Early draft preview: Will Rams pick OL early?

ST. LOUIS — The Rams have invested considerable resources in their offensive line over the past two years, with big-money free agent contracts to Jake Long and Rodger Saffold and the selection of Greg Robinson with the No. 2 overall pick this spring.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher had never used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman before taking Robinson, the massive run mauler from Southeastern Conference champion Auburn.

As we continue our early look at the prospects potentially available in the 2015 NFL Draft, we turn our attention to the offensive linemen. Here are NFL Draft Report’s early grades for offensive tackles, guards and centers.

The Rams will go into the 2014 season with a starting five of Long (if healthy) at left tackle, Robinson at left guard, Scott Wells at center, Saffold at right guard and Joe Barksdale at right tackle.

Long, who signed a four-year, $34 million deal before last season, is signed through the 2016 season. Robinson, who got a four-year, $21.284 million deal, is under contract through 2017 with a team option for 2018.

Wells signed a four-year, $24 million deal in 2012 but reworked his contract this offseason and still has three years left. Saffold, who got a $31.347 million contract this offseason after his deal with the Oakland Raiders was nixed because of a failed physical, is under contract through the 2018 season.

Barksdale, who emerged as the starter last season after Saffold went down with an injury, is the wild card here. He’s signed through this season as part of a four-year, $2.579 million deal he signed back in 2011 but will become a free agent after the season, like Saffold did this past offseason.

If Barksdale has another season like he did in 2013, he’ll command a lot more money at the end of the 2014 campaign — either from the Rams or from anybody looking for a right tackle in his mid-to-late 20’s.

It’s unlikely the Rams would be able to commit big money to Barksdale next offseason considering the contracts they’ve already handed to Long and Saffold, so the team will either shift Robinson to right tackle, need to develop another of their youngsters or use another first-round pick on a tackle.

Robinson has a chance to be a dominating guard, especially in the run game, but all signs point to him eventually moving back to one of the tackle spots. It’s possible Robinson moves to left tackle, where he starred at Auburn, with Long shifting over to the right side.

Yes, there could be lots of moving parts along the St. Louis offensive line in the future. The development of the Rams’ youngsters, including interior guys like Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones and Brandon Washington, could be the key about whether the Rams will need to use a high pick next spring on another lineman or if they will address another area.

More early draft preview stories:

Rams' options at WR, TE

Rams have options at RB

Will Rams need a QB?

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.

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