Before you say it, I’ll say it first: “Oh my god, this would never happen and if it did, I’d be furious. This article is the worst thing that’s ever happened in my life! How dare you do a public thought experiment, you’ve ruined a once-great nation! May god not have an ounce of mercy on your soul.”
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m going to run a thought experiment. It’s a test, a question, an exploration of an idea. It is not a suggestion, a prediction, or a proclamation.
Why do it? Thought experiments and outside-the-box ideas can lead us down roads we’ve never traveled before, therefore potentially taking us to other possibilities that are more feasible and potentially even beneficial. It was probably a thought experiment that eventually led the Kansas City Chiefs towards trading up 17 spots for Patrick Mahomes in 2017 even though they were a successful playoff team with Alex Smith already.
Thought experiments led the Green Bay Packers towards drafting Aaron Rodgers even if he was going to sit for three years behind Brett Favre. Thinking outside the box helped the L.A. Rams make the decision to trade Jared Goff and two first round picks for Matthew Stafford. Or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers towards trading a bounty of draft picks for Jon Gruden, one year before beating their trade partners in the Super Bowl.
If a thought experiment of the Rams trading up in an unprecedented move ruins your day, what a week you must be having. What a life!
Besides, it’s not as though trading two future first round picks for a quarterback when he doesn’t have a current year first round pick is anything foreign to Les Snead. And that’s really the baseline for any huge move that the Rams could even discuss in the 2023 draft.
Propose that the Rams view one of the 2023 quarterbacks, perhaps Bryce Young, as the next Patrick Mahomes. Assume that like Mahomes, somehow a team values a different project or two (remember: Mitch Trubisky going ahead of Mahomes and Deshaun Watson) as being more valuable, such as Will Levis or C.J. Stroud. And say that the QB who Snead gave an A+ grade to falls past a few QB-needy teams and somehow lands on the fringes of the top-10.
Is there any scenario that gets L.A. up ~25 or so picks in the draft to make a dramatic move?
Obviously with any move as dramatic as this, there would be several roadblocks ahead. Could the Rams be capable of clearing them?
1 - Finding a team that is willing to move out of the first round
It takes two to trade-ngo and getting teams to move off of high draft picks for much lower draft picks requires at least a couple of notable situations: First, if a team is in a salary cap pinch, then they might be willing to make a trade like this. Contrary to popular belief, teams do actually have to pay players on rookie contracts and top-10 picks actually cost more than most other players on a veteran roster.
Even as rookies.
Ask yourself, which teams with early picks are in salary cap hell?
The teams that seem to be the worse off are the Titans (11th), Packers (15th), Panthers (9th), Jets (13th), Steelers (17th), Eagles (10th), Lions (6th, 18th), Colts (4th), and Seahawks (5th, 20th).
Some of those teams, we can probably scratch off right away, like the Colts, who seem destined to draft a QB and are very high in the order, and L.A.’s division rivals in Seattle.
The Titans and Panthers are atop rumors of teams looking to trade up for quarterbacks. But there are some interesting teams listed here who might be open to moving their draft capital back a year and so on.
First off, the Eagles. Philadelphia is not only facing a salary cap crunch, but there is mounting pressure to pay Jalen Hurts a monster sum after reaching the Super Bowl despite having another year left on his contract. A year after the Eagles had three first round picks and then traded all of them (one for A.J. Brown, one to move back a year with the Saints, and one to move up for Jordan Davis), GM Howie Roseman is most likely open to dealing the pick he received from New Orleans, now 10th overall.
The Eagles would still have their own first round pick (30th) and they won’t have to pay a top-10 rookie on top of their other salary cap obligations. It’s not insignificant and it would be surprising if Roseman isn’t working the phones to move down.
Another would be the Lions, the team that already owns L.A.’s first round pick in 2023 after making the Stafford trade between Snead and former protege Brad Holmes. Detroit is running out of cap space and is probably comfortable with giving Jared Goff another season over handing the reins to a rookie, as they approach playoff contention in the NFC. The Lions will definitely cut Michael Brockers to save $10 million, but they could still think to themselves, “If we push our draft capital back another year, we could get Caleb Williams or Drake Maye as the top-QB in 2023 instead of settling for a QB after Houston and Indy in 2024.”
Since the Lions own their own pick at 18, and because Detroit is probably too far back at six to get Will Anderson or Jalen Carter, there’s the chance that Holmes is open to trading down. Holmes was elated to get Penei Sewell in 2021 and then the Lions traded up for Jameson Williams in 2022. But I’m not so sure that there will be a blue chip position prospect to get hyped for in 2023, even at pick six.
Snead and Holmes talking about deals in any capacity isn’t a stretch.
The third would be the New York Jets at pick 13. If the Jets trade for Aaron Rodgers, the cap crunch gets worse. I expect New York to cut Corey Davis, Carl Lawson, and potentially Duane Brown. But they know how unlikely it is that a rookie pick is going to help them get over the hump in 2023, so GM Joe Douglas, an active member of the trade market (Jamal Adams for two first round picks) could definitely look to recoup more draft capital. There is the question of whether or not Douglas had to trade pick 13 for Rodgers, but given Green Bay’s enormous problems with the cap in 2023 (trading Rodgers leaves $40 million in dead money and costs $8 million more against the cap) the Packers may prefer to get 2024 draft picks instead of ones from 2023.
If you can hypothesize a premium QB prospect falling to 6, 10, or 13, you could see a team—not necessarily the Rams—trading up with the Lions, Eagles, or Jets to go get him.
The Rams would of course be in worse position because they don’t pick until 36, unless the trading team simply can’t afford a first round pick, doesn’t see a rookie as being helpful to their current needs, and if they don’t believe the 2023 class is very good, as I suspect it isn’t.
“Well, if the class isn’t good, then surely a good QB wouldn’t fall past bad picks!” Tell that to Solomon Thomas, Leonard Fournette, Corey Davis, Jamal Adams, Mike Williams, Christian McCaffrey, and John Ross, the players who went ahead of Mahomes and Watson.
2 - Trading without a 2023 first round pick
The Chiefs convinced the Bills in 2017 to trade down from 10 to 27, a dramatic fall in the draft. Buffalo still got Tre’Davious White, plus a 2018 first round pick and a 2017 third round pick. The Rams would need to make a bigger offer to move from 36 to 10.
“Oh no, this post is ruining my life!!!” It’s just a test, folks.
First, the Rams would need to include both of their 2023 day two picks: 36 and 69.
In the last five years, Snead’s day two picks have been: Joe Noteboom, Taylor Rapp, Darrell Henderson, David Long, Bobby Evans, Cam Akers, Van Jefferson, Terrell Lewis, Terrell Burgess, Tutu Atwell, Ernest Jones, and Logan Bruss.
So, imagine trading two of those guys.
The next pick would come in the form of a 2024 first round pick. If L.A. is as bad as they were in 2022, then the pick would be sixth overall. However, think of it this way: If the Rams traded for the 6th overall pick, then they would be trading picks 6, 36, and 69 for pick 6. They’d be losing picks 36 and 69 simply to move their sixth overall pick up one year.
But if the Rams are as good as they were in 2021, then the pick would be 32nd. So then it would be trading picks 32, 36, and 69 for pick 6 or pick 10. I don’t think that would be a bad-looking deal on the surface. Remember, the first pick that L.A. traded for Stafford was 32nd overall. The pick that the Carolina Panthers traded for Sam Darnold the same year?
38th overall. Plus a fourth and a sixth.
Of course, the Eagles wouldn’t trade pick 10 for one first, one second, and one third. No matter how bad the cap, no matter how bad the class. The 49ers traded pick 12, a 2022 first, and a 2023 first for pick three in 2021 so that they could eventually select Trey Lance. That’s a hefty price to move up 12 to 3, let alone thinking of the Rams moving up from 36 to 6 or 10 or 13.
But I don’t think it’s far off.
What’s the cost to move up 36 to top-10?
Let’s say that it is picks 36 and 69 in 2023, plus a 2024 first, a 2025 first, and a 2024 third.
The Rams typically work the system for 3-4 compensatory picks, so Snead is usually stocked with day three selections. He’s also been comfortable not having top-50 or top-60 picks since the Jared Goff trade in 2016.
The Rams didn’t have a top-80 pick in 2018, didn’t have a top-60 pick in 2019, didn’t have top-50 picks in 2020 and 2021, and didn’t have a top-100 pick in 2022.
Snead has also made a dramatic trade up for a quarterback before and since then hasn’t made a first round pick. Pick 36, will be L.A.’s highest selection since Goff and it will be interesting to see how comfortable Snead is with staying there because he hasn’t seemed comfortable with anything other than moving up from that range, moving down, or moving it for a veteran player.
The cost to move up to 6 or 10 might be two future firsts, but the cost to move up with the Steelers at 17 or the Commanders at 16 or the Lions at 18 or the Chargers at 21 would be lower. The Jets might even be less costly at pick 13.
This is not meant to be an expectation of a trade. Only an experiment. One that may not be probable, but by doing it we can say that Snead wheeling and dealing again is more than plausible.