The Los Angeles Rams held the #36 overall selection in last month’s NFL Draft—their highest selection since picking Jared Goff first overall in 2016. Los Angeles chose TCU’s Steve Avila, an interior offensive lineman with center/guard flexibility.
But with organized team activities (OTA’s) underway and with training camp on the horizon, the Rams seem to have a surplus of starting-level players on the offensive line. LA’s defense is devoid of star talent outside of Aaron Donald and the offense is in desperate need for play makers.
Did the Rams truly maximize their value by taking a guard with their highest pick in the last six to seven years? What were their alternatives?
LA has a surplus of starting talent on the offensive line
You may say there’s no such thing, especially after the unit fell apart a year ago; however, the first-string on the depth chart weren’t the problem last season—it was a historic string of injuries that forced them to sign street free agents and thrust them into the lineup.
Assuming the starting five looks something similar to the below in 2023, quality players will be left on the bench unutilized:
LT - Alaric Jackson
LG - Steve Avila
C - Brian Allen
RG - Logan Bruss
RT - Rob Havenstein
Key Reserves: Joe Noteboom, Coleman Shelton, Tremayne Anchrum
Promising Developmental Players: Warren McClendon (2023 5th round), AJ Arcuri (2022 7th round), Zach Thomas (2022 Bears 6th round)
Los Angeles won’t have room to keep 11 players heading into the season, that’s just not realistic given roster constraints—and it’s fair to question whether they’d be better off riding with either Noteboom, Shelton, or Anchrum at guard instead of selecting Avila.
Both Allen and Noteboom are still rehabbing significant season-ending injuries from last year, and their statuses for training camp and the start of the 2023 season are in doubt. Shelton also may be the more likely option to start at RG, though Bruss was the team’s highest pick a year ago. LA has committed substantial draft capital to the offensive line in recent years (maybe too much).
“Plug and play” offensive linemen are more myth than reality
When the Rams drafted Bruss in 2022, he was immediately anointed as a potential starter in the post-draft press conference by Les Snead and Sean McVay. His play in the preseason told a completely different story, and he suffered a season-ending knee injury in his first exhibition game.
The truth is that, outside of players selected in the first round, the idea of “plug and play” lineman from the draft is a fable. College linemen take time to build up strength in order to hold their own at the professional level. It might take a couple of years for them to really hit their stride.
Even if you have a very highly drafted lineman, he shouldn't be expected to be very good in his rookie season pic.twitter.com/ErhCLjQ0wo— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) May 5, 2022
What were the Rams’ alternatives at #36 overall?
LA drafted three edge rushers over the course of the draft, so they were able to find value outside of the first two rounds. With that said, they still left some premium players on the board in order to take Avila. Time will tell if that was the right decision.
Derick Hall, Auburn (Seahawks)
Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame (Saints)
BJ Ojulari, LSU (Cardinals)
Tuli Tuipulotu, USC (Chargers)
The Rams picked Clemson’s Davis Allen in the later rounds of the draft, a prospect whose strong suit is run blocking but lacks top-end speed to be a dangerous vertical threat.
Luke Shoonmaker, Michigan (Cowboys)
My personal preference for the pick would have been Mingo, who instead went just three selections later to the Panthers where he will catch passes from first overall pick Bryce Young.
Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss (Panthers)
Jayden Reed, Michigan State (Packers)
Rashee Rice, SMU (Chiefs)
Marvin Mims, Oklahoma (Broncos)
Branch was considered a first round prospect, though his versatility probably hurt him in the draft process. While he’s best utilized as a safety, he can play in the slot. He ended up with the Detroit Lions, who will need to get creative in order to make the most of his talents.
S Brian Branch, Alabama (Lions)
CB Julius Brents, Kansas State (Colts)
S Jartavius Martin, Illinois (Commanders)
CB Cam Smith, South Carolina (Dolphins)
CB Tyrique Stevenson, Miami (Bears)
The bottom line
Time will tell whether the Rams made the right decision in drafting Avila, though I can’t help but wonder whether they’d be better served looking for a star player at a skill position. LA’s offense needs play makers and their defense needs star talent that can serve as building blocks for the future.
They checked neither of these boxes with their highest pick since the 2016 draft, and to me that is a concerning outcome that may look worse over time.