth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers. Academics once again pushed Caldwell out, however, and he ultimately wound up at West Georgia, where he recorded 69 tackles and led the conference in sacks.

Caldwell is agile for his size and flashes explosiveness off the edge but lacks the bulk to remain at defensive end, projecting best as a standup rush linebacker for a predominantly 3-4 scheme.

Stuckey initially signed with Florida State out of high school but also struggled with academics. He offers intriguing size at 6-4, 313 pounds and flashed playmaking ability last year, recording 40 tackles, including nine tackles for loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles. He’s stout at the point of attack and flashes a burst to penetrate.

Battle and any other players signed after the draft are immediately eligible to play in the NFL. The Rams will get their first look at Battle in uniform when training camp opens July 30.

Rob Rang (@RobRang) is an analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, owned and distributed by The Sports Xchange, in cooperation with CBSSports.com.


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