With just five picks, Rams’ evolving draft strategy will have to stay smart

Jeff Fisher said that while the Rams may have fewer picks this year, they also have fewer holes to fill.

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Rams find themselves in an unusual place as draft and free agency preparations ramp up this week at the Scouting Combine in frigid Indianapolis.

The Jeff Fisher and Les Snead era began three years ago with the blockbuster trade of the second overall draft pick to the Washington Redskins, a deal that set the stage for several other moves in three drafts that resulted in the Rams trading 13 picks, acquiring 15 and selecting 28 players.

Combine that with a trade last October to secure safety Mark Barron from Tampa Bay in exchange for fourth- and sixth-round picks in this year’s draft, and you could say the Rams have been left barren. St. Louis has only five selections in the 2015 draft, which will be held in Chicago.

"I feel like we’re drafting on a diet," Snead said this week.

While it’s possible that the Rams could receive a late-round compensatory selection or trade down for additional choices, Snead noted that "we have to plan as if we only have five." 

Of the seven draft-day trades the Rams have made since 2012 — including the Redskins deal — the Rams moved down three times and moved up four. Most important, as Snead’s draft strategy has evolved, the belief is that the roster is in much better shape now than it was when he and Fisher were hired after the 2012 season.

"We’ve moved up, we’ve moved back and have done what’s best at the time," Fisher said. "We have to prepare ourselves for that. But we also have fewer holes than we did in the last couple years."

Echoed Snead: "We’ve evolved to the point where the glaring needs are probably less and less. The wants are always there. Like a kid in a candy store, you want a lot. The wants will always be there, but we have to use each pick strategically and try to build our football team. The needs become more specific."

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One of the biggest questions as March 10 and the new league year approaches centers on how a smaller number of picks could affect the Rams’ stated goal of potentially drafting a rookie quarterback. Would that be a consideration, especially in the first three rounds, if the choice is between selecting a quarterback or opting for another position that would likely help the team more in the short term?

Snead acknowledged that could "complicate" things, but added: "If it got to the value of the quarterbacks where you think one is there and you think he has a future, that would definitely be the time to take one. It wouldn’t be a waste at all."

Fisher said Friday that the hiring of Chris Weinke as the team’s new quarterbacks coach was done largely because of his ability to work with young quarterbacks. Of course, that could also include Austin Davis, who will likely be tendered as a restricted free agent. In fact, Davis will be 26 in June, while Sam Bradford doesn’t turn 28 until November. They’re not exactly old-timers.

"We’re going to have a young quarterback," Fisher said. "I don’t think anyone is better qualified to help develop a young quarterback than (Chris)."

Still, even with fewer holes, there is much to be done with the start of free agency only 17 days away. After all, more holes could be created if right tackle Joe Barksdale, wide receiver Kenny Britt and tight end Lance Kendricks all leave as unrestricted free agents.

Even if that trio is re-signed, Fisher said the Rams could be more active in free agency because of the paucity of draft picks. Before that happens, there will likely have to be several contract restructures with the candidates being Bradford, tackle Jake Long, defensive tackle Kendall Langford, center Scott Wells and defensive end Robert Quinn that create more salary-cap space.

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"There’s a chance (for activity)," Fisher said. "You have to look at where your resources are to get better and what are the options. When you have fewer picks, you probably make a few more moves in free agency."

Howard Balzer can be heard daily on H & Friends from 9-11 a.m. on FoxSportsRadio 1490.