The LA Rams have not had a pick in the top 40 since 2016 and they aren’t set to pick until 57th this year. We also know — as we have been told many, many times — that the Rams aren’t set to pick in the first round again until 2024.
But that doesn’t mean that the first round holds no significance to the LA Rams. These are five spots in the first round to keep an eye on.
3. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers traded up from 12 to three, giving up a 2021 third and two future first round picks in the process to the Miami Dolphins. San Francisco general manager John Lynch did this for only one reason: to upgrade the quarterback position.
As of now, the debate rages on between Justin Fields, Mac Jones, and Trey Lance, and I believe that Jones will be the pick. I also believe that Jones would be the perfect pick for the 49ers, as he excels in the areas that Kyle Shanahan values and his lack of arm strength or downfield accuracy should be easily mitigated by what the offense does well. Jones’ anticipation, intermediate accuracy, and decision-making should give San Francisco an immediate upgrade at the position over Jimmy Garoppolo, which I think would lead to the team trading the veteran in the fall and saving over $23 million.
Lance may take several years to develop and would not likely be able to facilitate a Garoppolo trade or a change at the position in 2021. In the case of Fields, 49ers blogger Grant Cohn seems to think that while he has intriguing upside, his weaknesses mirror that of Garoppolo.
“The Niners offense is: make a quick, accurate decision, get the ball out of your hands, be a distributor, not a playmaker. (Fields) is a playmaker, he’s not a natural distributor. When I say that, he holds the ball a long time — there’s stats to show that — and the other thing is that when you watch the tape, unlike Mac Jones, who gets the ball out of his hands quickly, doesn’t hold it very long, and reads the defense correctly, gets the ball to the right read more often than not, that is Justin Fields’ weakness. I’m not saying he’s a one-read quarterback because that’s too simple — his ability to make a decision quickly is not there yet. Who is that like? Jimmy.”
That discussion starts around 23:00 below:
49ers After Dark: What to Make of All the Mac Jones Rumors https://t.co/TeHCFv6rWZ— Grant Cohn (@grantcohn) April 8, 2021
But it is also possible that Jones will never become a universally accepted top-10 quarterback, whereas many people do believe that Fields and Lance provide that kind of upside. There’s no “right answer” for the 49ers that we know of today but there will be a definitive answer by April 29 that we can start to debate. Again.
7. Detroit Lions
What does “Rams Midwest” look like?
First, the Lions hired Brad Holmes to be their general manager. Then he brought Ray Agnew with him. Then they hired Aubrey Pleasant to help coach the defense. And then a trade for Jared Goff, followed by a trade for Michael Brockers.
Detroit is building a team that will somewhat resemble what the Rams do, but as we’ve seen with the New England Patriots for the last two decades, including in Detroit, those efforts often fail. Could the Lions be able to build an NFC team that is even better than the one that Les Snead and Sean McVay will manage to put on the field in 2022 and beyond?
The Lions pick seventh and they’ve been mocked to pretty much any name you can think of that would fall in that range. Holmes may choose to go with a best player available approach and land on Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, Penei Sewell, DeVonta Smith, Jaycee Horn, or Rashawn Slater. Or they could decide to take the best quarterback left on the board, almost assuring that Goff will be on the move again in a year or two?
16. Arizona Cardinals
Who else joins the NFC West?
Outside of taking a quarterback or a free safety, there’s almost nothing that the Cardinals could do that wouldn’t seem like a good idea. Despite the fact that they were 8-8 last season and probably a popular sleeper pick in 2021 given the additions of J.J. Watt and Rodney Hudson (and I guess A.J. Green, but I really can’t emphasize enough how poorly he played in 2020), you’d think that Arizona would have fewer obvious needs.
But I think the Cardinals’ biggest draft struggle will be deciding between a receiver, a running back, a defensive tackle or a cornerback in the first round, while they could still justifiably pick any offensive lineman, a linebacker, an edge rusher, or a safety. The only reason I didn’t list tight end is because I’m not sure there will be a first round tight end after Kyle Pitts.
For that reason, a BPA approach seems obvious for the Cardinals and that makes it really difficult to project what direction they will go in.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Is this where the first center comes off the board?
There aren’t a lot of teams that have as clear of a need at center as the Rams currently do and that could be an area of focus on the first 56 picks of the draft: will any team select a center ahead of Los Angeles? Will any of Landon Dickerson, Creed Humphrey, or Quinn Meinerz be first round picks?
The Steelers are one such team, though B.J. Finney is expected to be able to pull off that job next season, if needed. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh also picks again at 55, two ahead of LA’s first pick.
There are other teams that could pick a center, including quite a few that know they’ll need to address the position by 2022, such as: Houston, Seattle, Atlanta, Philadelphia, NYG, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, and Cincinnati. So it’s not as though the Steelers are the only team to keep an eye on.
But they could be the team that sets off a run on interior linemen at some point.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars
Remember when the Rams had this pick?
This pick used to belong to Los Angeles, just like the rights to Jalen Ramsey used to belong to Jacksonville. Now they’ve swapped and the Rams must be elated that they have Ramsey.
However, this pick at 25 is at least a moment to fantasize about what could have been, and while that may seem torturous to most of you, I don’t think it should be. Recognize that even if a good player will fall to this point in the draft, so will a lot of disappointing players. And very few who will be nearly as valuable as Ramsey, even if the Rams did give up two picks in this range.
Yes, LA might have been able to draft the number one center or an electrifying skill player or an edge rusher or a cornerback with this pick, and soon we’ll know which players fall out of the top 24, but always keep in mind that it’s not that the Rams lost this pick ... it’s that they gained Jalen Ramsey.