Much has been made of the Los Angeles Rams fall from Super Bowl grace. The 2022 season was a huge disappointment and the off-season purge has done little to temper the let down. Laying the Rams problems at the feet of General Manager is misplaced anger, because of his position he is certainly ultimately responsible for team highs and lows, but the reasons for the steep decline are many.
A myriad of players fought through late 2021 injuries on the Super Bowl run coercing Head Coach Sean McVay to pull the plug early on OTA’s and use starters sparingly in training camp. There was no sense of urgency in preseason games, coaches yukking it up on the sidelines and having fun with sportscasters, not coaching up the backup players. All this leading to a tough schedule that included nine games versus playoff teams.
Then came the injuries and particularly on the offensive line, the backups were not near ready. The offensive line was decimated and as the season progressed, the cause and effect from a substandard line just kept wearing on the offense. During this same time, the Rams offense also morphed away from the outside zone and into a mid/inside zone game. Not so terribly different, but meshing movements needs cohesion and continuity. With 11 straight weeks of different offensive line groupings, poor play was the rule, rather than the exception.
Les Snead’s draft history
Enough about the Rams problems, this article is concerned with Les Snead, in particular, his abilities in the NFL Draft. Snead is consistently rated in the top half of NFL General Managers, often in the top 10. He gets most of his publicity for his high-profile, stargazer trades and willingness to barter Round 1 draft picks for established talent.
But Snead also has a recorded history of mining the middle and late rounds of the draft for players that have been valuable contributors. Since taking over in 2012, he has provided talent for two totally different styles of coaching staffs and his acumen is an important part of the Rams resurrection.
Using stats provided by Pro Football Reference, the Rams draft history under Snead’s watch is listed below, along with the players years of NFL service in parentheses.
1) DL Michael Brockers (11)
2) WR Brian Quick (7), CB Janoris Jenkins (11), RB Isaiah Pead (4)
3) CB Trumaine Johnson (8)
4) WR Chris Givens (5)
5) G Rokevius Watkins (2)
6) PK Greg Zeurlein (11)
7) LB Aaron Brown (0), RB Darryl Richardson (2)
Long-time Rams Brockers, Jenkins, and Zeurlein continue to toil, albeit for other teams, the rest have retired.
1) WR Tavon Austin (9), LB Alec Ogletree (9)
3) S T.J. McDonald (6), WR Steadman Bailey (3)
4) OL Barrett Jones (2)
5) CB Brandon McGee (3)
6) RB Zac Stacy (3)
Austin bounced back and forth on the Buffalo Bills in 2022, the others are done in the NFL.
1) OL Greg Robinson (6), DL Aaron Donald (9)
2) CB Lamarcus Joyner (9)
3) RB Tre Mason (2)
4) S Maurice Alexander (6)
6) CB E.J. Gaines (4), QB Garrett Gilbert (4)
7) OL Mitchell Van Dyk (0), S Christian Bryant (2), E Michael Sam (0), OL Demetrius Rhaney (3)
Donald is still one of the best defenders in the league, Joyner continues to stack up NFL starts, and Gilbert is still hanging around. Robinson and Mason ran into life problems.
1) RB Todd Gurley (6)
2) OL Rob Havenstein (8)
3) OL Jamon Brown (6), QB Sean Mannion (6)
4) OL Andrew Donnal (5)
6) WR Bud Sasser (0), G Cody Wichmann (2)
7) LB Bryce Hager (6), DL Martin Ifedi (0)
Havenstein still wears horns and Mannion is right on the fringe, but all the others are out of the game.
1) QB Jared Goff (7)
4) TE Tyler Higbee (7), WR Pharoh Cooper (7)
6) TE Temarrick Hemingway (4), LB Josh Forrest (2), WR Mike Thomas (7)
Only Higbee remains with the Rams from this draft, but Goff, Cooper, and Thomas are still in the NFL.
2) TE Gerald Everett (6)
3) WR Cooper Kupp (6), S John Johnson (6)
4) WR Josh Reynolds (6), E Samson Ebukam (6)
6) DL Tanzel Smart (5), RB Sam Rogers (0)
7) E Ejuan Price (1)
Rogers and Price left the league quickly, the other six are going strong. Kupp is the only Ram left over from McVay’s maiden season draft.
3) OL Joseph Noteboom (5)
4) OL Brian Allen (4), DL John Franklin-Myers (4)
5) LB Micah Kiser (3), E Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (4)
6) RB John Kelly (4), OL Jamil Demby (1), DL Sebastian Joseph-Day (4), E Trevon Young (1)
7) LB Travin Howard (3), E Justin Lawler (2)
Fan whipping post linemen Noteboom and Allen are still in L.A., while Howard is a UFA. Four others play for other teams.
2) S Taylor Rapp (4)
3) RB Darrell Henderson (4), CB David Long (4), OL Bobby Evans (4)
4) DL Greg Gaines (4)
5) G David Edwards (4)
7) S Nick Scott (4), LB Dakota Allen (4)
Rapp, Long, Gaines, Edwards, and Scott have played out their rookie contracts and become UFA’s. The futures of released Henderson and Evans are murky, while Allen is still knocking around.
2) RB Cam Akers (3), WR Van Jefferson (3)
3) E Terrell Lewis (3), S Terrell Burgess (3)
4) TE Brycen Hopkins (3)
6) S Jordan Fuller (3)
7) LB Clay Johnston (3), PK Sam Sloman (1), G Tremayne Anchrum (2)
Johnston ( ‘23 RFA for Cincinnati Bengals) and Sloman (street FA) were always long shots. The two Terrell’s, Lewis and Burgess have NFL contracts for 2023.
Akers and Jefferson are NFL starters, Fuller as well, although to a lesser extent. The jury is still out on Hopkins, he has played fairly well when given the opportunity, but it’s the final year of his rookie contract and he hasn’t moved up the food chain.
2) WR Tutu Atwell (2)
3) LB Ernest Jones (2)
4) DL Bobby Brown (2), CB Robert Rochell (2), TE Jacob Harris (2)
5) DL Earnest Brown (1)
7) RB Jake Funk (2), WR Bennett Skowronek (2), E Chris Garrett (1)
Atwell and Jones look to be of starting grade, while Skowronek has shown out as a versatile player, a special teamer who can contribute in spot starts. All have logged multiple starts. BBrown and Rochell should get long looks to start in 2023, or at least play in rotation. EBrown looks to be transitioning from edge to down lineman.
Six of eight are still in L.A and Harris is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent and will likely be re-signed at the league minimum. Only Funk, and Garrett are no longer with the team, but both are under contract in 2023.
3) OL Logan Bruss (0)
4) CB DeCobie Durant (1)
5) RB Kyren Williams (1)
6) S Quintin Lake (1), CB Derrion Kendrick (1)
7) E Daniel Hardy (1), S Russ Yeast (1), OL A.J. Arcuri (1)
It has only been one season, but all eight are still Rams. Bruss, Durant, Williams, Lake, and Hardy all battled injuries in their rookie annum, and all will get a to compete for starting roles in 2023. Kendrick looks more comfortable in smaller, tighter windows and could move to safety. Arcuri got a start last year and although he projects as a backup, who knows with injuries.
Let’s add up the draft score
Les Snead pairs up with Sean McVay 2017 through 2022
From 2020 to 2022, 19 of 26 drafted players are still with the Rams. That’s 73.08%. Jacob Harris is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent and can be brought back at the league minimum. Of the six departed, all are still in the game with other teams
In the regime’s first three years, 2017 through 2019, 27 players were conscripted. Only three, Kupp, Noteboom, and Allen remain in L.A. and five are currently on the Rams Unrestricted Free Agents list. Of the remaining 19, only five are no longer in the game, three are bouncing around on practice squads, and 11 play for other teams.
During the Snead/McVay era:
The team did not have a Round 1 pick.
The Rams drafted 53 players and 22 remain (41.5%). These numbers could go up if L.A. re-signs any of the five 2023 UFA’s.
48 of the 53 (90.5%) are still playing in the NFL, with five or six that were active in 2022 but are on the league fringe.
Jeff Fisher and Les Snead takeover from 2012 through 2016
During the 2012 through 2016 Fisher period, now six years removed, the Rams selected 43 players. Only three, Donald, Havenstein, and Higbee remain, ten others are still in the NFL. Snead/Fisher had seven picks in the first round and five of those had fine careers. Greg Robinson was a bust, seemingly destined for prison garb, not an NFL uniform. Tavon Austin did play, just not near #8 overall standards, but was hanging around on the Buffalo Bills practice squad last year. The others, Michael Brockers, Alec Ogletree, Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, and Jared Goff were solid-to-excellent choices.
During the Snead/Fisher era:
43 players were conscripted and only three remain (7.0%) as Rams.
13 of the 43 (30.2%) are still knocking around the NFL, a handful of those are nearing the end of their careers.
Over Snead’s 11 seasons as the Rams GM:
25 of 96 (26%) drafted players are still with the Rams.
61 of 96 (63.5%) are still playing in the NFL or knocking around its fringes.
74 of 96 (77%) have played the NFL average of three seasons or more. I am obviously projecting the ‘21 and ‘22 draft classes. Although nothing is a sure thing, six players from the ‘21 draft are veritable locks for their third year and beyond. And while it may be a little early for projecting the ‘22 group, excepting top pick Logan Bruss, seven of eight played last year and look to be in competition for starting roles in ‘23.
In the six seasons before Snead took over, the Rams were 23-73 and under his watch, L.A. improved to 31-48-1 with Jeff Fisher’s stale offensive schemes. When the Rams came home to SoCal, Fisher was jettisoned for Sean McVay and his wide-open offense. They rebuilt the Rams into a contender with a four-step blueprint, en route to a five-year 60-38 record, three trips to the playoffs, and two Super Bowl runs.
While Los Angeles may not have a tremendous amount of resources for free agency, they do have 11 draft picks, and that’s before any wheeling and dealing. The Rams draft history under Snead shows he can pinpoint players that have the talent to play in the NFL. Sure, there have been misses, that is par for the course when evaluating, projecting, and drafting prospects. Two things you can count on, drafted players will be of NFL grade, even if a little overdrafted, and when/if they no longer fit the program, L.A. will not have any reservations about cutting them loose. Five contributing players from this draft should be considered another success.
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