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Rams

Rams invest picks on offensive players on last day of NFL draft

Jeff Fisher

Coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams staff targeted receivers and tight ends, four all together, during the final day of the NFL draft.

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The Rams began the NFL draft by choosing quarterback Jared Goff with the No. 1 pick.

They ended it Saturday by making four of five selections offensive players who can help Goff and a passing game that ranked last in the league in 2015.

The Rams took Western Kentucky tight end Tyler Higbee and South Carolina receiver Pharoh Cooper in the fourth round, and South Carolina State tight end Temarrick Hemingway and Southern Mississippi receiver Michael Thomas in the sixth.

Kentucky linebacker Josh Forrest, also selected in the sixth round, was the lone defensive player in a draft class built with an eye toward ending the Rams’ 12-year absence from the playoffs.

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“We feel like we had a very productive day,” Coach Jeff Fisher said. “Obviously, as you look, offense was a priority.”

The Rams’ strategy was evident more than two weeks ago, when they traded up to select a quarterback.

The deal with the Tennessee Titans enabled them to draft Goff on Thursday night but that move left them without second- or third-round picks. They had two fourth-round and two sixth-round picks going into Saturday, and acquired an additional sixth-round pick by allowing the Chicago Bears to move up a few spots in the fourth round.

Last year, the Rams drafted running back Todd Gurley in the first round and then loaded up on offensive linemen.

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This year, having released tight end Jared Cook, they zeroed in on tight ends and receivers.

“There we some defenders definitely on the board but we did know it would be nice to help the offense,” General Manager Les Snead said.

The Rams used their first pick Saturday to select Higbee, who played in one of college football’s most prolific passing offenses at Western Kentucky.

“It’s an exciting day,” Higbee said during a conference call with reporters. “Probably the best day of my life.”

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Rams Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead meet with the media after selecting California quarterback Jared Goff with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

However, Higbee’s status is clouded because of an off-the-field incident that occurred this month.

Higbee was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault, evading police and public intoxication after an altercation with a man outside a bar in Bowling Green, Ky. Nawaf Alsaleh, 24, was found unconscious and bleeding from the mouth. He reportedly suffered a concussion and a brain hemorrhage.

Higbee is scheduled to be arraigned next week.

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“It’s a kind of legal matter right now, so I’m not really supposed to speak on it,” Higbee said, later adding, “It’s an incident that I can’t let define me. I’ve just been trying to keep my mind focused and stay working.”

Fisher said “we did our research” on Higbee and that the Rams were “‘convinced” that the issue would be resolved.

Said Snead: “When you go from college to become a professional and there is behavior to clean up we expect that to happen.”

Hemingway gives the Rams more depth in a tight end position group that includes Lance Kendricks and Cory Harkey. Justice Cunningham was on the practice squad last season.

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Cooper, like Rams receiver Tavon Austin, is a multipurpose threat. He caught eight touchdown passes, rushed for one and passed for another last season.

“My biggest asset would probably be making plays after the catch,” he said. “Once I catch the ball I can easily gain another five to 10 yards after the catch.”

Thomas is an outside threat particularly adept at catching passes in tight coverage, Snead said.

Forrest began his college career as a receiver and finished it as an inside linebacker.

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The Rams are expected to sign 18 to 20 undrafted free agents before they hold a rookie orientation and minicamp next weekend in Oxnard.

Cornerbacks and safeties are among the priorities.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter: @LATimesklein

MORE RAMS NEWS

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Rams select TE Temarrick Hemingway of South Carolina State with 177th pick in NFL draft

Rams select Kentucky linebacker Josh Forrest in sixth round with 190th pick in NFL draft

Rams select WR Michael Thomas with the 206th pick in NFL draft


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