X

What Recent History Suggests About St. Louis Rams' 2015 NFL Draft Plan

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVApril 2, 2015

St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead speaks during a pre-draft press conference at the team's practice facility Tuesday, May 6, 2014, in St. Louis. The Rams are scheduled to have two picks in the first-round of the NFL draft on Thursday. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

While the NFL draft is never entirely predictable, we can create a rough estimate of the St. Louis Rams' draft-day plan by dissecting the team's recent history. 

Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead took over the team in 2012. Since then, the duo has flashed certain tendencies and strategies that could shed some light on what's in store for St. Louis fans on draft day. 

This article will outline several draft-day expectations for the Rams. These expectations will be based on various moves from Fisher and Snead's collective history. 

Tom Gannam/Associated Press

Don't Rule Out a High Defensive Line Pick

The Rams have had five first-round selections in three drafts under Fisher and Snead. Three of those five picks have been defensive players (Michael Brockers, Alec Ogletree, Aaron Donald), and three of the five picks have also been linemen (Brockers, Donald, Greg Robinson). 

If you take need and emotion out of the equation entirely and make a purely mathematical bet, then the most probable selection for the Rams is a defensive lineman. And considering Fisher and Snead have been obsessed with adding to the defensive line, it's not exactly an outrageous conclusion. 

Clearly, the line is the strength of the Rams, and it's the unit least in need of reinforcements. However, defensive tackle was not a pressing need a year ago, but that didn't stop St. Louis from grabbing Donald with the No. 13 pick. 

Drafting a defensive lineman with the No. 10 pick would be a jaw-dropping development, but it's not entirely illogical—especially if it's a defensive end. 

Chris Long was injured in Week 1 this past season. The St. Louis defense greatly struggled during the first half of Long's 10-week absence. In fact, the Rams had just one sack during the first four games following Long's injury. 

Neither William Hayes nor Eugene Sims really stood out as a replacement for Long in the starting lineup. Both players are better utilized on a rotational basis, which means the Rams could use another starting-caliber defensive end in case there's another injury to Long or (knock on wood) Robert Quinn. 

Not to mention, Long turned 30 years old this offseason and is due $14.25 million in 2016, according to Spotrac

Finding Long's eventual replacement would improve the pass rush in 2015, and it would allow the team to save nearly $12 million in future cap space by cutting Long a year from now. 

Some possible first-round candidates include Missouri's Shane Ray or Kentucky's Alvin Dupree. 

Also, adding depth at defensive end does not require a first-round selection. This is an upgrade that can also be made in the second or third round, so keep that possibility in mind. 

Tim Umphrey/Associated Press

Offensive Line Hardly a Guarantee with No. 10 Pick

Since the Rams are returning just two starters from an offensive line that was underwhelming to begin with, the assumption is that they will draft the position early and often. 

Fisher's draft history tells a different story. 

Last year's No. 2 overall selection of Greg Robinson was the first time Fisher has drafted a first-round offensive lineman in his 19 full seasons as a head coach. This tells us that Fisher is willing to grab a first-round offensive lineman if he feels the prospect is the best player available, but apparently that's rarely the case. 

According to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com, Fisher has made recent comments that may suggest a first-round offensive lineman is far from a done deal: 

Fisher called this year's draft "outstanding" as far as the offensive line is concerned which might also offer another clue as to why they have not been in a rush to sign players that might exceed where they have them valued.

If the 2015 class is truly outstanding when it comes to offensive linemen, that could encourage the Rams to hold off in Round 1 and wait for some of the less costly Day 2 gems. 

The current regime seems to draft the best player available regardless of need, so there's no reason to believe that will end in 2015. 

If a very intriguing prospect at a less desperate position falls to St. Louis, such as Alabama receiver Amari Cooper, it's unlikely that the Rams will pass up the opportunity. 

Multiple Trades Are Inevitable

At this point, wheeling and dealing on draft day is not simply a habit for Snead. It's an addiction. 

It started with the blockbuster Robert Griffin III trade of 2012, followed by trading up in the first round to grab Tavon Austin in 2013, followed by trading up in the second round to draft Lamarcus Joyner in 2014, along with a number of lesser draft-day trades over the past three years. 

Snead was also the Atlanta Falcons' director of player personnel during the 2011 draft—the year Atlanta put together a mega-package to move up and draft receiver Julio Jones

It's safe to say that every St. Louis pick—including the No. 10 selection—is 100 percent for sale. 

The Rams might not impress us with a blockbuster trade, but some clever moves and negotiations will undoubtedly take place. 

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Running Backs and Defensive Backs Will Be Targeted

Neither the offensive backfield nor the secondary is in need of desperate help. Both areas have reasonably competent starters in place along with decent depth. 

However, that's not to say neither position can be upgraded. In fact, the current regime has been more than willing to heavily address both areas in the draft. 

Under Fisher and Snead, eight of the team's 28 draft picks have been used on defensive backs, and four of those 28 picks have been used on running backs. The Rams have drafted a running back in every draft since Fisher took over. 

Running back Zac Stacy had a remarkable rookie campaign in 2013. The fifth-round pick had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and over 900 rushing yards, despite having just one carry in the first four games of that 2013 season. 

After Stacy's impressive debut season, it seemed logical that the Rams would carry on with Stacy as the long-term starter. But that assumption didn't stop St. Louis from drafting Tre Mason in the third round a year ago, and now he's viewed as the long-term starter over Stacy. 

With two capable every-down backs on the roster, perhaps St. Louis is done with the position. But given Fisher's desire to run the football, it wouldn't be wise to bet on it. 

As far as the secondary goes, the talent is there. Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and E.J. Gaines are competent starters at cornerback, while T.J. McDonald, Rodney McLeod and Mark Barron have all flashed potential at safety. 

However, despite the available talent, the secondary has not yet clicked. Opposing quarterbacks were able to pass on the Rams far too easily last season, and that was a major reason for the team's early sack drought. 

The Rams can survive with the current members of the secondary, but that's not to say the unit cannot be upgraded. And since the team has drafted numerous defensive backs in the past, it's only reasonable to expect the same in 2015. 

Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and served as the Rams' game-day correspondent in 2014. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.