Despite need at safety, Rams eye weapons for Jared Goff in draft

PHOENIX -- The Los Angeles Rams still have a need at safety, but they may just fill it internally.

Lamarcus Joyner, who solidified himself as a standout slot corner last year, is a real option to convert to free safety, with Maurice Alexander shifting over to strong safety to replace free agent T.J. McDonald. Under that scenario, Joyner could play safety when the Rams run a 3-4 set under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, then perhaps reclaim his role as a slot corner on nickel downs.

It would allow the Rams to play Joyner on every snap -- and it could free them up to continue to attack the offense through the draft.

After taking Jared Goff first overall, the Rams went heavy on receivers and tight ends last year.

Tyler Higbee and Pharoh Cooper were taken in the fourth round, then Temarrick Hemingway and Mike Thomas followed in the sixth. But the Rams still have holes on offense. They released veteran tight end Lance Kendricks, leaving Higbee as their primary pass-catching tight end. And though they signed Robert Woods, they also lost receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick from a unit that was relatively thin to begin with.

Rams general manager Les Snead doesn't feel comfortable speaking publicly about the strengths of particular drafts, but did acknowledge that this year's pool is "definitely deep at a few positions that we need," a nod to tight ends and wide receivers.

"In college football they’re throwing the ball," Snead said, "so you always have a lot of players to pick from."

Among the receivers linked to the Rams in various mock drafts are John Ross (Washington), Zay Jones (East Carolina), JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC), Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma) and Chad Hansen (Cal). Tight ends like Evan Engram (Mississippi) and Gerald Everett (South Alabama) have also come up. The Rams gave up their first-round pick in last year's trade with the Titans, which allowed them to move up from 15 to select Goff, and enter the draft with only one selection among the first 68. They're hopeful that this year's pool is deep enough to offset some of that.

"Based on what we did last year with the QB, you knew this year you were going to be limited in the draft," Snead said in an interview with ESPN from the owners meetings on Monday. "Now, that was a little bit of the strategy. We let some free agents out the door and we didn’t re-sign any. So, we knew we would probably be rewarded with the compensatory program that’s going to replenish some of those picks. We knew it was going to be limited, but we do think that it’s a deep enough draft where you can get good football players across the board."

The Rams have eight picks, five of which will come within the third and sixth round. Their first selection is 37th overall, the fifth pick of the second round. And though Snead stressed that the Rams will draft the best player available, his target seems clear. He needs more weapons for Goff, but he also wants players who can complement the ones he already has on his roster.

The Rams lack size at receiver, which is why Smith-Schuster and Jones could make sense.

They also lack a true vertical threat, which makes Ross, who ran a head-turning 4.22 40-yard dash, very appealing.

"Each of those receivers, however we get this thing done, has a role," Snead said, speaking in generalities. "Their body types, their physical traits, all those things, fit right into a perfect puzzle, and if those things work in sync together, we’re able to spread the ball around. If you take Sean McVay's offense in Washington, if you look at it, what they did do was spread the ball around."