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2016 NFL Draft: St. Louis Rams' Team Needs?

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The folks at NFL.com made an early attempt at ranking and analysing the Rams' team needs for the 2016 NFL Draft. Did they get it right?

Where's Gil Brandt? Has he passed NFL.com's "Team Needs" NFL draft duties over to Lance Zierlein? On Tuesday, Zierlein released his first attempt of the year at a projected 2016 NFL Draft order and needs for every team. In his projections, Zierlein has the Rams drafting 19th in the first round. He identifies the Rams' top need as wide receiver, with defensive end, defensive tackle and center as other needs.

19. St. Louis Rams
2015 record: 2-3 (.640)
Top need: Wide receiver
Other needs: Defensive end, defensive tackle, center
Senior prospects at positional needs: WR: D.J. Foster (Arizona State), Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma), Josh Doctson (TCU); DE: DeForest Buckner (Oregon), Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State), Shawn Oakman (Baylor); DT: Sheldon Day (Notre Dame), Jarran Reed (Alabama), Adolphus Washington (Ohio State); Center: Nick Martin (Notre Dame), Mike Matthews (Texas A&M).
Analysis: Another year, another draft in which the Rams need to find a wide receiver they can build their passing game around because that guy doesn't appear to be on the roster -- still. Chris Long's contract number for 2016 could price him out of a job, but even if it doesn't the Rams could use depth at the defensive end spot. Finding inexpensive depth at defensive tackle and competition at the center spot could also be on the Rams' checklist.

For the most part, Zierlein has nailed this correctly. I would likely replace defensive tackle with both safety and cornerback, although defensive tackle could have a depth issue if Nick Fairley is not re-signed and Ethan Westbrooks is permanently moved to the outside. Chris Long's contract ($14.25 million salary cap hit) could very well become problematic in 2016 (the final year of his contract). Will the Rams sign him to an extension? William Hayes and Eugene Sims both become Free Agents in 2016. The Rams are still looking for that elusive "Number 1" wide receiver. They've already traded Chris Givens and Brian Quick is set for Free Agency in 2016. At center, Tim Barnes has been mediocre at best through 5 games this season and Demetrius Rhaney is an unknown quantity.

There is growing support for revamping the tight end position. Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks account for $13.9 million in salary cap hits this season. Clearly the production is lagging far behind the dollars. The secondary could undergo massive changes in the offseason, as Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson, Cody Davis, Mark Barron and Rodney McLeod are all eligible for Free Agency in 2016.

Last week, I presented my first 2016 NFL Mock Draft of the year and ranking of team needs. Wide Receiver, Defensive End, Safety, Cornerback and Center were the Rams' top needs (ranked in order). The Rams' 2016 positional needs were ranked using the following criteria: potential Free Agent losses, potential positions in need of upgrades and assessing the possibility of existing roster players reaching their potential/ceiling.

St. Louis Rams Current Roster & Depth Chart

C Tim Barnes Demetrius Rhaney
RG Rodger Saffold Garrett Reynolds
LG Jamon Brown Cody Wichmann
RT Rob Havenstein Andrew Donnal
LT Greg Robinson Darrell Williams
TE Lance Kendricks Cory Harkey
TE Jared Cook
WR Tavon Austin Brian Quick Bradley Marquez
WR Kenny Britt Stedman Bailey
RB Tre Mason Benny Cunningham
RB Todd Gurley Chase Reynolds
QB Nick Foles Case Keenum Sean Mannion
PK Greg Zuerlein
P John Hekker
LS Jake McQuaide
DT Aaron Donald Nick Fairley
DT Michael Brockers Ethan Westbrooks
DE Chris Long William Hayes
DE Robert Quinn Eugene Sims
MLB James Laurinaitis Bryce Hager
OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar Daren Bates Alec Ogletree
OLB Akeem Ayers Cameron Lynch
CB Janoris Jenkins Marcus Roberson
CB Trumaine Johnson Lamarcus Joyner
SS T.J. McDonald Mark Barron Maurice Alexander
FS Rodney McLeod Cody Davis Christian Bryant
Practice Squad Injured Reserve
DE  Matt Longacre CB E.J. Gaines
DT  Louis Trinca-Pasat WR Isiah Ferguson
DT  Doug Worthington
CB  Melvin White
CB  Eric Patterson
RB  Malcolm Brown
FB  Zach Laskey
WR Nick Toon
TE  Justice Cunningham
OT  Isaiah Battle

St. Louis Rams 2016 Free Agents

Position Player FA Status
QB Case Keenum RFA
RB Benny Cunningham RFA
RB Chase Reynolds RFA
TE Cory Harkey UFA
WR Brian Quick UFA
C Tim Barnes UFA
K Greg Zuerlein UFA
DT Nick Fairley UFA
DE Eugene Sims UFA
DE William Hayes UFA
OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar UFA
OLB Daren Bates RFA
CB Janoris Jenkins UFA
CB Trumaine Johnson UFA
SS Mark Barron UFA
FS Rodney McLeod UFA
FS Cody Davis RFA

When all is said and done, I'd like to see the Rams take the Best Player Available in the 2016 NFL Draft. After all, that strategy seemed to work quite well in the last two drafts, as the Rams eschewed drafting for need with a pair of first round selections and instead chose Aaron Donald (2014) and Todd Gurley (2015). Few can complain about those results.