The Los Angeles Rams don’t have a first round pick and hopefully that is the LAST TIME we have to write that sentence for many years to come. Despite this lack of a first round pick for the seventh year in a row, day one could still end up very interesting for Rams fans.
Even without a pick.
The Rams have said on numerous occasions during the offseason that they view Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Cooper Kupp as “pillars” of the franchise, which is not hard to believe. These three are BY FAR L.A.’s best players and should they be suited up for them in 2023, the Rams will be heavily relying on them to keep the team interesting for fans in the near future.
It is a question though of how much weight the L.A. Rams can actually put on these “load-bearing walls” before they start to buckle.
Donald is so far and away better than his defensive teammates that it is hard to believe this is how he could spend his last season with the Rams. Not a single other time in his career—not even in the first few years under Jeff Fisher—has Donald entered a season with less talent on defense. What should offensive lines do next season, if not put three or four men on Donald on every snap?
Offensively, what should opposing defenses do if not double-team Kupp and take away Stafford’s lone weapon as he stands behind an offensive line that lacks experience, athleticism, and a track record of health?
It would be managerial malpractice if Les Snead doesn’t at least field trade offers for Cooper Kupp on draft night. Stafford and Donald’s contracts will be much harder to deal until after June 1st, but L.A. could get a first round pick on Thursday if they’re willing to talk about Kupp.
Don’t get me wrong: They’ve shown no signs that imply it will happen. Only the fact that they’ve done absolutely nothing to get better after a 5-12 season, don’t have a first rounder, and need cap relief. That’s all.
It will be shocking if Kupp is traded on Thursday. But not because there’s no logic to it.
Cardinals, Seahawks have top-5 picks
The Rams are lucky that they aren’t the only team in the NFC West without a first round pick, as the San Francisco 49ers are not on the clock until the 99th pick in the third round. But Arizona has the third overall pick and Seattle holds picks five and 20 in the first round.
The Cardinals and Seahawks will both pick twice before the Rams pick once, while Seattle is back on the clock for a third time right after L.A. makes their initial selection at #36.
Reports strongly suggest that Arizona is desperate to move down because they are locked into Kyler Murray at quarterback and are rebuilding for maybe the 100th time in 100 years. There is no prospect in this draft who doesn’t carry a concerning red flag or two, so the Cardinals hope that a team like the Raiders or Titans would be willing to give up a draft haul to move up for a quarterback. If not, Arizona might stick and pick someone like Tyree Wilson, Will Anderson, or Jalen Carter, while recent rumors have centered on left tackle Paris Johnson out of Ohio State because of a request for him by Murray.
Look for the Cardinals to address center with one of their next two picks, perhaps ahead of L.A. in round two.
The Seahawks hold the Broncos’ first and second round picks because of 2022’s Russell Wilson trade and they might take a swing on a quarterback prospect while they’re selecting this high in the draft order. However, it might be more like Seattle head coach Pete Carroll to prefer Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, considered by many to be the best all-around talent in the 2023 draft class. But not one without flaws, notably character concerns, which is why he could be available at pick five.
The Seahawks are back on the board at #20, which is where they could trade down, choose a receiver, choose another defensive player, or like Arizona, they are thought to be targeting an interior offensive lineman like John Michael Schmitz or Joe Tippmann.
Which teams DON’T draft quarterbacks?
It is easy to give focus to the teams that leave the first round with a new quarterback prospect, but maybe more telling for the Rams is which teams still have a quarterback NEED after day one. The media will IMMEDIATELY turn their attention back to Lamar Jackson after the draft with stories like, “The Colts didn’t pick a quarterback, is this a play for Lamar?”
But he won’t be the only veteran on the market.
In fact, Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz are waiting to sign with teams until after the draft too. They may need to compete to start anywhere, but they haven’t retired either.
Go back a year and the Panthers were connected to QBs in the first round (even though it was such a weak class and that made little sense) and then when they didn’t take Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett, they eventually chose Matt Corral and traded for Baker Mayfield. The Seahawks didn’t draft a quarterback, they actually stuck to their guns with Geno Smith.
Not every team that needs a quarterback is going to draft a quarterback in the first round—some teams that don’t “need” a quarterback will pick a quarterback—and then the media will focus their attention back on them. “Are the Texans REALLY going to start Davis Mills?” “Are the Commanders REALLY going to start Sam Howell?”
Maybe. But maybe not.
We know the Panthers will pick a quarterback at one. All bets are off after that and the teams that have iffy situations under center include the Texans, Colts, Falcons, Commanders, Packers (post-Aaron Rodgers trade), Bucs, and 49ers, but it doesn’t end there.
What if Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t look right in camp? What if Mac Jones plays horrible for the Patriots? What if Jordan Love is bad? What if the 49ers don’t have a QB again by Week 2? What if the Titans want to get rid of Ryan Tannehill? What if the Broncos can’t go another day with Russell Wilson? What if Geno Smith reverts back to Geno Smith? What if Kyler Murray misses the whole season?
We have NO IDEA what the QB landscape will look like in September. The Rams could be well off with Stafford...but can they put a good team around him?
What if the Falcons call the Rams in July and offer 2024 first and second round picks? What then?
Stafford has made it WELL known at this point that he “feels good” and ready to go. Seems like he’s marketing himself as a healthy product again...but to whom?
How will “Rams-Midwest” aka the Lions do?
An interesting side game for Rams fans to play lately is to keep track of the Detroit Lions, as it seems like they have been most invested in emulating L.A.’s success by trying to have their own. That includes hiring Brad Holmes out from under Les Snead as their GM, trading for Jared Goff, and bringing in Josh Reynolds at receiver.
Admittedly, the comparisons kind of stop there, but officially the Stafford trade won’t be over until Detroit uses the sixth overall pick.
The Lions hold picks six (from the Rams) and 18 and there’s a lot of speculation with how they’ll use those selections to try and win the NFC North this year, if not make a deep playoff run. Detroit could take a swing on a quarterback like Anthony Richardson or C.J. Stroud (who draws comparisons to Goff), or they could keep building up their defense with Carter or Tyree Wilson, reportedly two prospects they like, or a cornerback like Devon Witherspoon or Christian Gonzalez.
I suspect that Holmes would love to add a talent like Carter, while head coach Dan Campbell would love to bring in an attitude like Witherspoon.
With Detroit’s second pick all bets are off, as quarterback, any defensive position, or even a wide receiver (following the six-game suspension of Jameson Williams) could make sense.
Best Available Picks
The Rams may be most interested in seeing what the draft looks like after the top-25 picks, as they will then start to feel the heat from being on the clock at pick 36 on day two. It is around those last six picks of the first round—Cowboys, Bills, Bengals, Saints, Eagles, and Chiefs barring trades—in which Snead will start to get an idea of who is in his grasp.
And whether he should move up.
Whatever the needs are for teams like the Saints, Eagles, or Chiefs, that could also dictate who would be available for the Rams on day two. So fans should be ready at the end of day one, not only because anything could happen including a trade, but also to start rooting against certain prospects getting picked because you’re desperate to see them fall out of the first round.