CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Rams draft needs: Filling holes around Bradford


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The St. Louis Rams' front office can rest easy for the next decade.

They have their quarterback.

Sam Bradford showed as a rookie in 2010 that he has a real chance to be this team's franchise quarterback for a long time. Bradford, who was the top pick in the 2010 draft, led the Rams to a 7-9 record and they just missed out on a division title when they lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the final week of the season.

Bradford threw for 3,512 yards and completed 60 percent of his passes, all without a top-tier receiver.

The Rams protected him some by running the ball with Steven Jackson and not asking him to do too much.

That will change this season. Bradford will take on more of the offense, which means general manager Billy Devaney has to get him help in the passing game. The Rams pick 14th in the first round and might take a receiver there. But they have a lot of other needs -- like corner, safety and linebacker and defensive tackle -- so they could wait to take a receiver.

Five possibilities: Rams
Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: They have to get some help for Sam Bradford. Jones has moved up on a lot of team's boards because of his postseason work.
Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: This is a kid who would help fill a major need. He's a rising player.
Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: He was considered a potential first-round pick before the season and some scouts think he still has that ability. He could go to the Rams in the second round.
Titus Young, WR, Boise State: He has some character issues, but he can run. Think DeSean Jackson.
Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky: If they go defense in the first round and Young is too risky, Cobb could be a possibility.
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With Bradford in the fold, the Rams have a chance to build something special. Devaney has done a nice job since taking over as GM two years ago. He has landed five starters in the past two drafts.

The Rams aren't far off. With a couple of added players, they should be a playoff team in 2011.

Landing Bradford sure takes the pressure off for the next 10 years, and should ensure the Rams sustain success. That's what good quarterbacks do, and Bradford certainly has that look.

It has to be comforting for Devaney to know he made the right pick last year when many called for him to take defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

That's laughable now -- even with how dominant Suh was last season for the Lions.

QB: Bradford does need to be more of a downfield thrower this season. He sometimes had a tendency to take the easy throw. That will change as he matures. He has the arm and he has the mind to find the right guy, but he needs to be more daring. His yards-per-attempt number should go up this season. A.J. Feeley is the backup. He is a nice veteran presence to have on the roster. There were some who actually thought Feeley might start the season, but Bradford made enough progress to win the job and become a 16-game starter.

RB: Jackson is a tough runner who probably has been hurt some in his career by a lack of talent around him. He ran for 1,241 yards last season, but he didn't have the same big-play ability he had the previous couple of seasons. Is he slowing down? He turns 28 this summer, so you have to wonder. Kenneth Darby and Keith Toston are the backups. Neither is much more than that. The Rams might look for a speed complement to Jackson to help keep him fresh. Brit Miller is expected to be the fullback.

WR: Danny Amendola led the team with 85 catches. That shouldn't happen. He is a possession receiver who should be a No. 3 option. But injuries really crippled this unit. Mark Clayton suffered a torn ACL after four games and Donnie Avery missed the entire season after tearing up his knee. Losing those two really impacted the offense. Avery was expected to be the deep speed. Clayton is a free agent who is said to be coming back. Amendola played well, but he doesn't scare down the field. Laurent Robinson, who also could be a free agent, isn't the answer on the other side. Brandon Gibson flashed some, but he's inconsistent. 2010 third-round pick Mardy Gilyard was expected to be the slot receiver, but he was a bit of a disappointment. Danario Alexander isn't the answer either. They need help here. And the rehabs of some of the injured will be factors come this season.

TE: The Rams like 2010 draft pick Michael Hoomanawanui. He was bothered by injuries as a rookie, but he flashed in the preseason and he made some nice plays when he was on the field. He should be one of Bradford's favorite targets. Daniel Fells played decent when Hoomanawanui was out, catching 41 passes. He is more of a receiving tight end than a blocker and could be a free agent. Billy Bajema is the blocking tight end. They could consider a tight end in the second or third round.

OL: The big addition last season was second-round pick Rodger Saffold. He started all 16 games as a rookie and showed the ability to be a Pro Bowl player in a few years. He was projected to be a right tackle, but his addition allowed the Rams to move Jason Smith to the right side. He played much better than he did on the left side. Those two should form a nice duo for years to come. The interior has a solid center in Jason Brown. He is a smart player who keeps the young unit together. The guards are just OK. Jacob Bell is the left guard and Adam Goldberg and John Greco each had starts at right guard. They need to be tougher inside. The Rams could draft a strong inside player at some point in this draft.

DL: This was a unit that surprised a lot of people in 2010. Chris Long started to look like a first-round pick. He had 8½ sacks and played the run well. He's a bit undersized, but he makes up for it with his relentless play. James Hall had a good season on the other side with 11 sacks and rookie George Selvie flashed some pass-rush ability. Even with those three, the Rams could probably use one more rush player, although they do like Eugene Sims some. The tackle spot isn't as good. Fred Robbins is a solid veteran but they could use help next to him. Gary Gibson is just OK and Clifton Ryan, who played in just one game because of headache issues, isn't the long-term answer. They could use help inside. Gibson could be a free agent. LB: Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is one of the best young linebackers in the game. He is a fierce player who excels in both run and pass defense. He loves the game, and it shows. He will be the leader of the defense for years to come. The rest of the unit lacks punch. Veteran Na'il Diggs was OK at one spot, but he injured a shoulder late and didn't finish the season. He isn't a long-term answer. The other spot is a mess. There were a lot of players getting time but none is really considered a top-notch starter. The Rams need a speed linebacker. It would not be a big surprise to see them take one in the first couple of rounds. Larry Grant and David Vobora are just guys.

DB: Corner Ronald Bartell is a good, solid cover player. He played well in 2010 after a disappointing 2009 season. He is clearly their best cover player. Bradley Fletcher, the other corner, had a good 2010 season after tearing an ACL in 2009. The backups are Kevin Dockery and Justin King, but both could be free agents. Dockery is a favorite of coach Steve Spagnuolo, who coached him when he was with the New York Giants. The Rams let safety O.J. Atogwe go and he signed with the Redskins, so they have a hole in their back end that needs to be filled. Darian Stewart could fill that role. He played well on special teams and when he saw time in the back end last season as a rookie. James Butler and Craig Dahl are also in the mix. Dahl started 13 games and did a decent job, but he isn't great in coverage. Butler is due a big roster bonus, and he isn't as good as some think.

Photo by Getty Images

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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