Over the last couple of seasons, no team has been more “all-in” to win a Super Bowl than the Los Angeles Rams. Prior to the 2021 season, the Rams traded away Jared Goff and multiple first round picks for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Later in the year, they traded more draft picks for edge rusher Von Miller. Both moves were crucial in what turned out to be a Super Bowl winning season.
However, the Rams’ approach last season was nothing new to Les Snead. The team traded high draft picks for Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters, and of course Jalen Ramsey. The philosophy has been to trade draft picks that will likely land in the 25-32 range for high-end talent.
While being successful, it’s an approach that has been largely criticized by the NFL media. ESPN’s Ryan Clark called the trade for Matthew Stafford ‘irresponsible’. Kevin Clark of The Ringer called the trade for Jalen Ramsey, “the biggest risk an NFL team has made in a decade.”
One of the biggest criticisms about the Rams’ model is whether or not it is sustainable. It’s a fair concern, but Snead has had this approach since 2016 when he traded to move up for Jared Goff in the NFL Draft. That 2016 season is the only year in which the team had a losing record and they’ve missed the postseason just once under Sean McVay.
Every offseason for the past few years, experts predict that the Rams’ bubble will burst within a year or two. Yet, here we are heading into the 2022 season and the bubble has yet to burst.
This is a team that is aware of their window and are making the most of it. This week has been “All-In Week” over at The Ringer. According to The Ringer’s “all-in” index, the Rams rank first and are again the most “all-in” team in 2022.
The “all-in” index measures how much draft capital a team has in reserve over the next few years and how much cash is being spent on the roster.
The Rams “all in-dex” number is 130 via The Ringer’s metric which is seven points higher than the next two teams - the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns. The metric shows that the Rams rank seventh in the NFL in spending and first overall in draft ranking. The article says,
“Unsurprisingly, the Super Bowl champions top our All In-dex. Financially, they’ve shelled out major cash to keep their star players, from quarterback Matthew Stafford to defensive tackle Aaron Donald to cornerback Jalen Ramsey to receiver Cooper Kupp (and even added receiver Allen Robinson II in free agency). In the draft, the Rams have traded seven (!) consecutive first-round selections and didn’t have a pick in the top 100 this year. The result: winning a Super Bowl at home in their brand-new $5.5 billion stadium. Nobody can say it better than the T-shirt Rams general manager Les Snead wore to their Super Bowl parade: “F Them Picks.””
While the Rams weren’t able to fully “run it back” with everyone from the 2021 roster, they instead went out and signed all-pro linebacker Bobby Wagner - a player they’ve played against twice a season for much of the last decade. Despite trading away Robert Woods, Snead and McVay went out and signed Allen Robinson for less than what the Jacksonville Jaguars paid to bring in Christian Kirk.
The Rams may not have a first round pick in 2023, but they have a second and third round pick which should be enough ammo if they wanted to trade for someone like Robert Quinn midseason to bring the same energy that Von Miller did last year.
Again, the McVay and Snead understand their window. They’ll have the ability to push the chips into the middle of the table, go all-in, and give themselves an opportunity to run it back.
On Tuesday, The Ringer’s Steven Ruiz took a deep dive into the Rams’ approach. Ruiz points out that the things that the Rams have needed to do to sustain the model, they’ve been able to do so successfully. Ruiz says,
Let’s get one thing clear: Despite what Snead himself said during a speech at the team’s championship parade, the Rams don’t actually have a “f*** them picks” philosophy. In fact, their draft picks played a huge part in how they won a championship. Per Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value metric, only two teams have extracted more value from their first-round draft picks than the Rams since their first big pick-for-player deal back in 2018...Through a series of trades, L.A. was able to turn five first-round picks into (eight) players. Those eight players have contributed 105 AV to the Rams since 2018. Only Buffalo and Baltimore have generated more value from their first-round selections over that span.
Ruiz correctly points out the common misconception with the Rams’ approach. While Snead has traded away premier draft picks, the Rams have averaged 8.83 draft picks since 2017. During that time span, the Rams have had the fifth most draft picks in the NFL.
Searching for specific traits in their picks instead of just pure talent that may or may not fit, the Rams have drafted players such as Sebastian Joseph-Day, Greg Gaines, Nick Scott, Jordan Fuller, etc.
The team has then been able to turn some of these players such as John Johnson III and Gerald Everett into compensatory picks to replenish the picks that they’ve traded away.
The Rams’ approach isn’t possible if they don’t hit on those middle and late-round picks. They’ve traded for players such as Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Stafford and then been able to draft contributors to fill specific roles around them.
Other NFL teams now seem to be trying to replicate the Rams’ model. This past offseason there was more quarterback movement than any other offseason in recent memory. The Denver Broncos traded for Russell Wilson to try and compete in the NFC West. Matt Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts as they try to get over the hump. Other trades included Carson Wentz, Baker Mayfield, and DeShaun Watson.
We’ll find out this season just how replicable the Rams’ approach is.
Repeating as Super Bowl champions won’t be easy. There’s a reason no team has done it since the 2003-04 New England Patriots. However, the Rams are once again “all-in” to give themselves a chance to run it back.