St. Louis Rams: Five Best Position Battles Heading into OTAs

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Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

1. Center

Candidates: Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones, Demetrius Rhaney

The Rams didn’t draft a center or get one with substantial NFL starting experience this offseason, so it will be a wide-open competition heading into the regular season.

Despite the fact that the Rams non-tendered him this offseason and allowed him to test the free agent market before bringing him back on a cheaper deal, the early favorite to win the job seems to be Tim Barnes, who is listed at the top of the team’s current depth chart. The 6-foot-4, 306-pound Barnes started four games in 2013 following a season-ending injury to starter Scott Wells and performed rather well. Despite coming into the league as an undrafted free agent, Barnes has found a way to stick around with the Rams for four years, and if he’s ever going to be a starter in the NFL, now would be the time for him to establish himself and earn a job.

The same could be said of third-year lineman Barrett Jones, who has had the early part of his NFL career derailed by injuries. Jones, a former Outland and Rimington Trophy winner, was very highly-regarded coming out of college but fell to the Rams in the fourth round due to concerns about a foot injury. That injury, plus a 2014 back ailment, have made those concerns fully warranted, and Jones has been active for just 10 games over his first year in the league.

Jones saw brief action at center following an injury to Wells last year against the Kansas City Chiefs, but for the most part he’s struggled to pass up Barnes on the depth chart. Due to his college success, many view Jones as the favorite to win the job this year, but it still seems as if the Rams are apprehensive about giving him a prominent role.

The darkhorse in this whole affair may be 2014 seventh-rounder Demetrius Rhaney, who reportedly has earned the admiration of the Rams’ decision-makers. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder showed off some impressive physicality last training camp before going on injured reserve with a knee injury, and he may be the best player to fit the mold of the more athletic and physical center that more NFL teams seem to be moving toward. Since he has no regular-season experience, the Rams may be concerned about starting Rhaney if they also start rookies Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein, but when it comes down to it Rhaney may have the most upside of the bunch.

Next: 10 Greatest Undrafted Free Agents in Rams History