After a hugely disappointing 2-14 season that was derailed by a combination of injuries and a brutal early-season schedule, the St. Louis Rams are in something of a rebuilding mode.
While there are holes to fill on both sides of the ball, a couple of key pieces are in place with Sam Bradford at QB and Jeff Fisher all but hired as the new head coach.
Going into the offseason always offers hope for improvement for struggling NFL teams. The draft and free agency give teams an infusion of talent that can lead to a quick turnaround and a playoff berth.
With the Indianapolis Colts looking to take Andrew Luck first overall in April's draft, the Rams have plenty of options available to them with the second pick. With a few teams in desperate need at quarterback, I am sure they will receive offers for the pick.
Washington, Miami and possibly Seattle are the teams I see looking to move up to the No. 2 spot and select Robert Griffin III. The Rams need to seriously consider making a deal with one of those teams.
The problem with that is the player that would most help the Rams, Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon, will be gone if they trade down. If Griffin is off the board when Cleveland picks at No. 4, I am pretty sure the Browns will take Blackmon.
Even if this is the case, I still feel like St. Louis needs to go ahead and trade down.
I think the scenario involving the Washington Redskins trading up is the most likely, and I think it will cost them the No. 6 overall pick and a second rounder in both 2102 and 2013.
So, here is my seven-round mock draft for the Rams including the trade scenario with Washington.
With Justin Blackmon off the board, I think the Rams look to improve their defense here. St. Louis only intercepted opposing quarterbacks 12 times last year and gave up an unacceptable 152 yards per game on the ground, the second most in the league.
The player who could help their defense the most at this point would be Morris Claiborne from LSU. Claiborne is a former receiver who has the hands to make big plays. His stock really began to take off in 2010, as he fared well when teams targeted his side of the field in order to avoid throwing at 2011 first-round pick Patrick Peterson.
Claiborne has just average size for a corner but is a willing and capable tackler on the edge. He is the shutdown type of corner that the Rams need.
Looking to continue shoring up the defense, St. Louis goes with Fletcher Cox from Mississippi State with its first of two second-round picks.
Cox is versatile enough to line up at both end and tackle but is better suited at tackle due to a lack of variety in his pass rush moves.
This may not be a popular pick with the St. Louis fans on draft night, but Cox will prove to be very helpful in fixing the run defense. The Rams can't afford to let teams run the ball on them the way they did in 2011 if they want to be competitive.
It definitely is a disappointment that St. Louis is still looking for help at tackle after spending two high draft picks recently on the position. Jason Smith has not been close to what the Rams were hoping for when they took him second overall in 2009.
If the Rams want to keep Sam Bradford healthy and productive, they need to invest yet another high draft pick on the offensive line.
Mike Adams from Ohio State would be a wise pick at this point, as he has the size and technique to be a good left tackle in the NFL.
Adams was suspended twice while at Ohio State, so the team may want to look closely at him to see if his commitment to the game is at a professional level.
While Chris Long is set at LDE, James Hall will be 35 and entering his 11th season in the league. Hall continues to be a productive player, but it is time to start looking for a replacement.
Boise State's Billy Winn is equally good at rushing the passer and defending the run. Winn doesn't take plays off, giving maximum effort at all times.
Winn uses mainly a bull rush to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, so a veteran presence like Hall could teach him a few other moves.
Like Cox, Winn can line up at both end and tackle, giving the Rams some different options and depth.
Steven Jackson has had an amazing career for the Rams, but it is time to get serious about looking for someone who can help him shoulder the load out of the backfield and be his eventual successor.
I had thought about even mocking a running back to them in the second round but felt it more important to fortify the lines.
Waiting until the fourth round, the Rams would still be able to get a player such as Cyrus Gray from Texas A&M. The Aggie running back has been a productive player in all of his four years at College Station, piling up nearly 3,300 rushing yards and 30 TDs. Gray has a great work ethic and is a solid teammate.
Gray is not a runner who will move the pile and break tackles like Jackson, but he is a solid runner both inside and outside and does a good job in the passing game at both blocking and catching the ball.
The Rams will need to look at outside linebackers either in free agency or in the draft, as Brady Poppinga, Bryan Kehl and Chris Chamberlain are all scheduled to be free agents this spring.
Tank Carder, the Defensive Player of the Game in the 2011 Rose Bowl, would be worth a shot in the sixth round due to his versatility and ability to stay on the field for three downs.
Carder is able to track down ball carriers through traffic, but his strength is in being able to drop back in coverage and cover backs out of the backfield.
Carder has the talent to be picked higher than this, but due to injuries suffered in a car accident, he could be available here.
Looking to further upgrade the secondary after getting Morris Claiborne in the first round, Charles Brown from North Carolina is the choice here.
After sitting out the 2010 season due to an NCAA suspension, Brown came back and had a decent year for the Tar Heels, capping a college career in which he was productive all four years.