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How the Rams’ lack of future first round picks could impact their first choice in 2021

Why offensive tackle could be rising up the boards

California v Stanford Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

The last time the LA Rams had their first round draft pick in the same year as that draft was 2019, when the team elected to trade down from 31st to 45th, as the Atlanta Falcons wanted Kaleb McGary. In 2017, the first rounder had been traded the previous year, as was the case in 2020 following the Jalen Ramsey deal, which also sapped Les Snead of his first rounder this April.

So knowing that Snead also traded his first round picks in 2022 and 2023 for Matthew Stafford this year, how could the Rams approach the 2021 NFL Draft differently given the knowledge that they won’t be able to use first round picks to fill needs in the next two offseasons?

This is not a consideration I have seen brought up before and I do think that it is important. Especially when you take into account that because the Rams traded for a quarterback, that means that they won’t need to draft a quarterback in the first round in 2022. Essentially, Los Angeles used its 2022 first round pick on a quarterback already, it just so happens that he’s 33 and not as cheap.

But if the Rams hadn’t made a move for Stafford, there seems to be a high possibility that Sean McVay would have pushed hard to draft one early next year. That’s a situation that is currently frustrating a number of head coaches who are still looking and finding it quite expensive to move in the draft, such as Vic Fangio, Matt Rhule, Ron Rivera, and Bill Belichick.

Kyle Shanahan found out that the cost for Mac Jones was three first round picks.

(The Rams are using a 2021 third, a 2022 first, and a 2023 first on Stafford; the 49ers appear set to use a 2021 first, a 2022 first, and a 2023 first to acquire Jones, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance.)

We could also use this information to deduce what position Los Angeles might be more likely to pick with their 57th overall selection given that we know for a fact they won’t be able to pick that position in the first round in 2022 or 2023 barring another deal. What do I mean?

  • Teams typically like to find franchise QBs in the first round, but the Rams don’t need to do that now. Scratch QB off the list, but we knew that already.
  • Teams typically also tend to find franchise tackles in the first round too. Of the 112 tackles drafted in rounds 1, 2, and 3 since 2008, there have been 18 Pro Bowl players and 15 of them have gone multiple times. Of those 15, 12 were drafted in the first round. Kelechi Osemele, Terron Armstead, and Orlando Brown would be the three exceptions. No, “Pro Bowl” is not the definer of a good tackle, but this won’t change the fact that teams have long emphasized tackle early in the draft and this will make it difficult for other organizations to find quality players at the position on days two and three. More so than most other positions, I contend.
  • Given the number of talented receivers who seem to be entering the league recently, I could see the argument that teams will be emphasizing cornerbacks and linebacker-safety types who excel in coverage against tight ends and the slot.

The Rams can’t fill any needs in the first round this year, but they also won’t be able to do that in the next two years.

So I believe that we should consider that to some degree, Snead and McVay will have to look on the board when they’re on the clock and if there’s a tackle who they think could fill in for Andrew Whitworth or Rob Havenstein in the future, or a defensive back who they think could be harder to come by in a year or two because of an increasing emphasis on the passing game and the players they have to cover in the NFC West (Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, DeAndre Hopkins, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Tyler Lockett, etc.), then perhaps a center or a player who seems to fit a more “obvious” current needs falls down the list of priorities.

This is when I start to believe that maybe an offensive tackle — and not one who is expected to slide inside and stay there forever — could be the first pick for the Rams this month. This is also expected to be a deeper-than-usual class at tackle and the unusual circumstances might indeed push some better options down the board. And that wouldn’t be something that anyone could guarantee happening in the next two years.