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The Rams should draft a QB in 2023

Matthew Stafford’s new contract shouldn’t keep Sean McVay and Les Snead from developing an heir apparent

NCAA Football: Wagner at Syracuse Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Rams drafted a quarterback, they traded up for Jared Goff in 2016. The team then, of course, used two firsts and one third round pick to acquire Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions in 2021, so it is not as though no capital has been used on the position.

And that trade doesn’t mean that the Rams have to stop trying to get better and more stable at quarterback through the draft. The 2023 class could be a perfect opportunity for Les Snead to draft his first quarterback since 2016, and for Sean McVay to be a part of developing a prospect that the team has invested capital on with the intention of making him a future starter.

Los Angeles did add John Wolford and Bryce Perkins as undrafted free agents. First Wolford in 2019 after he had a stint with the New York Jets. Then Perkins in 2020, after a college career spent with Arizona State, Arizona Western, and Virginia. Wolford barely missed crossing paths with Perkins during his short stint with the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF in 2019.

But Wolford and Perkins might not have the upside to one day take over for Stafford on a team that has annual championship aspirations, even if McVay has decided to keep both of them on the roster for these past two seasons. It’s fair to assume that if the Rams are placing Van Jefferson on IR because they “need roster spots” due to injuries, but keeping Wolford and Perkins, that McVay and Snead must feel both are very important.

However, if either of them become high-level NFL starting quarterbacks in the future, their story will be worthy of a sequel to American Underdog.

“American Underdog” Premiere Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Lionsgate

In the entire history of the NFL and the NFL Draft, the only undrafted free agent quarterbacks to stand out to a significant degree are Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, Jim Hart, Jeff Garcia, and Warren Moon; Moon’s reasons for not being drafted stemming from more nefarious, systemic problems than the belief that he wasn’t a great quarterback.

It’s not long before you get to Jake Delhomme, Dave Krieg, Case Keenum, and Jon Kitna as the next tier of UDFAs. Soon we could add someone like Cooper Rush to the list.

It’s fair to say that the Rams currently have two backup quarterbacks who they really like, but maybe they don’t have an heir apparent to Stafford. That should be fine, too.

Stafford’s new contract makes him a guarantee to be on the roster in 2023, whereas it would take another blockbuster Jared Goff-like trade to move him to another team in 2024 for cap savings. Of course, if the Rams did have the inclination to trade Stafford in 2024, that would suggest something probably went horribly wrong.

But if something did go horribly wrong... wouldn’t it be better to know that the Rams invested a draft pick in a quarterback for the first time in seven years?

As it is, the Los Angeles Rams do not have their 2023 first round pick (yes, they did use that on Stafford, a quarterback) and they don’t have a fourth or a fifth because of trades for Sony Michel and Troy Hill. The Rams do have three sixth round picks and there is a possibility that they will add a third round pick. Similar to getting two third round compensatory picks when Brad Holmes was hired by the Lions in 2021 as a minority candidate, the Rams know that they could be losing some more valuable staff members to outside promotions in 2023. Raheem Morris is regularly talked about as a head coaching candidate, Thomas Brown is McVay’s assistant head coach and interviewed with the Dolphins last year, and executive Ray Farmer had an interview as a GM last year. If any of them were to be hired by another team as a head coach or GM in 2023, the Rams would get third round compensatory picks in 2023 and 2024.

I suggest that Sean McVay and Les Snead strongly consider picking a quarterback prospect out of a 2023 class that I expect to be deep in potential talents that will go beyond the first round.

Trading for Stafford, even using a 2023 first round pick on him, should not stop the Rams from potentially doing something beneficial to the franchise, including drafting another quarterback. The Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers when they had Brett Favre, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes when they had Alex Smith, and if we’re talking late round picks, the New England Patriots spent a sixth on Tom Brady right before they were going to make Drew Bledsoe the highest-paid player in the league.

Even if it’s a sixth round pick, the Rams should draft a quarterback. Here are a few prospects who might not go in the first round who could be intriguing for McVay and Snead.

Garrett Shrader, Syracuse

A four-star prospect in the 2019 recruiting class, Shrader was nowhere near most draft boards after his first three college seasons. After making 10 appearances as a true freshman in the Mississippi State air raid offense in 2019, Shrader fell out of favor and then transferred to Syracuse in 2021. He did not impress last season, completing 53% of his passes with only 6.2 Y/A, but the 6’5 signal-caller has Syracuse out to a 5-0 start in 2022.

Despite his huge frame, Shrader is also a dual threat, rushing for 219 yards and five touchdowns in five games. He is completing 71% of his passes with 10 touchdowns, one interception, and 1,224 passing yards.

You could argue that Shrader is moving himself into the first round conversation and well out of L.A.’s range. But that would mean he’s ascended probably more than any other QB in 2022. Over at NFLMockDraftDatabase, Shrader isn’t even listed on the 2023 Big Board, a list of 50 names. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean it’s because Shrader isn’t moving up boards. It means that people have been slower to catch up on that news because most are still focused on the current NFL season.

If Shrader enters the NFL Draft, he could be drafted and he could fall in the day two or day three range.

Cameron Rising, Utah

Another player moving up boards is Rising, a 6’2, 220 lb QB at Utah who had 20 touchdowns and five interceptions as a sophomore in 2021. A four-star recruit in 2018, Rising went to Texas before transferring to Utah and becoming the starter in his second season with the Utes.

Rising has continued his ascent in 2022 and improved upon all of his numbers thus far, potentially leading Utah to an appearance in the Pac-12 title game down the line.

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

Few quarterbacks in the nation are having a season like Hooker, one of the most “veteran” signal callers who will be in next year’s draft. A Virginia Tech recruit in 2017, Hooker didn’t see the field until his third year in college, throwing 13 TD and two interceptions in 10 games for Tech. He transferred to Tennessee in 2021 and since then, Hooker has throwing 41 touchdowns to only three interceptions in 18 games, also rushing for 847 yards and eight touchdowns.

Whether or not Hooker will go in the first round or the fifth is something nobody can answer right now. But what I can say is that it wouldn’t be surprising to see him and a number of other quality QB prospects get pushed down into L.A.’s range. Why? The first round already has a lot of names potentially pegged for those slots, including Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Will Levis. I’m not particularly a fan of Levis, but I know that a lot of people do expect him to be drafted early.

But the names between someone like Hooker and the first round, it could be a long list. Not only Rising and Shrader, but also Devin Leary at NC State, K.J. Jefferson at Arkansas, Dillon Gabriel at Oklahoma, Dorian Thompson-Robinson at UCLA, Jalon Daniels at Kansas, Tanner Morgan at Minnesota, Jaren Hall at BYU, Will Rogers at Mississippi State, and so on.

It’s a deep group, so the Rams could pluck almost any of them and it would be a worthy risk, whether that’s on day two or day three.

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina

He’s the best quarterback in college football not named Bryce Young. I don’t care about the conference, McCall is special beyond any other quarterback in the country except Young. But because of the conference and not being recognized as a premier talent coming out of high school (he was crosstown rivals with Sam Howell, which may have overshadowed his recruitment somewhat), McCall could have a hard time getting drafted on day one. The main reason that the Rams would not draft McCall is that he doesn’t have the arm strength to run a typical Sean McVay offense. But if the Rams just wanted a great player, McCall would be a fine choice for any team.