Rams head toward draft with fewer chips

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For most of the past three years, no team has come to the NFL draft poker table with a better hand than the St. Louis Rams. That's what happens when you reap the rewards of a huge trade with the Washington Redskins which yielded additional premium picks in each of those drafts.

But as the Rams begin preparations for this year's draft -- the all-star game season is officially upon us -- their once deep pockets are now filled with the usual amount of currency and a couple of pieces of lint.

The extra picks from Washington have all been spent and the Rams traded fourth- and sixth-round choices to Tampa Bay in exchange for safety/linebacker Mark Barron. As it stands, the Rams have just five picks in this year's draft though I believe there's a sixth on the way from the 2012 trade they made with New England for receiver Greg Salas. That pick is expected to be a late-round choice, likely a seventh-rounder.

St. Louis could also garner some additional picks in the form of compensatory selections for their free-agent losses a year ago. Any compensatory choices they would garner cannot be traded.

The lack of additional picks also means that should the Rams decide to try to move up for, say, a quarterback, they don't have as much ammunition to do that as they have in the past. General manager Les Snead is quick to point out that trading fourth- and sixth-round picks likely wouldn't preclude a deal because such a trade would probably require future premium picks like the ones the Rams got from Washington in a similar deal.

"It would probably take future picks as well," Snead said. "You won't move up to take long-snapper."

The idea of a move up might be more appealing than sticking around and making a bunch of picks for the Rams this year. Coach Jeff Fisher has already indicated that the early view of this year's draft class is that it's not nearly as deep or talented as last year. Snead echoed those sentiments recently.

"I have reached the point enough to know it’s definitely not as deep as last year," Snead said. "That was a pretty deep draft. This year there are some positions that are probably stronger than last year’s draft, just from a position standpoint."

Snead declined to say what those positions are but early returns from various draft pundits are that the offensive line, wide receiver and pass-rushers are some of the deeper spots in the coming class.

Clearly, the Rams could use help on the offensive line and a top receiver would still be a good get if the Rams could get access to one (and becomes a serious need if they can't retain Kenny Britt).

The draft is still a long ways off and the way the Rams will deploy the picks they have will evolve over that time but it's a process that's already begun.

"From a draft standpoint, what I like to do is over here we are working on needs and what we need, but we better figure out the 2015 draft," Snead said. "It might not match our needs. You line up things to the best of your ability by who you think the best players are at each position. Then you can go in and say that 2015 happens to be pretty deep at this position and you figure out the strategy of ‘Well, we could go there but this guy might be there later’ so it’s not a big difference so let’s wait. You try to strategize that way."