It was back in 2012, when the then St. Louis Rams announced the hiring of one Samuel Lester Snead as their new general manager. The Rams had been in freefall since the “Greatest Show on Turf” days at the turn of the millennium. From 2004 through 2011, the Rams chalked up a 39-91 record with zero winning seasons and only two years at .500 (2004 and ‘06).
Snead set the tone for his tenure less than a month after his his hiring. He traded the Rams #2 overall pick to the then Washington Redskins for three first round picks, and a second. It was the first of many blockbuster moves that would eventually culminate in a 2022 Super Bowl victory.
2012 also saw the Rams hiring a new head coach. Jeff Fisher was actually hired before Snead and was part of the decision making team that decided on Trader Les. Fisher, was a defensive-minded coach who logged a career 142-120 record and only six winning seasons over 17 seasons. Although Snead and Fisher worked together well enough to bring the Rams up to mediocrity, they could not present fans a winning season.
In retrospect, it’s hard to say how much control Fisher had on personnel decisions, but one of the reasons he chose St. Louis was the ability to determine player acquisition.
At the end of the day I wanted the ability to have final say, with a general manager I could build something with,” Fisher said. “And ultimately, a lot of it came down to Stan and Sam (Snead).”
Transitioning from “the ‘stache” to the “boy genius”
There is an obvious delineation between Snead’s draft moves before and after the Rams moved to Los Angeles and jettisoned Fisher. I think that 2016 was an outlier, the Rams not only needed a franchise quarterback, but they needed to make a big splash upon entering the LA market.
In 2017, Snead was instrumental in the Rams deciding to hire Sean McVay as reported by espn.com,
“...Snead broke the silence. He declared McVay “a stud,” and he told the room that he hoped they all had the courage to do the right thing. “I’m buying stock in Sean McVay...”
Snead stocked the roster with the types of players that fit into the Rams new schemes. With LA’s new success and the commensurate drop in draft position, He seemingly came to the decision that picks at the bottom of round one could flipped for productive, young veterans than could meld into the Rams new way of doing business. Some of the lack of first round picks can be explained and attributed to the Goff trade payoff.
Here’s a review of Les Snead’s first and second round draft selections spanning both the Fisher and McVay regimes.
No picks in the top 100.
#57 WR Tutu Atwell- Louisville
In 2022, Atwell has as much to prove as any Ram. He has his red-shirt year under his belt and now needs to start his return on investment. LA passed on a lot of good players to grab the speedster out of Louisville. Atwell has good film showing sticky hands, the ability to cut at full speed, and game breaking speed. The preseason reportage is that he has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove doubter wrong. Teammates have been impressed with his play in OTAs. Being a gadget player is normally thought of as semi-negative handle. But, if Atwell can build on last years slow start by returning kicks, running a few jet sweeps and grab 30-40 passes for say, 1200 all-purpose yards, his #57 draft position will start to pay off.
#52 RB Cam Akers- Florida State
Hard to put a value on Akers career so far. It’s only been two seasons, but they have been filled with injuries. Reports are that he is back to 100% for 2022 and that will be good news for the Rams. He has the lower body power, vision, burst and long speed be LA’s workhorse. More importantly, the Rams other running backs seem more suited as change-of-pace backs and have injury concerns of their own.
Caught up with Cam Akers as spring OTAs ended. He’s “100%” healthy, and coming for 2022 with everything he’s got. But many questions still surround the health-embattled Rams RBs position as a whole: https://t.co/0nlHvkHCZf— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) July 14, 2022
#57 WR Van Jefferson- Florida
For a WR3, he has certainly been getting a lot of attention. I don’t know how he fits into the Rams future plans or how large his role will be with the addition of Allen Robinson. But I do know that Jefferson can run routes and create his own separation and that’s a huge skillset. His work as a productive outside receiver will create space for LA to attack the middle of the field from the slot. I may end up being proven wrong, but I think he projects (at #57) to being able to offer the same on-field production as another second round pick, Robert Woods(#41 in 2013). Maybe, or maybe not the same leadership skills, that remains to be seen.
#61 S Taylor Rapp- Washington
Rapp’s play elicits strong opinions from fans, but the consensus is that he is much better in run support than in pass coverage. When Rapp is on the field, he makes tackles, setting aside 2020 (44 tackles) when he missed seven games with a knee injury and parts of four others, he has recorded 194 tackles in his full two seasons. It is the last year on his contract and he makes about a little less than $3 mil. That’s a relatively inexpensive amount for the safety position, but the Rams signed a grip of rookie defensive backs that could play safety around the league minimum. His status as a starter and special teams contributor sets his career value as adequate. A little less than an even money proposition.
No picks in the first two rounds.
#44 TE Gerald Everett- South Alabama
Came out of college with all the tools, but never broke through with the Rams. He put up decent numbers but could not wrest the TE1 role away from Tyler Higbee. At #44, I wouldn’t say bust, certainly an under achiever. He got a fresh start when he signed in free agency with the Seattle Seahawks in 2021, but his numbers were no better than in LA. He’s back in LA for 2022 with the LA Chargers, battling a room full of inexperienced youngsters for the starting nod.
#1 QB Jared Goff- California
It boiled down to Goff or Carson Wentz. The Rams went with the Cal product and his time in LA was tumultuous. In his five years as a Ram, he had three trips to the playoffs, a Super Bowl berth and some exciting wins in big games, but he was not able to transition with the offensive scheme. Goff has proven to be a solid, albeit not special quarterback. While he may never live up to being picked #1 overall, he is a natural rhythm passer and will only be 28 years old this season, so he has a lot of football yet to play.
#10 RB Todd Gurley- Georgia
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com sounded the warning.
“The rehab work and NFL Scouting Combine medicals will be extremely important for Gurley’s draft stock as teams assess his potential durability as an NFL running back. He played less than 40 percent of his team’s offensive snaps over the last three years, so there is plenty of tread still on the tires. Has the talent to be a top-five NFL running back, but ACL tear clouds the short-term picture.”
Gurley had speed and power and had his knee not worn out, there is no telling how different the Rams fortunes and the Jared Goff/ Sean McVay relationship would have turned out. He was that good as a playmaker. A risky pick at #10, but all things considered, the Rams got their money’s worth until they gave him the big raise. It takes a little of shine off Gurley’s career, but the Rams offense really hummed when it went through him.
#57 OL Rob Havenstein- Wisconsin
Now, he’s the grizzled veteran of the Rams offensive line. Havenstein has been a starter since his rookie season and in seven seasons has only missed 11 games, seven of those coming in 2019 due to a knee injury. Havenstein has been a solid investment for a #57. Leaving out his injury filled ‘19 year, his Pro Football Focus rating numbers have been solid and he was a All-Rookie team selection.
#2 OL Greg Robinson- Auburn
All the experts, pundits, and scouts missed on this one, but only the Rams were left holding the bag. He had a stellar final two season in college and blew up the NFL Combine, an amazing combination of size and athleticism. At one time, he was on everybody’s “can't miss” list, now the only list he can head up is the “most wanted” list. In 2020, he was busted with 156 lbs. of marijauna, and this February, he was caught with $120,000 worth of coke, weed, and pills. Go big or go home, baby.
#13 DT Aaron Donald- Pittsburgh
This selection salves all the other wounds, A generational talent, who has the work ethic and desire to be the best. It may sound corny, but Rams fans are getting to watch, in real time and not on some newsreel, the performance of a first ballot Hall-of-Famer who has spent his career in horns. It is really quite extraordinary.
#41 DB Lamarcus Joyner- Florida State
Another head scratcher. Joyner came out of college as fast, hard working, and versatile secondary player. His size and athleticism did not match his long speed. He had some success as a blitzer and averaged 60 tackles per season with the Rams. Never lived up to being pick #41.
#8 WR Tavon Austin- West Virginia
Austin’s rise was meteoric after he showed stellar speed (4.34 forty) and athleticism at the NFL Combine. Considered a triple threat as an exciting open field runner, sticky handed receiver, and playmaking return man. There were concerns about his size (5’ 8” 175 lbs.), but he was expected to go in the top 15 picks. The Rams were sitting at #16 and Snead didn’t want to risk waiting, so he traded up to the #8 spot with Buffalo Bills. The diminutive one averaged over 1000 all purpose yards per season until Sean McVay’s arrival in 2017. McVay did not like Austin’ ball security issues and he was phased out. Austin is still around, now with Buffalo, but has not been relevant since leaving LA, if he was then.
#30 ILB Alec Ogletree- Georgia
Even missing 12 games in 2015, Ogletree averaged over 100 tackles per season over his five years with the Rams. He only missed 13 of 90 starts over that time span, including ’15. The Rams traded him to the New York Giants before the 2018 season. #30 is pick that should return good value and with five years of solid production, good durability and getting a fourth round draft pick in return for his trade puts Ogletree right at the minimum. Give him the benefit of the doubt and call it a good selection.
#14 DT Michael Brockers- LSU
This is a tough one and sometimes draft value has to be based on the overall talent in that years draft. I think this is one of those cases. On one side, Brockers was a force in the interior of the Rams defensive line for nine seasons. He not only did a lot of the dirty work, over his career he had 395 tackles, 52 tackles for loss, and 63 quarterback hits. On the other side. #14 is a valuable pick. In retrospect, the Brockers selection looks very good compared to the players that were chosen within 32 picks behind him. There were three or four offensive linemen that had good careers, Melvin Ingram had a couple of good sack years but was constantly injured, Whitney Mercilus was more bark than bite, and Harrison Smith (the best possible substitution) had a stellar career.
#33 WR Brian Quick- Appalachian State
Big, long and athletic, Quick never lived up to his potential. Truth be told, he endured some pretty poor quarterback play and an offensive scheme that was 15 years past its expiration date. Injuries stunted his on-field growth as well, out of 80 possible games, he was only able to earn 23 starts and 210 targets. At #33, if Quick was not a bust, then he was as close as a player could be.
#39 CB Janoris Jenkins- North Alabama
Spent four years in LA and had a penchant for jumping routes and making big plays. He was also susceptible to double moves. He was a good, not great cornerback. An even money proposition or a little better on value to draft position. He bounced around a little after leaving the Rams and now at 33, is a free agent.
#50 RB Isaiah Pead- Cincinnati
Ranked by many draft experts as a mid-round draft choice, Pead was Les Snead’s first head-scratcher draft pick at #50. He started his career as a backup to Steven Jackson in 2012, got into the doghouse early in 2013 because of a substance abuse violation, spent 2014 on the Injured Reserve List with a preseason knee ACL injury, and was released before the 2015 season. In 2016, he lost a leg in an automobile accident.
To f@#$, or not to f@#$ them picks
It has been ten years since Snead took over as general manager. In this time span, he has made 17 first and second round picks, 12 during the Fisher years and five with McVay.
Looking at the draft under McVay, it is too early to pass judgement on the last three picks, Atwell, Akers and Jefferson. They all show good potential and how they fare in 2022 will give fans a better handle on their value to the team. Rapp has not been a star, but has been a contributor. Everett is in the same boat, leaving fans wanting more from a second round pick.
As for the Fisher years, Goff certainly has not fulfilled his #1 overall status. Gurley and Havenstein were both good values, and Hav continues to pay dividends. Robinson was a bust, Joyner was certainly over drafted, but Donald brings up Snead’s draft grade in the same way he make everybody on the field better. At #8 overall, Austin should be considered a bust, but Ogletree redeemed his draft position. From Snead’s first year, Brockers was a solid choice, as was Jenkins. Quick and Pead fit into the bust category.
So, the final tally on Les Snead’s 17 first and second round picks:
- One superstar (Donald)
- Five very good selections (Gurley, Havenstein, Brockers, Ogletree and Jenkins)
- Three players where it’s too early to tell (Atwell, Akers, and Jefferson)
- Four solid contributors who were overdrafted (Rapp, Everett, Goff, and Joyner)
- Four busts ( Robinson, Austin, Quick, and Pead)
How do LA Rams fans rate the success of Snead’s early selection?