Adding to its strengths: Rams take tight end in second round

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Rams drafted Lance Kendricks of Wisconsin with the 47th overall pick Friday night, adding one of the nation’s best tight end prospects to what already appeared to be a team strength.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Kendricks set career highs with 43 receptions for 663 yards and five touchdowns as a senior, and averaged 14.7 yards per catch in college. He was the Badgers’ top receiver last year with speed in the 4.6-second range, and Rams general manager Billy Devaney said the team considered trading down to make sure they got him.

“Obviously we took him, we liked him, we all liked him,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “He gives you the flexibility of doing some different things.”

The Rams addressed a larger area of need when they took Boise State wide receiver Austin Pettis in the third round. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Pettis had 134 receptions for 24 touchdowns his last two seasons, and totaled 39 touchdowns in college.

Pettis is a nephew of Texas Rangers coach Gary Pettis. He drew high marks from his all-encompassing knowledge of the game at a Combine interview with the Rams. The lone knock against him has been his speed.

“He’s like a quarterback sitting in there,” Spagnuolo said. “I’m not so sure he couldn’t design that offensive line and what their protections were. He was really impressive.”

The Rams took Kendricks even though they already have two young tight ends in Michael Hoomanawanui and Fendi Onobun. A third tight end, Daniel Fells, led that position with 41 receptions, a 9.5-yard average and two touchdowns, although he is not under contract. A fourth, Billy Bajema, was more of a blocking specialist who made nine starts.

“We consider it an area of a good football player that can help us,” Devaney said.

Kendricks said he had “no idea” the Rams were interested in him, and wasn’t sure who called from the team to inform him because it was loud in the background. He recalled talking to team personnel only once, but was “very excited” about the chance to work with quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick last year and the NFL offensive rookie of the year.

“You know what, that’s one of the first things I thought of,” Kendricks said. “I couldn’t be in a better position.”

Rams tight ends scored three touchdowns in a 36-33 victory at Denver, one week before Josh McDaniels was fired as Broncos coach. McDaniels is the Rams’ new offensive coordinator.

Kendricks has a couple of alcohol-related incidents in his past, one of them getting pulled over while driving a moped in 2008.

St. Louis drafted two tight ends last year, taking Hoomanawanui in the fifth round and Onobun in the sixth.

Hoomanawanui played only eight games due to high ankle sprains on both legs, and had 13 catches, an 11.2-yard average and three touchdowns. Onobun appeared in three games as a reserve and had two catches for 15 yards.

Spagnuolo said concerns about Hoomanawanui’s durability were not a factor in the pick and didn’t say whether it made re-signing Fells less of a priority.

“We haven’t gone down that road,” Spaguolo said. “We’re adding good players and we’ll let the rest work itself out.”

The Rams added one of the top pass rush threats in the first round, taking defensive end Robert Quinn with the 14th overall pick. Quinn had 11 sacks as a sophomore but was ruled permanently ineligible last fall for receiving improper benefits and lying to investigators.

Pettis set Boise State records for touchdowns and career receptions (229), and his 2,838 yards receiving is second in school history. He gives the Rams size and versatility, after holding for kicks, blocking three kicks and going 4-for-4 passing his senior year.

“I’m glad it’s finally over and I know where I’m going,” Pettis said. “I know they’ve got a real good quarterback and I’m excited about catching passes from him.”

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