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Where Rams' line ranks among defensive groups

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams surprised almost nobody when they once again invested in a team strength this offseason by signing defensive tackle Nick Fairley as a free agent.

Fairley became the fifth former first-round pick to join the Rams' vaunted defensive line. General manager Les Snead often has discussed the virtues of strengthening a strength and the Rams once again didn't hesitate to do so in adding Fairley.

So with Fairley joining a line that includes ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long and tackles Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, where does that group rate against the best defensive position groups in the league? It's a question ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates attempted to answer last week when he ranked his top five defensive position groups in the league.

The Rams' defensive line found its way on to the list along with Seattle's secondary, Buffalo's defensive line, the New York Jets' cornerbacks and New England's linebackers. It's hard to argue with Seattle's secondary as being perhaps the best position group in the league. That unit has the production and the victories to claim the top prize.

What's more interesting is the debate of which line is better between Buffalo and St. Louis. Among the four starters, you could argue that it's pretty even as the Bills boast the likes of Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes on the ends with Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams inside. But even if we call that a push, I'd argue the Rams win because of their depth.

Backups like Fairley, William Hayes and Eugene Sims are valuable pieces that the Rams don't hesitate to bring in regardless of the situation. Buffalo doesn't have that kind of depth and one of the Bills' primary backups is Alex Carrington, who spent last season on the bench in St. Louis behind the likes of Hayes and Sims.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of the weekend's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... On Friday, our NFC West division writers offered early predictions on who will win the division this year. ... We then examined the battle for the No. 2 quarterback job between Case Keenum and Austin Davis. ... The St. Louis stadium task force met with the NFL again last week. ... Saturday's mailbag took a look at projections for quarterback Nick Foles in 2015 and Sunday's mailbag examined realistic expectations for the defense.

Elsewhere:

Good read from Packers reporter Rob Demovsky on Brett Favre's return to Green Bay.

Columnist Kevin Seifert looks at the rare succession plan the Packers pulled off with their quarterbacks.

A look at eight teams' offseason in emojis in honor of World Emoji Day, including a Rams mention.

At stltoday.com, Bernie Miklasz writes that the St. Louis stadium efforts could put the NFL to the test.

At 101sports.com, Brian Feldt, of the St. Louis Business Journal, discussed what the Rams' departure from St. Louis could mean economically.