Coming into the season, Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead took a lot of criticism. Los Angeles was coming off of a 5-12 season and the result of years of less than stellar draft classes were rising to the surface. Add on bad contracts which led to the Rams needing to cut and trade Leonard Floyd and Jalen Ramsey and Snead was taking a lot of heat. Some that criticism was warranted, but other parts were reactionary to a bad season.
Fast forward 8-10 months later and the stock of Snead has certainly skyrocketed. The Rams have reaped the benefits of a great draft class that is contributing immediately as well getting good value out of low value players. Mike Jones at The Athletic recently put together a list of NFL general managers who have helped and hurt their teams the most season. Among GM’s who have helped their teams the most, Jones listed Snead and said,
Few expected the Rams, with no premium picks and little salary cap flexibility, to be very competitive this season. But GM Les Snead used a bevy of mid-round draft picks to fill roster needs, and seven of those 14 rookies hold starting positions or key rotational roles. That includes fifth-round selection Puka Nacua, who has 1,163 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, bargain free-agent acquisitions like cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, offensive guard Kevin Dotson and wideout Demarcus Robinson also have made key contributions for the Rams, who are 7-7 and hold the seventh, and final, NFC playoff spot.
What Snead has done this season may be some of his best work in his career. While he pulled off the RGIII trade and helped improve the Rams from two wins to seven in his first season, they still missed the playoffs and they still seemed far from any playoff contention
Snead pulled off big, unprecedented trades to help get the Rams over the top and win a Super Bowl. They did accomplish that, but they were still a Super Bowl contending team before those moves were made.
This season, Snead and the Rams completely defied the odds. They were seen as a team that was tanking heading into the year and now control their own destiny in the NFC Playoff race. It was thought that Snead mortgaged the Rams’ future and that they would be in for a long re-build.
Instead, Snead has gotten great early return on the 2023 draft class. Between starters in Steve Avila, Byron Young, Kobie Turner, Puka Nacua, and Ethan Evans, and contributors in Davis Allen they have one of the better draft classes from last year. It can be argued based on early return that this has potential to be one of the best rookie draft classes in franchise history.
Add in the free agent signings in Ahkello Withspoon and Demarcus Robinson and while the Rams didn’t do much, they made the most of what they had. There were teams with a lot more assets that did much worse. That doesn’t even mention the trade for Dotson. The Rams general manager has exhausted every method to improve the roster.
Snead should absolutely be in the conversation for Executive of the Year. He’s gotten very good value out of low-value players and made the most out of limited cap and not a lot of high-end draft capital.
He then set the Rams up well for the future. They’ll have a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, have over $50M in cap space, and once again be seen as a serious contender in the NFC. The alleged multi-year re-build was barely a re-build because of Snead’s ability to adjust on the fly.
Snead has made his share of mistakes in the past and those have been well-documented. In a league where a lot of GMs play it safe or play scared, Snead has shown he’s not afraid to think outside the box and take the risk. Those risks have consequences, but at times they are better than the alternative. When he makes a mistake, he’s not afraid to admit that. That’s evident in the team moving on from players with big and seemingly unmovable contracts. He moved on from Van Jefferson and Cam Akers this season when there was no longer a role for them in the offense. This opened up roles for Kyren Williams as well as Demarcus Robinson and TuTu Atwell as the “x” receivers.
The Rams and Snead got back to the basics this season and it paid off. We’ll see if they can make the postseason and continue to build the current vision into 2024 and 2025.