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.