clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Los Angeles Rams: Draft Options Are There...

New, comments
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams are in an intriguing place right now when it comes to the 2016 NFL Draft. In a re-building process since 2012, it's hard to deny the team's depth at quite a few positions. Yet, it's hard to see Jeff Fisher's Rams as being a team that simply needs to dot a few "i-s" or cross some "t-s" to take the next step toward post season hopes...

"It's hard to see, you say?" Yes, that's what I said, and NO, my vision isn't occluded by the light orange dust that seems to coat most everything around my house for some odd reason...? I happen to be in Cheetos support group right now, (Cheetos Anonymous) and by the way, I'll be doing some sort of "amends"thingy that'll include apologizing for my past Mock Drafts... I mean, I'm pretty sure I was powerless when I did them, or so I'm told...

What's hard to see - when it comes to how the Los Angeles Rams' draft needs shape up - is where along the developmental line many players on their youth filled roster are right now. You can check off boxes for quite a few positions, but there's asterisks next to them: *** survived an NFL season; now what?

On the offensive line, guard Jamon Brown looked solid before going down with a lower leg fracture. Injuries like this have a high rate of full recovery, so he looks good going forward. The rest of the guard corps has plenty of "***", with an actuarial's nightmare in Rodger Saffold leading the way. He's now had both shoulders surgically repaired, along with assorted dings that tend to keep him a game time question mark. I will say though, that Saffold does have a tendency to put most of a full season together after having some injury time off. He may well be a key player in 2016 if his body holds up? Cody Wichmann, Brian Folkerts, Alex Kush and Garret Reynolds round out the guard group. Wichmann may be the most intriguing among them going forward...

Draft need at Guard: Medium

I actually think tackle may very well be a strong position group for the Rams in 2016. On the left side, there's Greg Robinson and Isaiah Battle. The right side tackles look good, with Rob Havenstein and Andrew Donnal. But let's be honest: asterisks are there, with Battle leading the way. A 2015 Supplemental draft pick out of Clemson, he cost the Rams a 2016 5th round choice in the coming draft. At 6'7, 290 lbs. the "boom or bust factor" is strong in this young NFL padawan. The Rams took a flyer on Battle, and he could turn into a solid gamble. If things go wrong, his "Parks and Recreation" major in college could come in handy down the "life's a weed-eater" line...

Draft need at Tackle: Medium to high

Center is a troubling position for the Rams. Tim Barnes showed the kind of hustle and passion for the game coaches love. Thrown into an asterisk filled filled position prior to the 2015 season, Barnes did well enough to make me wonder if he and Demetrius Rhaney - a 7th round pick in 2014 - can fill the position. I can see the Rams using a 2nd or 3rd round pick here if one of the better center prospects falls far enough on Day 2 of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Draft need at Center: High to medium

There are enormous doubts to be had at tight end for the Rams going forward. Jared Cook has the pure talent to be the best tight end in the NFL, or at least one of them? Yet, since being signed as a free agent, he's been nothing more than a "flash here or there" player. I can see him being at the top of the Rams' salary cap casualty list in 2016. The tight end draft class in 2016 doesn't really have any names that jump out at you, so the Rams could be forced to toss the 'ol free agent coin in the air once again? Lance Kendrick is solid, but lacks the ability to be an "every play" threat. Don't be shocked if Cook remains on the roster at a low $$$ cap hit, and the position stays low on Les Snead and Jeff Fisher's draft radar...

Draft need at Tight End: High, but it will get a LOW rating by Fisher and Snead...

Here's the position Rams fans have been dying for the team to address: Wide Receiver. It's time to throw everything they have in draft stock at the right player if he's there at #15 overall, right? I wouldn't trade up, since this draft class is thin at wide receiver at the first round value level. Laquan Treadwell is a hot ticket item at the moment, but the NFL Combine isn't far away. Rumors of a slow 40 yard dash time are swirling, and if he doesn't perform well it's going to slam his draft stock at least a bit... There's a few attractive free agent wide receivers that'll be available at the right price. But WHAT a price! Salary cap molding is going to play a big part in what the Rams can do at every position, let alone wide receiver.

One of the promising players at the start of the 2015 season, Stedman Bailey's future is in doubt after an off field issue, followed by being wounded by gun fire. The very best to him in his life going forward, yet it's tough to see the NFL being part of his future. Brian Quick hasn't lived up to what Les Snead and Jeff Fisher had hoped. Following a prolonged recovery from a severe shoulder injury, it's tough to pin any hopes on his ever really flourishing in the NFL. So that leave veterans Kenny Britt and Wes Welker, along with Tavon Austin - who'll be entering a contract year in the 2016 season. Outside of a couple wide receiver roster placeholders, Among these pretenders, is one I think you may want to keep an eye on: Bradley Marquez. Undrafted out of Texas Tech University, he's been a standout special teams player for the Rams during his rookie year. He didn't see truly measurable offensive playing time, but in those brief flashes he made an impression. He's one player to track during the Los Angeles Rams training camp and preseason.

Draft need at Wide Receiver: VERY high

If it weren't for a former grocery clerk, the Rams curse at quarterback could have been historically bad. Oh, it's still bad, and it's going to take something more than HOPING a moderate talent can turn into an elite quarterback. Case Keenum, Nick Foles, and Sean Mannion can't enter the consistent category, much less the "Elite" conversation. The quarterback situation has to take a huge swing for the Rams, or seven wins a year will remain the norm...

Draft Needs at Quarterback: High to VERY high

I'll group the entire defense in one group, then parse a couple positions with rising asterisks***. Let's start with corner backs Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins. Both hit the open market in 2016, and at least one of them is most likely going to be moving on. Money. money, money... Can't blame them though, and top corner backs aren't cheap. On the defensive line, rumbles Chris Long may need to renegotiate his contract have been perking up. The heart and soul of the Rams' defense, I truly doubt Jeff Fisher will allow Long to be anywhere other than L.A. Fans grouse about low sack numbers in 2015, but his bookend - Robert Quinn - was injured a great deal of the season. It takes two - not one - outside edge rushing threats to create havoc for opposing offensives. If one can be isolated, they can be handled in a variety of ways designed to slow them.

Outside linebacker became a weakness the Rams capably overcame most of the 2015 season. The loss of Alec Ogletree early on kept his position in flux throughout the year. More and more, safety Mark Barron slid into a pure outside linebacker roll as the season wore on. Free agent Akeem Ayers played well, but not remarkably so. Rams fans are going to grumble about my thoughts when it comes to draft priority at this position, but the Rams' defense is only a breath away from being something truly special...

Draft needs at Outside Linebacker: High

Draft Needs at Defensive End: Medium

Draft Needs at Corner Back: Low to Medium

Special Teams have been one of the more fun things to watch since Jeff Fisher arrived in 2012. Punter Johnny Hekker has made the fake punt fashionable once again in the NFL. He's a keeper, but the same can't be said for kicker Greg Zuerlein. He can kick a ball like few others, but his dependability has been close to a coin flip. His 66.7% success rate was highlighted by his missing a crucial field goal to win in the last game of the year against the San Francisco 49ers. I think he may very well be in for a training camp competition to keep his job in 2016.

Draft Needs at Kicker: Medium

***

The two position with greatest need aren't shocking to any Rams fan. Wide receiver and Quarterback. Quarterback and wide receiver... However you shuffle or slice it, at least one of these positions has to be a solid hit for the Los Angeles Rams in the 2016 NFL Draft. In a new home, and trying to instill excitement in the tough Southern California market, I'm leaning toward Les Snead and Jeff Fisher trying to make a splash. With the #15 overall selection, and two second round picks, they have the draft capital to make a play for almost any player they truly covet. They'll be spending long hours studying the top quarterbacks in this draft. Personally, I don't see a marque quarterback in the 2016 Draft class...

What will happen? Will Snead and Fisher reach to placate a new fan base, or hold firm and add additional layers to a solid base already in place? It may be just me, but I think the way to go isn't to reach, or go "Best Player Available" (BPA). They need to go: BSPA (Best Skill Player Available). Find a player who has little or no "Day 1 starter" doubts. I don't care if he's on offense or defense. Guard, corner back, tight end, wide receiver, quarterback... Just grab ONE player who will add to the success of the team, not just slide into a vacated position or roster spot. The idea is simple: Make whoever you pick at the top of the 2016 NFL Draft count...