The last time the Rams used a first round pick, it was the top overall selection in the 2016 draft. In the five years since, Les Snead and Sean McVay have used no first round picks in the draft and so at best they can only dream of “What if?”
Not that it has prevented the Rams finding out ‘what it’ eventually.
After all, Los Angeles recently extended Leonard Floyd, a former eighth overall pick, to a four-year deal. Floyd took a place on the roster from Dante Fowler, a former third overall pick. Last year, the money went to Jalen Ramsey, a former fifth overall pick. Ramsey took over for Marcus Peters, a former 18th overall pick, and he was teammates on the Rams with Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh, former 18th and 2nd overall picks, respectively.
The Rams don’t have a first round pick? It was only three months ago that they traded for a former first overall pick. The roster’s been glittered with first round picks.
Thursday’s first round won’t feature any players who will be on the LA Rams for the 2021 season (though former Titans tackle Isaiah Wilson is proving that anything is possible when it comes to divorces from first rounders) but you never know. Your dream pick today could be a Ram for some tomorrow.
Let’s pretend though that you could choose any player in the 2021 NFL Draft to be on the Rams by Thursday night. Who would you select?
Let’s bypass the fantasy where the Rams have the first overall pick and they “trade back four times to add picks” for a moment. Instead, consider the current roster of the Rams — which prospect in the draft would bring the most value to the team next season and over the following three to four years? But especially, who could help the 2021 Rams win the Super Bowl?
Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields are the top five quarterback prospects in the draft. Mel Kiper called Lawrence the fourth-best QB prospect he’s seen in 43 years, after John Elway, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck. Surely it would be exciting to imagine the Rams with Lawrence or Wilson to develop for a year behind Matthew Stafford and then parlay that into another trade down the line, ignoring all the obvious controversy implications that would come with adding a top-ranked rookie quarterback to the roster.
For my own enjoyment, I’m going to ignore the quarterbacks and be content with Stafford, a quarterback who should be plenty good enough to help LA get back to the Super Bowl. Especially if instead the focus with this exercise is to get him some help.
Ja’Marr Chase and Kyle Pitts are considered the top two offensive weapons in the draft. Chase would give Stafford a true number one unlike anything he’s had since Calvin Johnson. Evaluators say that he doesn’t have the same ceiling as Johnson — not sure anyone since Johnson really has — but there’s a ton of confidence that he’s going to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. Robert Woods is 29 and Cooper Kupp is 28, so adding the 21-year-old Chase to the plans makes for a lot of long-term optimism at the position.
But the same could be said of Pitts, who might have that sort of “Megatron” transcendence to his game if he’s able to stick at tight end and put up the type of receiving numbers expected of him. I think people easily forget the type of hype that Vernon Davis had coming into the draft, as well as his modest production over the first three years of his career (the type of which gets players like O.J. Howard labeled as a bust), but Pitts makes as much sense as a top-eight pick as any other prospect in the draft.
With the Rams, he’d be a literal game changer. McVay would have to change his gameplan if he had an in-line option like Pitts, and it could alter the course of LA’s offense forever. When you see the tight ends who’ve made the Super Bowl recently, like Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, it’s hard to ignore the impact of upgrading the position. But does the NFL even do a good job of evaluating that position from the college level?
Of course, offensive line is always a need and if the Rams had a top-five pick in this draft they could choose one of three prospects who I think deserve equal consideration: Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, and Alijah Vera-Tucker. Any of the three could upgrade LA’s offensive line next season, and any of the three, including Vera-Tucker, could potentially play left tackle in the future.
It’s hard to walk away from an opportunity to draft a franchise left tackle, as Orlando Pace could tell you, but few seem to have any of these players rated as prospects at the level of Pace, Jonathan Ogden, or Walter Jones. Is there an elite left tackle in this class? There could be and Sewell or Slater might make the best argument, though I believe Vera-Tucker is the most guaranteed to be a perennial Pro Bowl player somewhere along the line.
Yet how could the Rams evaluate the top of a draft class and ignore defense? Especially when there’s a middle linebacker in 2021 who some say is as good of a prospect as Devin White, the recent fifth overall pick who helped lead the Bucs to the Super Bowl championship last season. Micah Parsons is always mentioned hand-in-hand with immense speed in the middle of a defense, as well as character questions from moments in his past. That could be a reason he slides down the board, but I suspect Parsons will still go in the top-ten. Maybe in the top-eight, as the first defensive player off the board.
Of course, Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn are cornerbacks be considered to go first on that side of the ball, while edge rusher Jaelan Phillips has had incredible production as a college player in multiple locations, but injury red flags that might push him out of the top-20.
Any of these prospects could help the Rams. Which would you pound the table for above all others?
If you could choose any 2021 NFL Draft prospect to add to the Rams next season?
This poll is closed
Patrick Surtain II