Rams must build depth at secondary, talent at wide receiver through draft

LOS ANGELES -- Les Snead, entering his sixth season as the Los Angeles Rams' general manager, has said he is keeping an open mind in the weeks leading up to the 2017 draft, which is probably wise.

This draft is deep at several positions, and his team has several positions of need.

The Rams still have six players on their roster who were drafted between 2011 and '13, tied for the third-highest total in the NFL according to numbers compiled by ESPN's Ben Goessling. Sustainability like that is a good thing, but that number is a bit deceiving. Under Snead these last five years, the Rams have been unable to adequately build up the offensive line or the receiving corps. They've done pretty well on defense, but a lot of their key players from that defense are now less than a year away from free agency.

So the Rams -- without a first-round pick, but still with four picks within the first four rounds -- can basically load up on any position through the draft and it would seem justified. Well, almost any position.

Below is a ranking of their most urgent needs heading in, based more so on long-term outlook than immediate, impact talent.

1. Cornerbacks/safeties: It's time for the Rams to replenish some depth here, and this draft is deep enough in defensive backs to do it. Since the end of the 2015 season, the Rams have lost their two starting safeties, Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald, and their primary cornerback, Janoris Jenkins. The man who filled Jenkins' spot, Trumaine Johnson, is on his second franchise tag and may leave via free agency next offseason. Their projected safeties for 2017, Maurice Alexander and Lamarcus Joyner, are also a year away from free agency. All of them can't get extensions. The Rams haven't taken a defensive back in any of the last two drafts.

2. Wide receivers/tight ends: The only reason this isn't the most pressing draft need is because the Rams at least have some controllable players here. Their two starting receivers, Tavon Austin and Robert Woods, are signed through 2021. Their primary tight end, Tyler Higbee, was drafted last year. So were Pharoh Cooper, Michael Thomas and Temarrick Hemingway. The Rams need more overall talent here than at any other position, but they also need to let their young guys develop.

3. Offensive linemen: The Rams filled needs here by signing a couple of veteran free agents, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan. But Whitworth is 35 and Sullivan signed a one-year deal. The Rams drafted seven offensive linemen from 2014 to '15, but still need to identify both their left tackle and center of the future. Their former left tackle, 2014's No. 2 overall pick, Greg Robinson, is moving to right tackle. The Rams are not expected to pick up the fifth-year option of his rookie contract.

4. Linebackers: The change in defensive coordinators, from Gregg Williams to Wade Phillips, might have heightened the need at this position. The Rams will run a 3-4 base set now, and two of their starting linebackers, Alec Ogletree and Connor Barwin, will be free agents next offseason (though the Rams will surely look to lock Ogletree up long term). Another starting linebacker, Robert Quinn, is transitioning from defensive end. And another, Mark Barron, is a converted safety. The Rams also haven't drafted a linebacker higher than the sixth round since 2013, so their depth is lacking.

5. Defensive linemen: It's crazy to think this is even a need, but it actually is. In some way. Aaron Donald, the game's best interior pass-rusher, will be a free agent after the 2018 season, but the Rams will make sure he doesn't go anywhere. Nose tackle Michael Brockers signed an extension through the 2019 season last September, but the Rams have yet to identify a third starting down lineman for 2017. And three key backups -- Dominique Easley, Ethan Westbrooks and Tyrunn Walker -- are free agents next offseason.

6. Running backs: The Rams drafted Todd Gurley 10th overall in 2015 and still consider him one of the NFL's premier running backs, regardless of his struggles last year. His backup, Lance Dunbar, who will be used heavily in the passing game, signed only a one-year contract. But the Rams also like a couple of their young players in Malcolm Brown and Aaron Green. They're fine here for now.

7. Quarterbacks: The Rams' hope is that they won't have to worry about this position for ... well, a decade, really. They traded up 14 spots to draft Jared Goff first overall last year and have made an assortment of offseason moves -- from the coaching staff to the offensive line -- to help him recover from a catastrophic rookie season. His backup will be Sean Mannion, a third-round pick from 2015 who they want to take a long look at.