ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Rams, stuck in the middle of the NFL draft for a change, have added pass rush help, taking North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn with the 14th pick of the NFL draft on Thursday night.
They're satisfied the mistake that kept Quinn off the field last year was out of character.
"He's the furthest thing from a criminal, thug, bad kid," general manager Billy Devaney said. "Nothing like that at all. He made a rookie mistake, a dumb college mistake and he paid the price for it."
Quinn was one of three Tar Heels kicked off the team last fall for receiving improper benefits and he left after his junior year after being declared permanently ineligible. The NCAA said Quinn accepted two diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel accommodations to Miami for benefits worth $5,642, and said he also lied to investigators during interviews.
Quinn said the Rams didn't ask too much about it.
"I was upfront with them," Quinn said. "I just told them what happened. They declared me ineligible and I had to come out."
And here he comes for an improving Rams team.
Quinn is 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, an excellent edge rush prospect, and won't be 21 until next month. He had a huge sophomore season with 11 sacks, but no doubt was bumped down several picks.
Quinn also might have been considered a bit of a medical risk, considering he's played with a brain tumor since his senior year in high school. Quinn said he gets checked every six months and Devaney said the "majority" of teams were comfortable with his condition.
Quinn said he practiced for a while last fall hoping he'd get cleared by the NCAA.
"It was heartbreaking, but I've got to put that behind me," Quinn said. "I accepted some jewelry from a jeweler and they found out. I've got to move on."
Quinn was among about 20 players invited to Rams Park for pre-draft visits and Devaney and Spagnuolo said he made a great impression. He could be the eventual successor to 34-year-old James Hall as the bookend to Chris Long, the second pick of the 2008 draft.
"Anybody can fool you in 15 minutes, but when you go back and talk to people that have been around this guy, it was out of character," Spagnuolo said. "We felt comfortable with it."
Hall led the Rams with 10.5 sacks last season and Long had a career-best 8.5 sacks.
Quinn played exclusively right end in college and Long blossomed when the Rams stopped moving him around and made him a full-timer on the left side. Quinn didn't think he'd be too rusty after missing a year.
"I don't think I'm too far off," Quinn said. "Football's football, the game hasn't changed. Like everybody else, I've just got to work on the basic fundamentals and get better."