EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It's never too early to start talking about the NFL draft, and though it might be difficult now to really zero in on a team's needs, the overall picture is starting to get clearer.
So our NFL Nation reporters each identified what his or her team's greatest need is based on the first nine weeks. From there, our resident draft experts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. provided some potential fits for each team's needs.
From a Rams perspective, there were plenty of options for possible needs, but I wanted to use the criteria of what is the team's greatest need as we sit here today. Offensive tackle is almost certain to be a need, and that's obviously a position of more pressing importance than safety when it comes to using a first-round pick. I also don't believe Rodger Saffold will be back with the Rams next year. But again, I wanted to do this exercise without making assumptions on how free agency might shake out, and instead focus on what are the most pressing needs right now.
If T.J. McDonald were healthy and developing each week, I might have looked elsewhere, but right now safety is a position where the Rams simply aren't getting enough production.
From all indications, the Rams view McDonald as a major piece in their long-term plans. He's a good fit as a box safety, capable of playing the run, and his presence would certainly be useful right about now. But he needs a running mate, namely one who can make some plays on the back end and consistently force turnovers. The Rams haven't had someone like that since the early days of Oshiomogho Atogwe.
Kiper suggests Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as a good fit for just that reason. Here's an excerpt of Kiper's analysis from the aforementioned article:
"Clinton-Dix is a ball-hawking safety who can play center field and cover sideline to sideline, using both his speed and length to make plays on the ball. Remember, with an extra first-round pick acquired from Washington, the Rams could fill a need and then go best player available at the other spot."
Indeed, the Rams may be reluctant to use a first-round pick on a safety, especially given other needs, but it's not as taboo to draft safeties early as it once was. Teams like Seattle are getting huge dividends from using a high pick on a safety such as Earl Thomas. If there's a player of that caliber, or at least comparable, the Rams may also be better positioned to make a move on a safety because they have two first-round picks.
Of course, there's plenty of time between now and the offseason for things to sort themselves out and players to emerge.
A roundup of Wednesday's Rams' stories appearing on ESPN.com. … The day began with our midseason report, handing out grades on the Rams through the first nine weeks, with video included. … What would a midseason report be without some midseason awards? … Next was an injury update, including running back Zac Stacy missing Wednesday's workout as he falls into a familiar pattern. … Finally, it was a look at quarterback Sam Bradford's surgery and why he and the Rams will reschedule it.
Jeff Gordon, of stltoday.com, provides his own look back at Richie Incognito and his current situation.
Jim Thomas looks at the Rams' continued struggles stopping the run.
A good look from Turf Show Times at Jeff Fisher's approach to handling a locker room.
At the 101 ESPN website, Randy Karraker offers 10 observations from the Tennessee game.
In the same corner of cyberspace, Anthony Stalter provides his postgame notes on the same contest.