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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Quarterbacks and left tackles rank among the most important players for any NFL offense. The Rams are without both starters at those key positions.
Swelling in left tackle Alex Barron's knee has led the Rams to schedule a precautionary MRI for him. Bulger is already out at least two weeks after breaking a finger.
First-round choice Jason Smith projects as the long-term starter at left tackle. Barron is entering the final year of his contract. Losing Barron for an extended period would weaken the Rams' depth tremendously. Most teams simply aren't equipped to replace a starting left tackle -- particularly when they are already trying to replace a starting left tackle (with the Rams releasing Orlando Pace this offseason).
How much do teams value left tackles? I looked at all projected starting left tackles in the league, focusing on average overall draft position. The 32 projected starting left tackles were drafted 59th overall on average.
To make this work, I assigned a 300 value to undrafted players. That number seemed reasonable to me given that a draft features 256 players. The Bucs' Donald Penn -- and the Eagles' Jason Peters, as bigwalt133 noted in the comments -- were the only undrafted players projected to start at left tackle, by my count. There were a combined 24 at the four other positions on the line. Update: bigwalt133's assist helped me strengthen a formula in my roster database, leading to slightly different averages for each OL position.
Jones was the sixth player chosen in the 1997 draft. Barron, the 19th overall choice in 2005, played right tackle when Pace -- the first overall pick in 1997 -- was with the team. The 49ers' left tackle, Joe Staley, was also a first-round choice. The Cardinals' Mike Gandy was a third-round choice of the Bears in 2001.