Top Offensive Line Prospects Present Options for the Rams

Posted Feb 20, 2014

As coaches, scouts and executives from all 32 NFL teams gather in Indianapolis this week to get a glimpse of what they hope will be a promising 2014 draft class, teams gain the opportunity to not only evaluate a top prospect’s physical attributes, but also to gain a gauge on the more subtle aspects of the player. Through a series of tests and interviews, a fuller picture of the player is drawn.

If the Rams choose to lean toward the offensive line early in this year’s draft, that process could be expedited a bit. Whether the Rams should choose to select an offensive tackle with one of their two first-round draft picks remains to be seen, though the vetting of the top candidates could take considerably less legwork than usual this year.

In their first meetings with media at the NFL combine, offensive tackles Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan each discussed their respective ties to members of the Rams organization. For Matthews, it was the playing career of his father, Bruce, who was the stalwart of Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher’s offensive line in Tennessee for eight seasons. Lewan’s ties with the Rams come in the form of a bond with left tackle Jake Long, a mentor and fellow graduate of the University of Michigan. Highly-touted offensive tackle Greg Robinson did not speak to the media on Thursday, though his link to the Rams is just as strong.

Robinson, who was the anchor of Auburn’s offensive line this past fall, was a college teammate of Trent Fisher, son of the Rams’ head coach. Rams general manager Les Snead was also a graduate of Auburn, where he played tight end from 1992-93, and retains close ties to his alma mater.

The familiarity with what are arguably the top three offensive line prospects in this year’s draft class could come in handy if the Rams see a need to infuse a veteran offensive line with a bit of youthful talent. The Rams’ 2013 line saw three of its five projected starters—T Jake Long, G Harvey Dahl and C Scott Wells—miss considerable time to injury in the second half of the season, and saw T Rodger Saffold return from injury by moving to guard, a role he flourished in before moving to left tackle in Long’s stead. Despite what was at times a tumultuous year for the unit, the offense produced more points than any Rams team since 2006.

Considering the unusually adverse circumstances, Snead lauded the body of work his line produced in the past year, while acknowledging what appears to be a fluid situation entering 2014.

“This is what the offseason is for, is planning,” Snead said shortly after the conclusion of the 2013 season. “We’ve got a plan so there’s not a lot of stressing, but there are a lot of moving parts. But if there was any group I was more proud of this year, it was that group.”

Long, Dahl and Wells are under contract and are poised to make full recoveries for 2014, though this year’s trio of potential first-round tackles could present the Rams with at minimum a sturdy option for adding capable depth for the following year.

Given the familiarity the Rams have with each, the learning curve could prove to be shorte than most.