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Rams must use early draft pick if they want to help resolve offensive line issues

Recent history suggests hits won’t come later in the draft

Tennessee Titans v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

In recent L.A. Rams draft lore, the decision to draft Tutu Atwell over an offensive lineman, specifically center Creed Humphrey, has served as a lightning rod for criticism of Les Snead’s laissez-faire attitude when it comes to restocking the roster with picks. I defended the Tutu Atwell pick because I have believed that wide receiver has been a much greater need for the Rams than most others accept.

We’re seeing that issue play out in 2022, as Cooper Kupp is the only viable weapon on the entire roster.

But others didn’t care that Atwell was a receiver, they just cared that Atwell is a “diminutive” receiver. Fair enough, you might win, because the Rams can’t even use Tutu Atwell and he was a healthy scratch in Week 9’s loss to the Bucs. A healthy scratch for a team that didn’t see anyone other than Kupp and Allen Robinson catch multiple passes, and Robinson was hardly effective.

Three catches, 24 yards.

The Rams absolutely did need to use second round picks on receivers in 2020 and 2021, but perhaps Van Jefferson (0-of-5 targets on Sunday) and Tutu Atwell were the wrong receivers. Even still, if Les Snead is going to take shots at receivers, he should be doing a much better job than Jefferson and Atwell when he’s bypassing very obvious offensive line starters like Humphrey in the second round.

Jefferson was the oldest receiver in the 2020 draft class and few perceived his ceiling to be as high as the comp for Robert Woods that he was getting at the time. Instead of an offensive lineman, the Rams drafted Cam Akers at 52 and Jefferson at 57. Snead passed on offensive linemen Damien Lewis (starting for the Seahawks) and Jonah Jackson (Pro Bowl guard for the Lions) in that range.

Then in 2021, Atwell was being graded out around a fourth round prospect, but the Rams chose him at pick 57. Packers starting lineman Josh Myers went 62nd, Humphrey went 63rd.

In Blaine Grisak’s 2023 Rams mock draft, he has L.A. selecting guard Kenneth Horsey out of Kentucky with the 174th overall pick. Some will argue, and I noticed in the comments section, that this is too low for the Rams to be selecting a guard. That finally Snead needs to use a higher selection:

“Why wait until #174 to take a G?? Interior OL is the worst unit on the team.”

The reason that I don’t think this matters is that Blaine has the Rams taking a tackle and an edge rusher with L.A.’s two day two picks. Then the Rams don’t draft again until the fifth round. There will be compensatory picks to talk about eventually, but let’s stick with this being the draft order: It’s not like the Rams don’t also need a tackle and an edge rusher!

The Rams are bad at football right now. They have a lot of needs and an edge rusher is a much higher priority than a guard or a center.

As Blaine also mentions in the comments, his tackle pick could play guard and that gives Sean McVay flexibility that maybe he’ll also have a future replacement for Rob Havenstein or Joe Noteboom, which is also more important than guard or center. He doesn’t have the Rams picking Tutu over Creed Humphrey. He has the Rams taking positions that they desperately need.

The play of Bobby Evans may irk more than others, but that doesn’t make “new left guard” the highest priority. In fact, the Rams do expect David Edwards to return (though he is a free agent) and did draft Logan Bruss in the third round last year. They certainly hope that Brian Allen can play center again next year and that Bruss will develop into a starter. That’s a hope, at least!

But that doesn’t also make the comment incorrect: Teams do need to draft elite interior offensive linemen early in the draft. I wanted to check recent history to find out if that was true or not.

These are all guards and centers who made the Pro Bowl since 2019, as well as the range they were drafted in. The accompanying team is the team they made the Pro Bowl with, not their drafting team or their current team.

No, the Pro Bowl is not the end-all, be-all. This is a jumping off point. But I pre-appreciate your comments about the Pro Bowl and how much it matters.

Picks 1-20

G Zack Martin, Cowboys

G Quenton Nelson, Colts

G Brandon Scherff, Commanders

C Ryan Kelly, Colts

G Andrus Peat, Saints

C Frank Ragnow, Lions

C Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers

The Rams will not have a pick in the top-20, so this is moot. But you want an All-Pro guard? Then you almost certainly need to pull the trigger early.

Washington Commanders v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Picks 21-40

G Joel Bitonio, Browns

G Rodger Saffold, Titans

G Laken Tomlinson, Lions

C Alex Mack, Browns

G David DeCastro, Steelers

C Travis Frederick, Cowboys

Right now, the Rams could end up with a pick in the top-10 of the second round. That’s where the might have an outside chance at a prospect on the level of Bitonio or Saffold, which is a player that Snead did draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Picks 41-60

G Ali Marpet, Bucs

G Elgton Jenkins, Packers

C Rodney Hudson, Raiders

The lists get shorter from here on out and this is where the Rams are likely to start drafting next year. L.A. has their own second and third round picks, but not their own fourth and fifth rounders. That means that without a first round pick and potentially not having a third round comp, the Rams need to consider how important it is to draft a guard when they desperately need help on defense and desperately need weapons around Matthew Stafford.

Picks 61-90

G Jonah Jackson, Lions

G Marshal Yanda, Ravens

G Brandon Brooks, Texans

G Larry Warford, Saints

The Rams didn’t draft offensive linemen in 2017 or 2021. They have used three third round picks, one fourth round pick, one fifth round pick, one sixth, and two sevenths on offensive linemen since McVay’s arrival. They haven’t picked any offensive linemen in the top-90 since Noteboom (89th) in 2018.

Picks 91-120

G Trai Turner, Panthers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Picks 121-200

G Wyatt Teller, Browns

C Jason Kelce, Eagles

C Corey Linsley, Chargers

Very rarely do you find draft steals at guard and center.

Picks 200+

C Ryan Jensen

Should the Rams wait to draft offensive linemen in 2023?