Rams draft preview: Linebacker

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
5:30
PM ET
The NFL draft is set to begin May 8 and the St. Louis Rams hold 12 picks in this year's selection process. For the next week and a half, we'll take a look at a different position every day with what the Rams have in place at a position, what they need, when they might address it and some possible fits.

We begin the countdown with a look at this year's crop of linebackers.

In place: James Laurinaitis (starter), Alec Ogletree (starter), Jo-Lonn Dunbar (starter), Ray Ray Armstrong, Daren Bates, Phillip Steward, Etienne Sabino

What's needed: The Rams re-signed Dunbar to a two-year contract during free agency, essentially easing the need to add a possible third starting linebacker to expected stalwarts Laurinaitis and Ogletree. Dunbar might not be the long term solution, but he figures to be better in 2014 after a four-game suspension threw his 2013 season into flux. With Gregg Williams in as defensive coordinator, Dunbar should be able to get closer to the 2012 version of himself rather than last year's. In reality, the Rams don't have a huge, pressing need for any linebackers, though they could potentially look for an option to push Dunbar or possibly even start over him. They like Armstrong's potential, but it's probably too early to project him as a possible starter. A pass-rushing type at linebacker would be a helpful addition as would someone who could serve as a backup to Laurinaitis.

Possible fits: It seems unlikely the Rams will look to add a linebacker in the early rounds, but it would be unwise to unilaterally rule it out. Buffalo's Khalil Mack and Ohio State's Ryan Shazier are likely first-round picks who both came to St. Louis for pre-draft visits. Mack might not be the ideal fit in terms of scheme, but he does bring that pass-rushing element and could be a bit of a sleeper for the team's first choice. Alabama's C.J. Mosley is another player the Rams have some interest in who could be intriguing if he lasts to No. 13 based on value and the fact that he could provide some versatility. More likely, though, the Rams will wait until later to add some help at this position. Getting into those later rounds, players such as Florida State's Telvin Smith and Christian Jones, BYU's Kyle Van Noy, Montana's Jordie Tripp and Arizona State's Carl Bradford could be logical additions.

Verdict: The temptation to take Mack would be understandable given his skill set and the many ways Williams can deploy him, but his selection would still come as a surprise considering that he's not clearly better than players who play positions of more pressing need. Mosley might be a bit of a sleeper in his own right as a possible first-round pick should he fall to 13, but again the guess here is that the Rams choose to wait and add a linebacker or two in the later rounds. With a dozen picks and many of them toward the back of the draft it would make sense for the team to wait to add more depth here.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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