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NFL draft combine: Examining the Rams’ areas of concern

Coach Sean McVay, left, talks to general manager Les Snead during a Rams practice.
Coach Sean McVay, left, and general manager Les Snead will not be at the NFL draft combine this week in Indianapolis, preferring to view video of those workouts while evaluating prospects during in-person visits and pro-day workouts at college.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)
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In the aftermath of their disastrous 2022 season, the Rams will continue to make strategic and cost-cutting roster moves in the lead-up to the NFL draft on April 27-29.

Yet at least one operational element will not change.

For the second year in a row, a team official said, general manager Les Snead and coach Sean McVay will not attend the NFL scouting combine, which begins Tuesday in Indianapolis.

Snead and McVay last attended the combine in 2020, before COVID-19 caused the NFL to cancel the event in 2021. Though medical staff and a small contingent of scouts and assistant coaches will be on hand to evaluate and interview prospects, the Rams will mainly rely on workout videos from Lucas Oil Stadium, pro-day workouts on college campuses and in-person workouts.

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For the seventh year in a row, the Rams do not have a first-round pick. The Rams have a pick in the second and third rounds, four picks in the sixth round and two in the seventh. They are expected to be awarded compensation picks for the free-agent departures of linebacker Von Miller, offensive lineman Austin Corbett and others.

Here is a look at five positions the Rams could focus on before the draft in Kansas City, Mo.:

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Edge rusher

The Rams are in dire need of a player who can consistently take advantage of star defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s presence and pressure the quarterback.

In the wake of Miller’s free-agent departure to the Buffalo Bills, the Rams last season banked that Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis and Takk McKinley could produce opposite Leonard Floyd. The three players combined to produce two sacks. All were released before the end of the season.

Rams decide to part ways with linebacker Bobby Wagner, who tallied a team-high 140 tackles, six sacks and two interceptions in the 2022-23 season.

Feb. 23, 2023

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Michael Hoecht emerged with 4½ sacks, but the Rams will remain in search of a premium prospect.

Floyd, 30, had nine sacks. Nearly half, however, came in the final four games when the Rams were all but eliminated from the playoffs. With a salary-cap number of $22 million, Floyd could be released or traded.

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Offensive line

The Rams last season moved to bolster their line by selecting guard/center Logan Bruss with their first pick in the third round of the draft.

Bruss suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second preseason game, the start of what became a domino effect. Injuries felled every starting lineman — and most backups — except for right tackle Rob Havenstein. The Rams finished the season with Ty Nsekhe, Matt Skura and Oday Aboushi, none of whom were on the roster at the start of the season, in starting roles.

Joe Noteboom and Alaric Jackson remain questions at left tackle. So is oft-injured center Brian Allen. Guard David Edwards, who suffered two concussions last season, is a pending free agent.

The Rams will try to address some of their offensive line needs in free agency, but they also need to build a foundation for the future through the draft.

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Defensive backs

The Rams are no doubt shopping star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is due to carry a salary-cap number of $25.2 million and is one of the team’s most tradable assets.

If the Rams don’t trade Ramsey, they still have depth issues.

Jalen Ramsey celebrates an interception.
Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey is one of the team’s most valued players, particularly when it comes to possibly making a trade this offseason.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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Cornerbacks Troy Hill and David Long Jr. are pending free agents. So are safeties Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott.

Cornerbacks Cobie Durant shone and Derion Kendrick got experience as rookies last season. Safety Jordan Fuller is expected to be fully recovered from a hamstring injury, and Russ Yeast and Quentin Lake will build on their late-season rookie experience.

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Quarterback

Matthew Stafford, 35, remains under contract through 2026 and will carry a cap number of $20 million this season.

Baker Mayfield is a pending free agent and will almost certainly opt for a situation where he can compete for a starting role — and payday. John Wolford is a pending restricted free agent, while Bryce Perkins is an exclusive rights free agent.

The Rams have not drafted a quarterback since they moved up 14 spots to select Jared Goff with the first pick in the 2016 draft. McVay and Snead could be primed to finally draft and develop another.

Brock Purdy’s late-season success with the San Francisco 49ers under coach Kyle Shanahan almost certainly stoked McVay’s competitive fire to do the same.

Tyler Higbee hauls in a pass for a touchdown.
Rams tight end Tyler Higbee, hauling in a touchdown pass against the 49ers in January, caught 72 passes last season but averaged only 8.6 yards per completion, a career low since becoming a starter in 2017.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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Tight end

The impending release of linebacker Bobby Wagner makes that a position of need. And while the Rams will evaluate prospects, inside linebacker has not been a high priority during the McVay era.

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But tight end is important to McVay’s offense.

Tyler Higbee, 30, is entering his eighth season with the Rams and will carry a cap number of $9.1 million. Last season, he caught a career-best 72 passes, but averaged only 8.6 yards per touch, the lowest of his career since becoming a starter in 2017.

Brycen Hopkins showed improvement in his third season, but as he enters the final year of his rookie contract he has yet to win McVay’s confidence as a No. 1 option.

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