April 28, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three years of extra picks from the Robert Griffin III deal with Washington, the St. Louis Rams have a smaller-than-usual amount.

The Rams have the 10th overall pick and six selections overall, five fewer than last season when the haul included five starters.

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the second of two first-round picks, was the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, and they also landed defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, offensive tackle Greg Robinson, running back Tre Mason and cornerback E.J. Gaines.

Gaines, a sixth-rounder out of Missouri, started 15 games.

In 2012, they had 10 picks and landed defensive tackle Michael Brockers, starting cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson and kicker Greg Zuerlein, then signed standout punter Johnny Hekker after the draft.

And in 2013, they finished with seven picks, but traded and ended up with first-rounders Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree.

So, intrigue has been high.

''I've watched the draft every year since I knew what it was,'' said middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, a second-round pick in 2009 who led the team in tackles his first four seasons. ''I was a big fan every year except the year I was in it.''

This year, they have a pick in every round except the fifth, which went to Philadelphia in the deal that brought new quarterback Nick Foles in exchange for Sam Bradford.

They gave up a fourth- and sixth-rounder last year to get safety Mark Barron from Tampa Bay, and received a compensatory pick in the sixth round.

The Rams are no longer rebuilding for coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead, but they still have significant holes to fill before they can jump into contention in the rugged NFC West.

Things to watch for in the Rams draft:

OFFENSIVE LINE HELP: This is the area of most need, by far, with three vacancies, and LSU's La'el Collins could be the pick at No. 10. Tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells were released due to a combination of injuries and age, and tackle Joe Barksdale remained a free agent. That can't be comforting for Foles. Injuries on the offensive line made it tougher for backups Shaun Hill and Austin Davis to get much done last season.

BACKUP QB: They waited far too long last year to take a possible successor to Bradford and ended up cutting sixth-rounder Garrett Gilbert in the preseason. Now they need one behind Foles. Case Keenum, released off the practice squad in midseason, was re-signed as the backup with Davis listed third.

LET'S MAKE A DEAL: The Rams have not been shy about trading, moving up eight spots to take Austin with the eighth pick two years ago and then trading a pair of seventh-rounders to select running back Zac Stacy in the fifth round. The speedy Austin has had his moments and Stacy just missed 1,000 yards as a rookie, although he didn't get much work behind Mason, a third-round pick last season.

''When you're at 10, there's a lot that can happen in front of you,'' Laurinaitis said. ''All it takes is one surprise pick and then somebody falls.

''There's a lot of drama now that they've broken it up like they have, and it seems like somebody always trades back in at the end of the first round. And after the round they recap and give you a grade already.''

DEFENSIVE LINE? There are five former first-rounders on the defensive line, but don't be surprised if Fisher opts for yet another edge rusher, even in the first round, for coordinator Gregg Williams to work with.

NO. 10 PICK: The previous player the Rams drafted with the 10th pick was Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis in 1993. Back in 1971, they selected six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Isiah Robertson. Last year the Lions had the 10th pick and took tight end Eric Ebron, who started seven games.

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