Les Snead and Sean McVay’s first draft together in 2017 provided the Los Angeles Rams with key pieces to a roster that would win 44 games in the next four years: Cooper Kupp with the 69th overall pick, John Johnson with the 91st, Gerald Everett with the 44th, Josh Reynolds with the 117th, and Samson Ebukam with the 125th picks of the draft.
That’s not just a good draft class. Without a first round pick, Snead and McVay helped turn third round selections on Kupp and Johnson into day one values and it can be hard to even find important reserves like Reynolds and Ebukam in the fourth round.
In addition to those five hits with their day two and early day three picks, LA also signed tight end Johnny Mundt as an undrafted free agent.
Now five years later, all but Kupp and Mundt have departed, and up next will be important decisions on a 2018 draft class that features no less than three key players on the current team, and four if you include a midseason pickup of Darious Williams. Though Snead has been the general manager since 2012, it would be fair to split up his career in that position into eras defined by the two head coaches who he was paired with at a given time.
The Jeff Fisher drafts resulted in some sensational players, but almost exclusively did they come in the first round.
Since the McVay era began, LA has spent zero draft picks on day one, but they’ve no less been able to keep the pantry stocked with savvy moves by Snead and his front office, followed by quality coaching from the staff built by the coach.
Here’s a check in on Snead and McVay’s most recent four draft classes and how they’re doing so far in 2021.
Current starters: C Brian Allen (111th), NT Sebastian Joseph-Day (195th)
Key Reserves: T Joseph Noteboom (89th), LB Travin Howard (231st), LB Justin Lawler (244th), LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (160th)
Practice Squad: LB Micah Kiser (147th), Lawler
UDFAs: Darious Williams (picked up on waivers in October)
IR: OT Jamil Demby (192nd)
Imagine saying a year ago that not only would Brian Allen be starting and that Joe Noteboom wouldn’t, but that also Micah Kiser would be on the practice squad. This is a great moment to remember that as I go over the 2019-2021 draft classes in a moment...Brian Allen is the starting center in 2021 and Micah Kiser is on the practice squad.
Another oddity about recent NFL rules is that Justin Lawler is on the practice squad, but he had more snaps in Week 1 than some players who are on the 53-man roster.
These players are set to be unrestricted free agents in 2022 with Williams, an undrafted free agent signing of the Ravens who was waived in October of that year and picked up by Snead, being the priority signing; if not by the Rams, then by somebody. Williams was targeted seven times on Sunday, seeing opponents catch five of those passes but only for 36 yards.
Joseph-Day has been the biggest surprise and if you went by his rookie season, what expectations would you have had? After not playing in a game in 2018, Joseph-Day has been a starter over the last two seasons, but his 52 snaps in Week 1 were one shy of his career high and it’s obvious that expectations are different for him now.
Current starters: S Taylor Rapp (61st), RB Darrell Henderson (70th), CB David Long (79th), G David Edwards (169th), S Nick Scott (243rd)
Key reserves: DT Greg Gaines (134th), T Bobby Evans (97th)
UDFAs: OL TE Kendall Blanton, OL Chandler Brewer, LB Troy Reeder, OL Coleman Shelton, WR/PR Nsimba Webster, QB John Wolford
Similar to Allen’s journey back to the starting lineup, Rapp, Henderson, Long, and Reeder have also all had a resurgence — or were at least desperately needed — this season.
Henderson had 70 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries vs the Bears.
Rapp had 10 tackles.
Long had an interception in the end zone.
Edwards is an important starter on the offensive line.
Scott doesn’t start on defense but is a mainstay on special teams and he still mixes in on defense; he had 10 snaps in Week 1.
Blanton, Brewer are on the practice squad, Webster is now with the 49ers, Shelton is the backup center, and Reeder is technically a starter but we only saw him for 19 snaps against Chicago.
Current starters: WR Van Jefferson (57th), S Jordan Fuller (199th)
Key reserves: LB Terrell Lewis (84th), S Terrell Burgess (104th), TE Brycen Hopkins (136th), G/T Tremayne Anchrum (250th)
UDFAs: WR Trishton Jackson, RB Xavier Jones, S J.R. Reed, S Juju Hughes, DL Michael Hoecht, DL Jonah Williams, QB Bryce Perkins
IR: RB Cam Akers (52nd)
The immediately good news was Jordan Fuller last year and he’s been a starter at safety since day one. He now has the “green dot” and calls plays on defense. Jefferson saw a bit of action in 2020 but his two catches for 80 yards in Week 1 seems like a sign of more opportunities to come.
The undrafted free agent signings seem like they could rival the value of the other draft picks on a long enough timeline.
Lewis saw some action on defense in Week 1, finishing with two tackles. Burgess played 13 special teams snaps.
Reed was technically signed by the Jaguars, then added by the Rams in September.
As of now, Reed, Hughes, Hoecht, Williams, and Perkins are all on the 53-man roster, while Xavier Jones likely would have been if not for tearing his Achilles. That would be a lot of space for one draft class for some teams, and those are just LA’s undrafted free agents from 2020.
Current starters: None
Key reserves: CB Robert Rochell (130th), WR Tutu Atwell (57th), DT Bobby Brown (117th), RB/ST Jake Funk (233rd), LB Chris Garrett (252nd), LB Ernest Jones (103rd), WR Ben Skowronek (249th)
Practice Squad: DE Earnest Brown IV (174th)
UDFAs: OL Alaric Jackson
There is no need right now for the Rams to call upon their rookies. Robert Rochell basically had all of the snaps on offense or defense for a rookie, playing in 27 plays at cornerback and recording a pass deflection in the fourth quarter.
Ernest Jones was in on all 14 special teams snaps, Funk was in on 11 and had two tackles, Jacob Harris had 11 special teams snaps, as did Tyler Hall, a 2020 undrafted free agent signing of the Falcons who is on the Rams practice squad but was activated before the game. Hall is not a part of any Snead draft class but like Williams and a few others, is sort of like a “really late draft pick.”