After winning six total games in three seasons, the St. Louis Rams won seven games last season and were just one win away from reaching the playoffs.
Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford showed critics that he is the real deal, earning Rookie of the Year honors. Despite working with little around him, Bradford still managed to throw for over 3,500 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Playing in the NFC West, or as some call it, the "NFC Worst", the St. Louis Rams have a great opportunity to reach the postseason in 2011 for the first time in seven years.
The St. Louis Rams, optimistic after a successful 2010 season, have many obvious needs to be filled: wide receiver, outside linebacker, offensive line and defensive line.
Heading into last season with a below-average receiving core to start with, the Rams' No. 1 wide receiver Donnie Avery suffered a year-ending knee injury during the preseason.
As bad as that injury was to the team, several Rams receivers suffered injuries during the season, including Mark Clayton, Laurent Robinson and Danario Alexander.
St. Louis has the 14th pick in the upcoming draft and will likely use it toward a wide receiver. A.J. Green is the best wide receiver in the draft, but will likely be chosen way before the Rams have a pick. Julio Jones is the clear-cut next-best receiver, so you can expect St. Louis to choose Jones with its first pick, giving Bradford a big receiver and red zone threat.
Will the St. Louis Rams reach the playoffs next season?
If Jones is not available, St. Louis will likely take an outside linebacker with its first pick.
St. Louis is solid at the middle linebacker position with James Laurinitis, but the Rams are weak at the two outside linebacker spots.
Last season, the Rams defense struggled all year to defend against throws to the middle of the field. St. Louis would benefit strongly from a talented outside linebacker like Akeem Ayers or Bruce Carter, each of whom could be major difference makers.
Sam Bradford was constantly pressured and often hit in the pocket last season due to mediocre protection from the offensive line. While the Rams offensive line is still young and should get better each year, St. Louis should highly consider acquiring an offensive guard in the first three rounds. This would allow Bradford to have more time to make throws downfield and can open up more holes for running back Steven Jackson.
The Rams 4-3 defense could use some depth to a defensive line that includes aging veterans James Hall and Fred Robbins, and fourth-year defensive end Chris Long. St. Louis cannot afford for any of these three guys to go down with an injury, or it will be in trouble.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo and the rest of his staff have rebuilt this team over the last few seasons with players that are best geared towards winning as opposed to players with talent that are not suited towards the Rams' needs.
If St. Louis can improve on each of these four areas, it should be able to win the NFC West for the first time in eight seasons.