Roster weaknesses: Every team has them, and the draft is often the best way to address them. With the 2014 NFL Draft fast approaching, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah will be taking an up-close look at the main areas of weakness -- and the prospects who could fix them -- for all 32 squads in the league. Be sure to catch "Path to the Draft" on NFL Network at 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday for more in-depth analysis.
The St. Louis Rams finished 7-9 in 2013, at the bottom of the NFL's most talented division -- but I think they have a real chance to close the gap a bit this offseason.
Yes, the Rams have had a relatively quiet free agency period, but they needn't worry too much, as they have the second overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, courtesy of the RGIII trade from two years ago. That plus the 13th overall selection will present St. Louis with a rare opportunity to nab two of the highest-rated talents at two different positions in the same draft class.
The No. 1 priority for the Rams should be making sure quarterback Sam Bradford -- who will be coming off a torn ACL that ended his 2013 campaign in Week 7 -- stays healthy for all 16 games in 2014. Thus, when considering how best to utilize their picks in May, I think they'd do well to start by looking at ways to bolster Bradford's protection.
Here are four positions of need for St. Louis -- and four prospects who could fill them.
1) Offensive tackle
Retaining Rodger Saffold, who has the versatility to play guard or tackle, was a major plus for the Rams' offensive line -- however strange the circumstances behind his return might've been. That said, All-Pro left tackle Jake Long is coming off a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee, and his status for 2014 is up in the air. With the No. 2 overall pick, St. Louis will likely have a chance to take the top tackle on the board: Greg Robinson. The former Auburn lineman has the size (6-foot-5, 332 pounds) and nastiness to take the Rams' running game to another level; he also has all the tools to develop into an elite pass blocker.
St. Louis has confidence in second-year pro T.J. McDonald, but the young safety could use a running mate in the back end of the defense. There isn't a safety in this year's class worthy of being taken with the second overall pick, but the top two talents at the position, Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor, could both be available at No. 13. I have identical grades for Clinton-Dix and Pryor, but I think the former Crimson Tide star, with his range and athleticism as a high safety, would better complement McDonald.
St. Louis got a whole lot younger in its secondary after releasing veteran Cortland Finnegan in early March. Third-year pros Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins have a lot of potential, but there's still a need to add more depth on the outside. I don't see the Rams using the second overall pick to address this position, but as with the top two safeties, the top two corners (Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard) in the 2014 class could be available at No. 13 overall. Gilbert has more size and playmaking ability, while Dennard brings a tougher, more physical presence to the position.
4) Wide receiver
Rams general manager Les Snead made a bold move to trade up for Tavon Austin in the 2013 NFL Draft, and I don't think the wideout's up-and-down rookie campaign is indicative of his NFL future. The Rams have a number of other young receivers on their roster, but I can make the case that not one of them is a true No. 1. Selecting Sammy Watkins with the second overall pick could solve that problem. Yes, receiver is one of the deepest positions in this year's draft, but the former Clemson star is in a class of his own. If the Rams pass on Watkins at No. 2, they could add a big body like Texas A&M's Mike Evans, who would give Bradford an ideal red-zone option.
So what will the Rams do with their first-round picks (Nos. 2 and 13 overall)? Here's what NFL Media's analysts see happening, according to their mock draft projections (click here for full mock drafts):
Daniel Jeremiah: Greg Robinson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Bucky Brooks: Jake Matthews, Darqueze Dennard
Charles Davis: Sammy Watkins, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Matt Smith: Greg Robinson, Mike Evans
Chase Goodbread: Greg Robinson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.