LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Rams made one of the NFL's biggest turnarounds last season, then made more changes than just about anybody. Clearly, 11-5 was not good enough. The Rams sensed a rare championship window, helped largely by the modest salary of their franchise quarterback. So they acquired a couple of All-Pro cornerbacks, picked up a standout wide receiver and signed one of the game's most decorated interior pass rushers. Now the offseason program looms, and the Rams' front office has shifted its focus to the NFL draft and to re-signing some key players. In the meantime, we rank 10 Rams positions based on overall talent and depth, from best to worst.
Wide receiver: Brandin Cooks is the icing on the cake here. The Rams gave up their first-round pick for a player on the last year of his rookie contract, but they did so with confidence that they can sign him long term. Cooks is a quintessential deep threat -- more so than even Sammy Watkins -- who can consistently create separation and open things up for Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Signing Cooks won't be easy, especially considering the average salaries attained by Watkins ($16 million), Jarvis Landry ($15.1 million) and Allen Robinson ($14 million) this offseason. But once the Rams lock him up, they'll have an elite receiver trio for years to come. The guys behind them -- Josh Reynolds, Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas -- are young and talented.
Cornerback: The Rams' biggest deficiency heading into the offseason has become one of their biggest strengths. Trading for Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters will do that. Talib, set to cost $19 million toward the cap over the next two years, and Peters, making $1.74 million in the season before his rookie option, have combined for 54 interceptions and seven Pro Bowl appearances. They form a devastating, ball-hawking duo. Then there's Nickell Robey-Coleman, one of the game's best slot corners, who's back on a three-year contract. If the Rams can get anything out of Sam Shields, a former Pro Bowl corner who missed most of the past two years because of concussions, they'd have a special group. If not, they have Troy Hill and Kevin Peterson, who stepped up down the stretch last season. The Rams are in such good shape here that they chose to part with the rehabbing Kayvon Webster to create room in their salary cap, which Webster was not happy about.
Defensive line: Ndamukong Suh -- signed to a one-year, $14 million contract -- forms an elite pairing with Aaron Donald. How elite? Well, no team has ever employed two defensive tackles who have each been first-team All-Pro on three occasions. In other words, the Suh-Donald duo is unprecedented. The Rams' third down lineman, Michael Brockers, isn't too shabby, either. Suh will play mostly nose tackle, but defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will move them all around, and the Rams will be about as good as anybody at getting to the quarterback. The Rams might soon make Donald the game's highest-paid defensive player, but Suh may end up playing only one year in L.A. And behind them, the depth is suspect. An under-the-radar player to watch here is Dominique Easley, who's coming off another torn ACL but can be an elite defensive end when healthy.
Safety: Lamarcus Joyner became Pro Football Focus' third-highest-graded safety in his first NFL season playing the position. But he's back only on a one-year franchise tag. The Rams have until July 16 to sign him to a long-term contract. If they do, they can pair Joyner with the young John Johnson to form an elite safety duo for years to come. If not, they might be scrambling once again at a position in which they previously lost Rodney McLeod. The Rams lost a key depth piece at safety over the offseason in Cody Davis, so now they'll count on the likes of Blake Countess, Marqui Christian and Isaiah Johnson.
Running back: Todd Gurley, reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, is basically all you need here. He has only two years left on his rookie contract, but franchising him makes sense given the relatively low salaries for top running backs throughout the league. In other words, the Rams will employ one of the game's best running backs for several more years. Behind Gurley are Malcolm Brown, who displayed good signs as a backup last year, and Justin Davis, an elusive runner who had issues holding on to the football. An interesting name here is Tavon Austin. The Rams surprisingly brought him back with a restructured contract, but that was before trading for Cooks. If they keep Austin, they could use him as a change-of-pace running back.
Offensive line: The Rams return the same offensive line that played very well last season, but there's a lot of uncertainty here beyond 2018. Three starters -- Rodger Saffold, Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein -- can be free agents next offseason. The other two are Andrew Whitworth (36 years old) and John Sullivan (32, with a history of back injuries). Whitworth, Sullivan and Saffold all have a lot of mileage on them, but they all stayed healthy throughout the 2017 season. The Rams can't really count on that again. Look for them to target some young offensive linemen in the draft in order to build more sustainability at this position.
Quarterback: Two offseasons ago, the Rams traded up 14 spots to make sure they don't have to worry about this position for a long time. And Jared Goff showed them they might not have to. Goff's Pro Bowl season in 2017 made the Rams feel at ease. And the fact he's still three years away from making major money has allowed them to take on big salaries elsewhere. But what if something happens to Goff? His backup, Sean Mannion, who's in his final year before free agency, has thrown only 50 NFL passes. The third-string quarterback, Brandon Allen, has thrown zero. No Nick Foles or Case Keenum in this group, it seems.
Tight end: The Rams are youngest here, with Tyler Higbee (25), Gerald Everett (23) and Temarrick Hemingway (24). They're all supremely athletic, and Higbee and Everett specifically are talented pass-catchers. But they all still need to develop, especially as blockers. Higbee and Everett combined to haul in 41 of 77 targets for 539 yards last season, falling behind Watkins, Woods, Kupp and Gurley in the pecking order. The Rams ran very few two-tight-end sets with them, despite the promise that they carried into 2017. Rams coach Sean McVay would like to change that this season, but it's hard to fit both of them on the field with so much talent at receiver and running back.
Inside linebacker: Get familiar with Cory Littleton. You might be already, given that he blocked two punts last season. But now Littleton figures to play a lot of inside linebacker in place of Alec Ogletree, the two-time Rams captain who was traded to the New York Giants over the offseason. Littleton -- or perhaps former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Ramik Wilson, who was recently added -- will play alongside stalwart Mark Barron at a position that was mostly responsible for the Rams' struggles against the run last season. There's some uncertainty here, but not as much uncertainty as there is at ...
Outside linebacker: Robert Quinn, with 62.5 career sacks, was traded to the Miami Dolphins, and Connor Barwin, with 55.5 career sacks, remains a free agent. The Rams will have two new starters here. One of them might be Samson Ebukam, a fourth-round pick out of Eastern Washington last year who displayed good pass-rushing skills in spurts last season. The Rams also have Matt Longacre, who proved to be a capable backup for Quinn. But they need more here. Ideally, the Rams would find a suitable plug-and-play guy in the draft. But that's hard to do when you don't have a pick in the first two rounds.