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Take the seniors bowling

The Senior Bowl bridges the gap for football on television this weekend, a week out from what probably won't be all that interesting of a Super Bowl. With all that college talent set to take center stage, draft talk is heating up. It makes a nice distraction from the ownership and coaching turbulence, subject du jour for Rams fans.

At Yahoo! today, John Murphy takes a look at team needs ahead of the sort of big game this weekend. No surprises in his diagnosis for the Rams.

Receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, and quarterback Marc Bulger can still be productive on any given day, but they are all getting old together and taking up far too much cap space. Former All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace has started to break down and a return to his former self is unlikely given his position and age (32). They had 12 players on IR and five of their most experienced linemen on both sides of the ball have 10 or more years in the league.

Yes, we need a lineman...and a WR...and a DE...and, and, and... The Rams have many needs. Drafting an offensive lineman on the first day should be a given. Whether or not they take that player in the first or second round remains to be seen. Fortunately, this particular draft is loaded with talent at the OT position, so, depending how the chips fall with the 31 picks between our first and second rounders, the Rams have a good chance to grab a talented OT, able to contribute right away, with their second pick.

Many of the top names in the draft are sitting out the Senior Bowl. That's not necessarily a bad thing as it should give the Rams, as well as every other team with a top pick, the opportunity to get a feel for the guys they'll be considering with their later picks.

Here are the North and South rosters for the Senior Bowl. And here (and here) are two lists ranking the offensive tackles available in this year's draft.

Of the top ten on each list, Long, Clady and Otah are not playing this weekend. So, let's look at a few names that are playing this weekend.

Gosder Cherilus, BC, North: It seems like every profile has him pegged as more of a right tackle in the NFL than a man for the left side. Obviously, he'd like to prove that wrong given the kind of dollars teams give the all important left tackle.

Chris Williams, Vanderbilt, South: Color me impressed. The more I read about this guy, the more I think he just might be a good for the Rams. He has the talent and tools to be an NFL left tackle, but according to the scouting reports he needs to get stronger. With the Rams planning on Pace and Barron to start the season, there's no need to rush any new lineman into the games. Injuries are guaranteed, and Williams has the ability and experience to play other positions on the line. Thus the situation shaping up for the 2008 season fits perfectly. Williams has the chance to work on his strength while not playing a full season, but still getting what should be a good amount of action in his rookie year as a high profile replacement. Come 2009, he could be starting. This guy could be a real steal in the second round.

Sam Baker, USC, North: This weekend gives Baker the first opportunity to reconcile a lot of views about where he falls in the draft. Note his ranking on the two lists linked aboved, 3rd and 5th, both essentially agree that he could be a first round pick, but disagree just how deep his strengths and weaknesses really are. A knee injury and surgery effects his ranking as well. He does have the pass protection pedigree.

Carl Nicks, Nebraska, North: Only ranked on one of the lists linked above. Gets a positive review at Draft Countdown. Based on the brief analysis there, he's another one that could be a good pick and have the 2008 season to develop while still getting the opportunity to play.

Barry Richardson, Clemson, South: Loaded with talent, questionable motor. Alex Barron, is that you? I'm hoping that the new coaching staff can take the "questionable motor" guys and get their damn motors running on all cylinders. Art Valero seems to have that ability. Hopefully, new o-line coach Steve Loney does as well. Anyway, I'm anxious to see how Richardson performs in the various pre-draft events. Could he be worthy of the second pick in the second round?

Here's video of North OL conducting one-on-one drills against South DL. To this no talent, talent scout Cherilus looks mighty impressive, although he does look like he gets a hold or two on the drills.

Here's video of the South OL in drills with the North DL. Vandy's Chris Williams looks solid in his reps; you can see the strength criticism though. Honestly, Arkansas guard Robert Felton impresses me the most of all the OL featured in this video.

There's a lot to do and see between now and the end of April.