<
>

Offense, offense, offense still focus for Rams entering draft

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Rams will kick off the 2016 NFL draft when they go on the clock Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET with the first overall pick.

It's been an eventful offseason for the Rams in matters both on and off the field, but there are still serious roster questions that remain. In fact, the Rams look to be more than one player away from turning the corner to becoming a genuine contender -- unless that player is a major star at the position that will appear at No. 1 on this list.

The Rams have five picks in this year's draft, and with that in mind, here's a look at their five biggest needs in order:

1. Quarterback: By this point, we've pretty much said all that needs to be said here. The Rams need their present and future at quarterback, and they did everything they could to get it by trading six premium picks to move from No. 15 to No. 1 in this year's draft. It looks like Cal's Jared Goff will be the choice, but they could surprise and go with North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. Either way, this is easily the top need and certain to be addressed within minutes of the draft beginning.

2. Wide receiver: Of course, for Goff or Wentz to have success, they will need the right pieces in place to help make it happen. As a group, Rams receivers were last in the league in terms of production last season and were actually outperformed by individuals like Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Atlanta's Julio Jones. Without any picks in Rounds 2 and 3, the Rams are unlikely to find the difference-maker they really need at the position, but they would probably settle for someone who could come in and help move the chains consistently.

3. Free safety: After Rodney McLeod departed for the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, the Rams were left with no obvious solution to replace him. There are options on the roster, though. Among the names that could be considered are Maurice Alexander, Cody Davis, Lamarcus Joyner and Christian Bryant. Alexander and Joyner would have to make position changes, but the Rams believe both could potentially do the job. In a more ideal world, the Rams could use a Day 2 pick to land a possible starter, but they don't have any after the trade with Tennessee. It's certainly possible to find a starter in the later rounds or even undrafted free agency (as they did with McLeod) but that player might not be able to do it from Day 1, which means they will need someone else to step in for 2016.

4. Tight end: The Rams released Jared Cook in a salary-cap purge before free agency, creating a need for a pass-catching tight end to complement Lance Kendricks and Cory Harkey. They talked to Marcedes Lewis and Zach Miller in free agency, but both re-signed with their previous teams before the Rams could get a deal done. This draft isn't particularly deep at tight end, but if the Rams roll the dice on a good athlete, they might be able to find someone who can help with one of their fourth or sixth-round picks.

5. Center: Among the many players the Rams retained this offseason, one was starting center Tim Barnes. He was a surprise story in 2015, going from non-tendered free agent to starter despite the Rams' hopes that Barrett Jones or Demetrius Rhaney could claim the job. Barnes was serviceable and durable in his first full season as a starter, but the Rams could still use an upgrade. They still have hopes for Rhaney, but it wouldn't hurt to take a flier on pivot man in the late rounds and hope that he can develop into a long-term answer in the middle.