As we headed toward the 2019 NFL Draft, I pointed out the significant deficit the Rams had incurred in the last four offseasons between the numbers of players and draft picks the Los Angeles Rams had sent away and those they had brought in. With a deficit of about 13 players and/or picks, the Rams had a major hole in the middle of their offense (not at the top) that they needed to begin to address substantively. I thought the easiest and best way to do that was to trade down in the draft which is precisely what the Rams did under General Manager Les Snead’s supervision.
But one point I wanted to make that I never got around to was a second reason the Rams could afford to, and thus should, trade down.
They had as much top-tier talent if not more than anyone.
In the 2018 NFL Top 100 as voted on by the players themselves, the Rams were one of two teams (along with the Minnesota Vikings) to have seven players selected. Perhaps more relevant at this point is that six of those seven players are returning. And it’s not just that the Rams have a legitimately wide top tier. It’s that it’s wider at the top than anyone. While the Rams had two players in the top 10, the Vikings had none. And the Steelers had two in the top 10 but six in the top 100 overall.
Suffice to say, the Rams have as much top talent and as much at the top as anyone in the NFL. While I meant to make that point heading into the draft as motivation to trade down and fill in spots that likely populate a hypothetical list from 101-250, Pro Football Focus tweeted out their ratings for projected starters across the NFC West that they have rated 80 or higher on their 100-point scale while noting honorable mentions over 75.
Not surprisingly, the Rams lead the way. By a large margin.
The Rams have eight starters (three on defense, five on offense) rated higher than 80: DL Aaron Donald (95.0), LT Andrew Whitworth (86.1), QB Jared Goff (85.9), WR Robert Woods (85.9), S John Johnson III (83.7), S Eric Weddle (83.7), RT Rob Havenstein (81.8) and WR Brandin Cooks (81.2).
Looking across the division, the Seattle Seahawks have six players over 80, the San Francisco 49ers four and the Arizona Cardinals with just two.
But widening the gap is the number of players rated 75 or higher but less than 80 that made PFF’s honorable mention cut.
The Seahawks didn’t have one such player. The Cardinals and Niners each had one apiece.
The Rams have five.
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (79.8), WR Cooper Kupp (77.4), RB Todd Gurley (77.4), TE Gerald Everett (76.6) and CB Aqib Talib (76.6) all come in at that second tier.
Projected starters for the Rams with 80.0+ grades last year pic.twitter.com/SiDoguvh2O— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 15, 2019
Projected Seahawks starters with 80.0+ PFF grades last year pic.twitter.com/fZBx6NKVl3— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 15, 2019
Projected starters for the 49ers with 80.0+ PFF grades in 2018 pic.twitter.com/7pJ7M9RQbC— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 15, 2019
Projected starters in Arizona with 80.0+ PFF grades from a season ago pic.twitter.com/RQ8TpAzui5— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 15, 2019
The combined totals from both tiers?
The Cardinals had three. The Niners had five. The Seahawks had six. The Rams had 13.
And that’s just stark, quantified evidence of why the Rams didn’t need to hold pat at #31. We’ve got plenty of talent that lines up with the caliber of prospect you can get at that point in the draft. And not only do we have plenty of it, we have significantly more of it than our competitors especially, as PFF’s ratings show, within our own division.
We don’t need top talents anywhere near as much as other teams across the NFL.
We have tons of it already.