The Los Angeles Rams hold picks 57, 88, and 103 on day two of the NFL Draft. They don’t have a first round pick and aren’t set to have another until 2024 at the soonest.
But that shouldn’t preclude Rams general manager Les Snead, one of the most active deal makers in the NFL without question, from being on the phone and gauging the league’s interest in either moving up or moving down for certain prospects this year. What is more likely?
I think a reasonable and logical argument can be made for why you should expect either outcome this Friday.
The Rams trade UP in Round 2
Los Angeles has an advantage in this draft that few teams have: they already know about some of their 2022 compensatory picks and that means that Les Snead should have greater flexibility in potential trade discussions. Because the Lions hired Brad Holmes out of the Rams’ organization to be their next general manager, Snead has an extra third round compensatory pick in 2022.
He used his compensatory pick in 2021 in the deal to acquire Matthew Stafford.
But the Rams will also get three more compensatory picks — four is the maximum allowed — because of free agent losses this offseason. That should include at least a fourth round comp pick for John Johnson, according to OvertheCap’s projections, and two sixth round picks. So even though Snead doesn’t have his 2022 first rounder, he should have his second, two thirds, the fourth round comp (LA traded its own 2022 fourth rounder in the Brandin Cooks deal), his fifth, three sixths, and two sevenths.
That is a total of ten 2022 draft picks even after subtracting their own first and fourth round picks from the equation.
As noted on Monday morning, the 2021 NFL Draft pool is excessively small as compared to every other class before it, and the 2022 draft is expected to have an influx of quality prospects who will be entering the league after another year of development. This has led to speculation among general managers that a 2022 seventh round pick might be more valuable than a 2021 sixth round pick, and so on.
In theory, Snead could be watching the draft in the fifth round, see a prospect on his board is still available much later than they expected, and be able to call a team and offer LA’s 2022 sixth round pick for the opportunity to make a selection now. In the fifth round. That’s unprecedented, because typically the cost for that move would be next year’s fourth, not the sixth.
Or, the Rams could be watching the draft early in the second round, see a player with a top-15 grade has slid outside of the top-35, and decide to see just how valuable their additional mid-round picks in 2022 could be in a move up right now. Would Snead be able to trade picks 57, 205, and a 2022 third rounder in order to move up to pick 41, where his old buddy Brad Holmes is drafting?
It would complete the cycle of the Rams dealing both comp picks that they got for losing Holmes over to Holmes and the Lions.
If it seems hard to believe that the Rams could trade up because they lack draft capital in 2021, just remember that even after the Stafford trade, Snead has considerable future capital to work with thanks an unusually-valuable 2022 talent pool.
The Rams trade OUT of Round 2
It is safe to assume that the Rams did their due diligence on the day two prospects. It is also fair to wonder if maybe Les Snead and Sean McVay don’t feel entirely compelled to draft any day two prospects.
Though we know that LA has met with a lot more prospects than what has been reported, and that Snead likes to keep his interests as close to the vest as possible, it also seems like the Rams are doing most of their homework for day three. That the Rams will focus on reinforcing their special teams units given that we can’t expect there to be many starters or even rotational players by the time the sixth and seventh rounds arrive.
Perhaps then LA only really sees this draft as an opportunity to get better depth and to push as much value as they can into the 2022 and 2023 draft pools, which have already been depleted by trades involving Stafford and Cooks. Yes, the Rams do have 10 draft picks next year (and an extra seventh in 2023 because of the Michael Brockers trade, thanks much) but would Snead like to find a deal that allows the team to move down from 57 while returning mid-round value to the 2022 allotment?
If there aren’t any intriguing players available at 57 that the Rams would worry about being gone by 70 or 80, then maybe Snead is perfectly find with continuing to push his first back deeper and deeper into the draft. Consider that this was a strategy he was perfectly fine with in 2019, moving from 31 to 45, then 45 to 56, then not making his first choice until Taylor Rapp at 61.
Or the 2018 draft, when trades had sapped Snead of picks in the first two rounds, then he still moved down from 87 when the Raiders wanted to hop over the Panthers for Arden Key. The Rams waited and took Joseph Noteboom as their first choice of the year at 89, and that wasn’t a class nearly as depleted as the one that’s entering the league this week.
So while there is a good argument for why Snead should trade up, there might be just as good of a case to be made for why Snead might have every intention to trade down and would do so without a care or concern in the world.
If you HAD to choose?
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