From picks 161 to 259, Mr. Irrelevant, the Los Angeles Rams made 10 draft selections and five of those selections were acquired in trades during the draft. That’s 10 of 99 picks! I don’t care if that’s the top of the draft or the bottom, I’m not sure how many teams have ever been as busy as the Rams were from the middle of round five to literally the last pick of the 2023 NFL Draft.
If the draft was reversed, the Los Angeles Rams would have owned the most draft capital in the history of the event. So to review who those 10 picks on Saturday were, let’s see how that looks: What if the draft was reversed? Who were those 10 players, half of whom were acquired via picks in trade? And how would we hail them differently if the Rams owned 10 of the first 99 picks instead of 10 of the last 99 picks?
What’s the point of this? Well, let’s just hope that Les Snead doesn’t trade any valuable draft picks in the next year and we won’t have to get creative because the Rams actually do have valuable draft picks in 2024!
1.1 DE Desjuan Johnson, Toledo
Pick Reaction (Actual: 7.259)
And just like that, Mr. Irrelevant becomes the most relevant prospect in the draft. The Rams made Johnson the final pick of the draft thanks to a previous trade with the Houston Texans, helping L.A. avoid having to bid for Johnson as a UDFA. If the draft was reversed though, this 6’2, 280 lb defensive lineman with 16.5 TFL last season would have been in the green room.
1.26 S Jason Taylor II, Oklahoma State
Pick Reaction (Actual: 7.234)
It’s all too common now to see sons and relatives of former NFL greats that many of us remember from the ‘90s and aughts to reach the draft with high expectations, but two problems: Jason Taylor II does not carry that draft pedigree or the bloodlines. No relation to Jason Taylor of the Dolphins. But imagine the Rams having two first round picks, they would surely be elated to use those on a defensive lineman and an impact defensive back. This draft pick was acquired in the Allen Robinson trade.
2.37 P Ethan Evans, Wingate
Pick Reaction (Actual: 7.223)
A punter in the second round? I have to say, seems like a reach! Maybe if Ethan Evans actually can do both—kick and punt—hell maybe the NFL’s ‘Shohei Ohtani’ really would go on day two. This is the Rams original seventh round pick, no tradery going on here.
2.45 RB Zach Evans
Pick Reaction (Actual: 6.215)
There was a time not so long ago when Zach Evans going in the middle of day two would have been expected. Only Bijan Robinson was ranked higher among RBs going from high school to the pros in 2020, but Evans’ career did not go nearly as well and his athleticism testing wasn’t as good as he hoped for. Still Evans is praised as one of the potential steals of day three and he’ll get an immediate opportunity with the Rams.
L.A. traded a seventh and a 2024 sixth rounder to get this pick for Evans, so they’re very excited to add him to the running backs room.
3.71 EDGE Ochaun Mathis
Pick Reaction (Actual: 6.189)
A pick acquired from the Titans in the Robert Woods trade last year, the Rams took a flier on a defensive lineman with 35” arms, nearly 11” hands, but lacking premier athleticism and production. Whether the draft was reversed or not reversed, L.A. would be adding a lot of defensive lineman in this bunch. The Rams drafted five defensive lineman out of 14 total picks.
3.78 CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU
Pick Reaction (Actual: 6.182)
L.A.’s original sixth round pick, this again goes back to NFL bloodlines. Except that Hodges-Tomlinson really is related to LaDainian (his uncle), but he didn’t quite have that first round college career. Still, Hodges-Tomlinson has an opportunity to compete for a role in the secondary as if he really was a third round pick because the Rams don’t have many players standing in his way. If Derion Kendrick could get on the field as a rookie last year, surely THT can do it in 2023.
3.83 WR Puka Nacua, BYU
Pick Reaction (Actual: 5.177)
In our alternate reality of the draft, the L.A. Rams make six third round picks. In real reality, they made six picks in rounds six and seven, and four picks in round five.
This wide receiver class was so divisive, it’s not clear exactly how early Nacua could have gone if maybe the board had fallen differently and changed some other team’s plans. Certainly he has fans and he was productive, gaining 1,430 receiving yards and scoring 11 touchdowns in the last two years at BYU, but is he going to gain a roster spot this year with the team holding out hope for Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell, and Lance McCutcheon? Picking Nacua in the third round would have been a reach, but would it have been any more of a reach than picking Tutu in the second round?
3.85 TE Davis Allen, Clemson
Pick Reaction (Actual: 5.175)
This was a freakishly deep tight end class, so who knows where Allen will eventually shake out. He went ahead of Zack Kuntz, a player who some projected on day two, and he wasn’t picked long after Will Mallory or Josh Whyle, two others who might have been normal fits in the third round. Allen has plenty of size, length, decent athleticism, and good hands. He may be no worse of a pick than Brycen Hopkins, a fourth rounder, and he surely must be a better pick than Jacob Harris, also a fourth rounder. To get Allen in the fifth round seems like a win. He will compete with Hunter Long and Hopkins to succeed Tyler Higbee in the future.
3.86 OT Warren McClendon, Jr., Georgia
Pick Reaction (Actual: 5.174)
A Georgia player going in the third round, even if it’s a reach? No problem! It could have totally happened. Nobody talked about McClendon in the pre-draft process, all the attention went to Georgia’s defense or left tackle Broderick Jones. Put him on a weight training program and McClendon could become a leader in the clubhouse, as he was for the two-time national champions.
3.99 EDGE Nick Hampton, Appalachian State
Pick Reaction (Actual: 5.161)
The third defensive lineman in this group of ten players, Hampton had the production—40 TFL, 26.5 sacks, six FF in his career—to go in the third round. The athleticism is good and Hampton will compete for a roster spot as a fifth rounder in a manner consistent with being a third rounder.
How we perceive these prospects is only that: A perception. Whether they were picked in the last 100 or the first 100, they are now in the NFL. The opportunity to be better in the pros than they were perceived in the draft presents itself equally to every prospect, especially for a team like the 2023 Rams that has nothing but open doors.