Rams draft preview: Offensive line

May, 7, 2014
May 7
3:30
PM ET
The NFL draft is set to begin May 8 and the St. Louis Rams hold 12 picks. 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, what they need, when they might address it and possible fits.

We finish the countdown with a look at this year's crop of offensive linemen.

In place: Jake Long, Rodger Saffold, Scott Wells, Joe Barksdale, Barrett Jones, Brandon Washington, Mike Person, Tim Barnes, Sean Hooey

What's needed: Retaining Saffold was a huge move for the Rams even if they were able to do it by way of luck. But the Rams look poised to enter 2014 with the same question about the ability of the offensive line to stay healthy and produce that they faced in 2013. We saw how that worked out when the Rams' expected starting line played 295 of the team's 968 snaps together last season (30.5 percent). Just three other expected starting lines played fewer snaps together last season.

Assuming Long, Barksdale, Wells and Saffold are four of the five anticipated starters going into the draft, only Barksdale has a recent history of playing every game without injury issues arising. The team has an opening for a starting left guard and needs to consider drafting a top tackle with Long coming off a major injury and Barksdale set for free agency after 2014. The case could be made to add a third lineman, if neither Barnes nor Jones are thought to be the answer at center.

Possible fits: The Rams place great value on versatility among linemen and many of the players they've been connected to either by visits or workout fit that mold. The team has made little secret of its interest in help for the line, spending time with top three tackles Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan. All have their pros and cons but the Rams could easily find a way to make any of the three fit in right away. Beyond that, the Rams have also showed interest in linemen who project better as guards but have tackle experience, much like Saffold. Nevada's Joel Bitonio, North Dakota State's Billy Turner and Furman's Dakota Dozier profile as potential additions in that mold. Notre Dame's Zack Martin also makes a lot of sense as that type of player though he'd probably require the Rams to use the second of their first-round picks. Bitonio probably will be gone before the Rams draft in the second round but Turner or Dozier should be available there and perhaps into the third. The guard class isn't particularly strong and it appears the Rams prefer to find an option for the guard job who could also play tackle in a pinch. The team has done legwork on other linemen such as Ohio State's Jack Mewhort and Tennessee's Ju'Wuan James and Antonio Richardson.

Verdict: There is no doubt that the Rams are going to pick an offensive lineman, probably more than one at some point in the draft. The only question is, how early? It's been easy to connect the Rams to players like Robinson and Matthews because they make sense for what the Rams need. Assuming Jadeveon Clowney is off the board, the Rams will have their choice of the top tackles and receiver Sammy Watkins. They'd probably prefer to trade down to nab one of those players but if they stay put, it sure seems like an offensive lineman is probably the direction they'll lean. If they do go with a player like Watkins, someone like Martin would be a good fit at No. 13. Either way, the guess here is the Rams use two of their first five picks on an offensive lineman with one of those picks coming in the first round.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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