INDIANAPOLIS - Most of the questions Les Snead and Jeff Fisher faced about the offensive line had to do with guards. The St. Louis Rams brain trust also happens to be thinking about tackles, and they have invited at least two potential first-round picks for one of 60 interviews in the team's suite.
Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson confirmed at his Combine press conference on Friday that he would be meeting with the Rams brass that night. Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker said that he met with the Rams in the team's suite earlier this week.
Both players have been projected to the Rams in recent mock drafts; Johnson with the 16th pick and Fluker with the 22nd pick.
Johnson is a converted tight end. Actually, he's a converted quarterback from his high school days, a dream that died when he realized his collegiate playing career depended entirely on switching positions.
"There's nothing like a touchdown pass," Johnson said. "If I could do it again, I would."
Obviously he won't. But as a tackle, he has a bright future in the NFL.
Both players fit into category just below that of what Snead called "rock stars," i.e. the guys who aren't the top of everyone's big board this year, like Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher who are both expected to be drafted in the top ten picks of the 2013 NFL Draft.
"You usually get a couple of rock stars, Snead said. "You need be able to then go 'who are the dancers in this concert' and are they similar to the rock stars. Can we get a guy who's maybe not as good but can help us later, backup singers.
"We have to know the whole board," Snead said about players in the draft, lineman and otherwise. "We need the best players. Traditionally guards and right tackles aren't valued for some reason, but I always look at it this way: you should never draft a position. You're going to be better off drafting a player instead of a position."
The Rams did a good job finding those backup singers on the waiver wire last season, and it helped keep the offensive line held together as injuries pushed incumbents to the bench.
"Sometimes there are advantages to being where we are on the claiming order," Jeff Fisher said of in-season pickups like Shelly Smith and Joe Barksdale.
It also helps to have a secret weapon like offensive line coach Paul Boudreau.
"We felt like these are good players that have been put out there," Fisher said. "So we felt like why not claim them and coach them up. We brought guys in and turn them over to coach Boo. He did a great job with them. We've got some options now with some guys we think can play for us."
Those young guys and anyone else from this year's draft class that joins them will be especially important in 2013. The Rams offensive line already has a pair of starters dealing with injuries, Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl. Fisher said both are doing "fine." Snead said that both were on pace, but was not at all concerned about whether or not they could play in spring practices. It was all about having them for opening day.
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