This is the fourth in a series of 10 looks at the available prospects in the draft, with a focus on players who could end up as Redskins. Other installments: Safety | offensive line | cornerbacks

The Rams could use one of the picks in the haul from the trade with the Redskins to draft Eddie Lacy, above, as Stephen Jackson’s replacement. (Vasha Hunt/Associated Press)

The St. Louis Rams said their goodbyes earlier this offseason to veteran running back Steven Jackson, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, and in recent days they hosted former Alabama running back Eddie Lacy in a pre-draft visit. There is speculation that the Rams potentially could take Lacy with one of their two opening-round selections in the NFL draft next Thursday night.

If that happens, it would be a significant pick for a few reasons. It would keep intact a five-decade-old streak of at least one running back being chosen annually in the draft’s opening round. And it could potentially make Lacy part of the Rams’ draft haul resulting from last year’s trade with the Washington Redskins that enabled quarterback Robert Griffin III to land in D.C.

The Rams have this draft’s 16th and 22nd overall selections, with the 22nd choice coming from the Redskins in the Griffin trade. The Redskins traded their first-round picks last year, this year and next year to the Rams, along with a second-rounder last year, to move up to second overall. They drafted Griffin, who responded with a memorable rookie season that included an NFC East title and the Associated Press offensive rookie of the year award.

But the Rams, too, are enjoying the benefits of the deal. They traded down twice more during last year’s draft to turn the two picks from the Redskins into four players — defensive tackle Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, running back Isaiah Pead and guard Rokevious Watkins. The Rams believe that, with the trade’s help, they have begun to build a deep and talented roster capable of challenging the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks for supremacy in the NFC West.

“Teams win games,” Rams General Manager Les Snead said at the NFL scouting combine. “Teams win championships. And the thing is, as you make that team, the more talented individuals you can bring to your team, the better chance your team has to win.”

Lacy is the highest-rated running back in a draft class that, to some, lacks a clear-cut first-rounder. There has been some talk in and around the league that this could be the first draft since 1963 without a running back being selected in the opening round. It is, after all, a pass-first league, perhaps more so than ever. And successful runners can be found later in the draft. The Redskins got running back Alfred Morris in last year’s sixth round, and he finished second in the league in rushing as a rookie.

Lacy said at the combine he understands the nature of the current NFL game. But highly productive runners still have their place in the sport, he said.

“I know they pass the ball a lot,” Lacy said. “But at the same time, having a guy who can run the ball a lot benefits your offense. In short-yardage plays, you can’t really throw the ball when it’d be easier to run it. If you have that running back, it’s not a problem.”

Lacy followed Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson in the succession of standout Alabama tailbacks. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry last season while running for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns. He finished with superb performances against Georgia and Notre Dame, and some project him as a more-than-capable replacement for Jackson in the St. Louis offense.

“The reality of the situation is when I started, we were picking number two in the draft,” Snead said at the combine. “This year, we’re picking [No.] 16. So we progressed. . . . I think those things point to a positive, positive future.”

Maske’s top 10 running backs

Rnk, Player, School Ht., Wt. Proj. Rd.
1 Eddie Lacy, Alabama 5-11, 231 1-2
2 Giovani Bernard, UNC 5-8, 202 2-3
3 Montee Ball, Wisconsin 5-10, 214 2-3
4 Johnathan Franklin, UCLA 5-10, 205 2-3
5 Andre Ellington, Clemson 5-9, 199 2-3
6 Christine Michael, Texas A&M 5-10, 222 2-3
7 Joseph Randle, Okla. State 6-0, 204 2-3
8 Marcus Lattimore, S. Carolina 5-11, 221 3-4
9 Stepfan Taylor, Stanford 5-9, 214 3-4
10 Le’Veon Bell, Michigan St. 6-2, 230 3-4

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Draft position previews: Cornerbacks | Offensive linemen | Safeties

Draft tracker: See reports on the major prospects