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NFL St Louis Rams

St. Louis Rams: NFL Combine Provides New Targets For 2014 NFL Draft

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St. Louis Rams: NFL Combine Provides New Targets For 2014 NFL Draft

Rams
Brian Spurlock - USA Today Sports

The Rams started off the season slow last year, but they came on strong and showed flashes of what they're capable of in the future. Even without quarterback Sam Bradford at the helm, they were able to produce offensively with a combination of speed and scheming. The defense played well at times, but most of that came from pressure generated by the front four. Improvements will have to be made up and down the roster in order for this team to compete in a tough NFC West next year.

Defensive line was a pretty solid unit in St. Louis last season and that kept them from collapsing on defense, but the linebacking corps and secondary need to see major improvement going into 2014. With the 2nd and 13th overall picks in the upcoming draft, they're more than capable of addressing those issues. They also will need help up front on offense in order to make sure Bradford doesn't suffer another costly injury this season. It's reasonable to think that he may not be as mobile in the early going of 2014 as he continues to recover from the torn ACL that sidelined him all of last season. That being said, offensive line is an area that requires improvement as well.

In the secondary, the team could go a number of ways. Depending on how they think they can do in free agency and with their own returning players, they may decide to take either a cornerback or safety. It's possible that they could decide to take both. In that case, the secondary would likely be more solidified, which would improve the overall structure of the defense. Should their offense start producing at even higher a rate as they did toward the end of last season, that increased defensive production would be welcomed news in St. Louis.

Linebacker is another area that the team needs to address. As the heart of the defense, the 2013 corps didn't do enough to support the solid pass rush that the defensive line provided on a consistent basis. Adding one via the draft or free agency would go a long way toward pushing the Rams into contention in 2014. That being said, the team will have to determine how to allocate their picks in the upcoming draft. They can't address every major need with an instant starter. Therefore, adding through free agency will also be key. Truly, it's a matter of which positions the organization feels comfortable plugging in rookies and which positions they would be more comfortable plugging in veterans.

Playing in a stacked division will be tough for the Rams and making the playoffs will be even tougher. However, they've shown they can play their own division tough and can get offensive production by combining speed and clever play calling. More of those components infused with some new talent would go a long way toward helping the Rams be competitive next season. Here are a couple players they'll consider to include as their "new talent".

Jacob Kornhauser is a writer for RantSports.com. "Like" him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or add him to your Google+ network.

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OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (Round 1)

OT
Brian Spurlock - USA Today Sports

As one of the best two tackles in the draft, the Rams will have to seriously consider taking Matthews if they hold onto their 2nd overall pick. He would instantly provide stability up front to protect Sam Bradford and barring injury, could be a centerpiece for years to come. His size and speed projects him as a stalwart protecting the quarterback's blind side.

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WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson (Round 1)

WR
Brad Barr - USA Today Sports

Adding Watkins to the Rams would truly give them a legitimate offensive attack. While Tavon Austin was a revelation last season, he is primarily a speed receiver that takes the top off the defense. Watkins has all of the skills to be a No. 1 receiving option in the NFL. Group him with Austin, and this passing attack could compete with others in the division.

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LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama (Round 1)

LB
Chuck Cook - USA Today Sports

The Rams really need linebacking help and Mosley could provide it. He could be there when the Rams are picking 13th overall and they would have to seriously consider taking him. As more of a bruising inside linebacker, he fits their tough mentality, especially the mentality that the defensive line plays with. Based on their performance last season, the Rams could use more defenders with that tough-minded attitude.

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S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Round 1)

Ha
Daniel Shirey - USA Today Sports

The secondary is an area of concern for the Rams and they could help put that to rest by taking Clinton-Dix in the first round. He might be a reach with the 13th pick, but if they traded down, this pick would make sense. He's a play maker and the Rams need more of those on defense. Clinton-Dix has the ability to start from day one and the Rams need a few guys like that to step into their defense in 2014.

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CB Bradley Roby (Round 2)

CB
Andrew Weber - USA Today Sports

As previously mentioned, the Rams need help in the secondary and Roby is a solid second round option. If the Rams decide to go the route of selecting defensive backs based on pure coverage ability over play making ability, Roby could be their guy. Not that he can't make plays, but Roby projects as a solid cover corner who would improve pass coverage almost right away. That would give the front four more time to rush the passer and more time is when good things happen defensively.