I’m not disagreeing that the Rams could use some draft capital on the offensive line. I’d just hedge against going all in just because the need erupted in 2015. Otherwise we might be looking at the 2018 NFL Draft with a dozen highly drafted offensive linemen screaming to empty the payload for cornerbacks and running backs when those cupboards go bare.
I said that three years ago as the then-St. Louis Rams went into the 2015 NFL Draft with a severe need on the offensive line. After a season of LT Greg Robinson, a late career-version of C Scott Wells and RG Davin Joseph, Rams fans were left wanting for talent on the line. And after spending the #10 overall pick in that draft on RB Just Todd Gurley, the Rams went all-in on an effort to stockpile offensive linemen. They took four in the draft (RT Rob Havenstein at #57, RG Jamon Brown at #72, OL Andrew Donnal at #119 and G Cody Wichmann at 215) and then even went so far as to use a future pick, their 2016 NFL Draft fifth-rounder, in the 2015 Supplemental Draft on OT Isaiah Battle.
The Rams went all-in on offensive linemen, and predictably it didn’t work out. Yes, they got two starters in Havenstein and Brown but none of the other three were on the roster by the end of last season. And even to that end, Havenstein and Brown are going into contract years in which they’re largely playing to audition for a contract extension for 2019 and beyond. As it stands, I’m not sure either would receive one. And those needs I mentioned at cornerback and running back? As the offseason began, cornerback was the top consensus need until the Rams pulled off two major trades to satisfy (at least at the top of the draft chart) the need. And while JTG remains the obvious, unquestioned RB1, there is some space for a training camp battle for the RB2 spot.
Such is the nature of overdrafting. It creates the space for needs to pop up elsewhere.
So as we look to the 2018 NFL Draft beginning on Thursday, there’s one clear effort the Rams shouldn’t make especially given that, barring any trades up from General Manager Les Snead, they don’t pick until #87.
They shouldn’t draft for need. At all.
That’s not to say they shouldn’t draft an edge rusher or an inside linebacker or even offensive line depth. But they shouldn’t do so at the exclusion of talent that they assess to have more longevity at this level than players who fit an immediate need.
The time to fill their 2018 roster needs was in 2015. And 2016. And 2017. And even in the wild period the Rams used to bring in CB Marcus Peters and CB Aqib Talib and WR Brandin Cooks.
Now? It’s too late.
The last four rounds of the draft are too depleted with talent to assume that needs can be filled there. The stronger play is just to take players who can stick on a 53-man roster in 2019.
Consider the picks for the Rams taken either at #87 or later under Snead since 2012:
- 2012: WR Chris Givens (#96), G Rokevious Watkins (#150), K Greg Zuerlein (#171), LB Aaron Brown (#209) and RB Daryl Richardson (#252)
- 2013: WR Stedman Bailey (#92), OL Barrett Jones (#113), CB Brandon McGee (#149) and RB Zac Stacy (#160)
- 2014: S Maurice Alexander (#110), CB E.J. Gaines (#188), QB Garrett Gilbert (#214), OL Mitchell Van Dyk (#226), DE Michael Sam (#249) and C Demetrius Rhaney (#250)
- 2015*: QB Sean Mannion (#89), OL Andrew Donnal (#119), WR Bud Sasser (#201), G Cody Wichmann (#215), ILB Bryce Hager (#224) and DE Martin Ifedi (#227)
- 2016*: TE Tyler Higbee (#110), WR Pharoh Cooper (#117), OT Isaiah Battle (#155), TE Temarrick Hemingway (#177), LB Josh Forrest (#190), WR Mike Thomas (#206)
* The Rams also spent their 2016 NFL Draft fifth-round pick, which would have been selection #155, on OT Isaiah Battle in the 2015 Supplemental Draft
- 2017: S John Johnson III (#91), WR Josh Reynolds (#117), OLB Samson Ebukam (#125), DT Tanzel Smart (#189), FB Sam Rogers (#206) and OLB Ejuan Price (#234)
Suffice to say, it’s just very, very difficult to get functional talent that can stick once you get to this point in the draft. Trying to target this space for linebackers and/or OL depth could well cost the Rams an E.J. Gaines, a diamond in the rough that might not fit a position of need.
Day 3 is just about finding football players regardless of position who can contribute. That’s hard enough. Pigeonholing that effort down to just three positions? Probably impossible.
There’s a very good chance the Rams already have their starting offensive and defensive rosters in place. That’s hardly a bad thing.
So later this week, the Rams and Snead should draft like it and forget about roster needs.