The Los Angeles Rams build a championship roster last season by putting “good enough” starters around All-Pros and future Hall of Famers. It wasn’t easy, because it’s never easy, but Les Snead and Sean McVay made it work twice in four years by reaching the Super Bowls in 2018 and 2021.
There is time left in the 2022 season for McVay to find a way to make it work again maybe. But it is the Rams’ inability to find talent through the draft that is proving to be Snead’s Achilles heel and the reason that L.A. is currently third in the NFC West. Sitting closer to the basement than they are knocking on the door to the playoffs.
It’s time to accept that the drafts have been bad and that something needs to change beginning next year.
Once again, Rams’ RB Cam Akers will be held out of Sunday’s game vs. San Francisco.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 28, 2022
From Cooper Kupp to Logan Bruss
One of the first great things that the Rams did after hiring Sean McVay in 2017 was picking Kupp in the third round (69th overall) of the draft. Some analysts felt that was way too low for Kupp, others believed he would never be more than a number three. That same year, the Rams landed Josh Johnson, Gerald Everett, Josh Reynolds, and Samson Ebukam. None had the same impact as Kupp, all are now gone from the Rams, but the 2017 class was way better than average for any team.
Find a superstar and four decent-to-good role players? That’s a winning draft class!
But the Rams have been out-classed by draft picks of some of their divisional counterparts in the five years since.
The Rams picks from 2018-2019 who are still on the roster are Joe Noteboom (IR), Brian Allen, Travin Howard (IR), Taylor Rapp, Darrell Henderson, David Long, Bobby Evans, Greg Gaines, David Edwards (IR), and Nick Scott.
Noteboom, Allen, Rapp, Gaines, Edwards are starters, but not standouts. Noteboom was not good post-contract and pre-injury and his status for 2023 is up in the air. Which of these players will be retained when they hit free agency next year? We might see every single one of these players, including Allen, leaving L.A. in 2023. Allen just re-upped, but the contract is not binding after this season.
In any case, there is no true stand out from these two draft classes. But I believe things get worse in the next two years.
The 2020-2021 disasters
The Rams haven’t had a first round pick since Jared Goff in 2016. But they did pick Rapp, Cam Akers, Van Jefferson, and Tutu Atwell in the second round. Akers is a bust. Atwell appears to be a bust. Jefferson is not as good as a second round receiver is capable of being. Rapp is a bust.
Four second round picks, and potentially not one answer.
The Rams also made seven third round picks from 2018-2021: Noteboom, Henderson, Long, Evans, Terrell Lewis, Terrell Burgess, and Ernest Jones.
Out of seven third rounders, perhaps only Jones has a job for very long. That’s not acceptable for the third round.
The Rams selected Brycen Hopkins, Bobby Brown, Robert Rochell, and Jacob Harris in the fourth round from 2020-2021. There may not be one starter in that group either.
The Rams made 19 picks in rounds five or later since 2018 and the best of those has been Sebastian Joseph-Day (gone), Edwards, Scott, Jordan Fuller, Tremayne Anchrum (IR), and Ben Skowronek.
There just aren’t any high-impact draft picks since Cooper Kupp in 2017. Not one. And the Rams have made a lot of draft picks. It’s not all about having first round picks, either. Just look at the two NFC West teams currently ahead of them in the standings.
The Rams needed to find these diamonds
Since 2017, the San Francisco 49ers have drafted George Kittle in the fifth round, D.J. Jones in the sixth round, Fred Warner in the third round, D.J. Reed in the fifth round (now with the Jets), Deebo Samuel in the second round, Dre Greenlaw in the fifth round, Aaron Banks in the second round, and Talanoa Hufanga in the fifth round.
Aaron Banks just moves All-Pro Bobby Wagner like it’s no big deal.— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 30, 2022
He’s such a good pulling guard already. pic.twitter.com/AusHz1PoXN
That’s setting aside the first round picks used on Mike McGlinchey, Nick Bosa, Brandon Aiyuk, and Javon Kinlaw.
The Rams desperately needed to draft players like Samuel, Banks, Hufanga, etc. The 49ers beat them to it, and then they beat them to Christian McCaffrey.
And after usually struggling to draft good players in recent years, the first place Seattle Seahawks are now powering themselves on cheap talent. Since 2018, the Seahawks have found Will Dissly in the fourth round, DK Metcalf in the second round, Damien Lewis in the third round, Kenneth Walker III in the second round, Abe Lucas in the third round, Coby Bryant in the fourth round, and Tariq Woolen in the fifth round. That’s in addition to Jordyn Brooks, Charles Cross, and Boye Mafe.
The Cardinals have had a few gems too, drafting Budda Baker in the second, Zach Allen in the third, Byron Murphy in the second, Rondale Moore in the second (playing better lately), and Marco Wilson in the fourth.
The Rams need good draftees and they have probably ranked fourth in the NFC West in draft class grades since 2018.
Holding out hope for 2022
It’s too early to judge the long-term success of the rookie class, but not too soon to factually say what they’ve done so far: Nothing much outside of Derion Kendrick. Out of eight picks this year, Kendrick is the only contributor on offense or defense. Kyren Williams could have a big role moving forward because of poor play by other Rams running back picks, but he has yet to even really practice a lot with the team. Injuries have also set back Logan Bruss, Cobie Durant, and Quentin Lake.
And the Rams could really use help. What they might not be able to afford much longer is patience with young players. Especially not as the other three NFC West teams are seeing early returns from their recent draft picks.
The Rams need a draft strategy overhaul. They’ve missed a lot of good players in recent years in favor of ones who have not worked out. It’s been too consistent to be a coincidence.