Rams will continue to develop a deep offensive line

Rams offensive tackle Rob Havenstein was voted to the all-rookie team last season by the Pro Football Writers of America.

Rams offensive tackle Rob Havenstein was voted to the all-rookie team last season by the Pro Football Writers of America.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The fourth in a series of occasional stories on the Rams’ depth by position, as the team prepares for the April 28-30 NFL draft. Today, the offensive line:

The pick raised eyebrows at last year’s NFL draft.

The Rams’ selection of running back Todd Gurley — who was coming off a major knee injury — with the 10th pick garnered plenty of attention. It also overshadowed the rest of the team’s picks, among them four offensive linemen.

Gurley, of course, went on to become a star and the league’s offensive rookie of the year.

Rookie linemen Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, Cody Wichmann and Andrew Donnal quietly earned valuable experience that could help the Rams in their return to Los Angeles.


Left tackle Greg Robinson, center Tim Barnes and guard Rodger Saffold are among veteran linemen who helped the Rams rank seventh in rushing but last in passing in 2015. The Rams gave up a league-low 18 sacks but they also ran the fewest plays.

The Rams drafted “a lot” of offensive linemen last year to build for the future, General Manager Les Snead said.

“We felt like that group needed to grow together and play together over a long period of time and it started in the 2015 season,” he said.

At 6 feet 5 inches and 332 pounds, Robinson is among the largest building blocks. He was the second pick in the 2014 draft after his redshirt sophomore season at Auburn. Robinson struggled at times in 2015, but he will be charged again with protecting the quarterback’s blindside.

“Playing at Auburn his junior year probably would have been good for him — maybe even his senior year,” Snead said. “So he had to learn the hard way in our league.

“And because he plays out there on an island … we all see the moments where he’s not where you want him to be. But in there, there’s some moments where you’re like ‘Holy Cow, he just did that to [Arizona Cardinals’ defensive end] Calais Campbell.’


“And when you see that, you want to continue, obviously, developing him and getting him to be a more consistent player.”

Havenstein, 6-8 and 321 pounds, was selected in the second round last year from Wisconsin. He started 13 games at right tackle and was voted to the all-rookie team by the Pro Football Writers of America.

Brown, a third-round pick from Louisville, started the first nine games at guard before suffering a season-ending lower-leg fracture.

Wichmann, a sixth-round pick from Fresno State, started seven games at guard. Donnal, a fourth-round pick from Iowa, played in five games, starting twice.

Barnes, 27, started every game at center last season. He was an unrestricted free agent but re-signed with the Rams last month and received a two-year contract.

Saffold, a second-round pick by the Rams in 2010, can play guard and tackle. He was sidelined after five games last season because of a shoulder injury but is on track to return. Saffold, 27, was the first player to begin lifting weights last week at the Rams’ temporary off-season facility in Oxnard.


Garrett Reynolds, Brian Folkerts, Demetrius Rhaney, Darrell Williams and tackle Isaiah Battle, a supplemental draft pick last year from Clemson, are other linemen on the roster.

Draft prospects

The Rams have four picks among the first 100 in the April 28-30 draft in Chicago.

They have the 15th overall pick, two second-round picks (Nos. 43 and 45) and spots in the third (No. 76), fourth (No. 110th) and sixth (No. 190th) rounds.

After selecting so many offensive linemen last season — and with holes at other key offensive spots and cornerback — the position is probably not regarded as a priority in this year’s draft.

In his second mock draft, the Times’ Sam Farmer projected that six offensive linemen would be selected in the first round, including Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil third, Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley 10th, Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin 16th, Ohio State tackle Taylor Decker 18th, Alabama center Ryan Kelly 23rd and Indiana tackle Jason Spriggs 32nd.

Texas A&M tackle Germain Ifedi, Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair, USC center Max Tuerk and UCLA tackle Caleb Benenoch are among other linemen available in the draft.


Follow Gary Klein on Twitter: @latimesklein