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Should Rams have drafted RB?

The Rams could be right about Steven Jackson's back surgery being no big deal and little threat to his 2010 season.

The reality, of course, is that Jackson didn't make it through last season and the team could use a competent backup anyway.

If the Rams sign veteran Brian Westbrook, who visited team headquarters recently, they'll have some measure of insurance. But it's clear Westbrook would serve only as a stopgap player, not a longer-term solution to an issue that figures only to grow in importance with every hit Jackson takes.

And if Jackson misses time in 2010 or injuries again affect his performance, the Rams' decision against drafting a running back this year will come under additional scrutiny regardless of whether the resulting criticism is fair.

It's important to frame the discussion properly. We can accomplish this by weighing which running backs the Rams could have drafted against which players they actually drafted.

The first chart shows every player the Rams drafted in 2010 and the running backs selected next (fullbacks excluded). The findings:

  • The Rams passed on Clemson's C.J. Spiller to draft quarterback Sam Bradford. No surprise there. Franchise quarterbacks take precedence over franchise running backs.

  • They passed on Mississippi's Dexter McCluster to draft offensive lineman Rodger Saffold. This choice seemed reasonable given predraft grades suggesting Saffold as a first-round value.

  • They passed on USC's Joe McKnight twice to draft cornerback Jerome Murphy and receiver Mardy Gilyard. The Rams had to get a receiver at some point, it seemed, and cornerback was another need area.

  • They passed on Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon three times to take tight end Mike Hoomanawanui, defensive end Hall Davis and tight end Fendi Onobun. These decisions should be fun to monitor. If Dixon shines for the 49ers while Hoomanawanui or Onobun struggles, the Rams arguably overvalued tight end at the expense of running back depth.

  • They passed on Buffalo running back James Starks to draft defensive end Eugene Sims. Starks was the last running back drafted.

Having Jackson healthy would severely diminish the Rams' short-term need for a running back. Keeping Jackson healthy could depend on the Rams' ability to limit his carries without sacrificing too much production.

2010 NFL Draft: Rams pass up RBs

The second chart shows the Rams' current running backs (fullbacks excluded).

2010 Rams roster: Current RBs