Even for the Los Angeles Rams, who seemingly love to stockpile draft picks, the selection of 14 rookies in the NFL Draft is a lot. It’s turned out to be the second-most in NFL history, bested only by Minnesota Vikings 15 in 2020. What was the L.A. braintrust’s thinking in stepping out and overflowing their draft card? Are they going to change up on their usual preseason plans?
Fans are certainly wont to speculate on the quality of each individual pick and offer opinions, but what were the scouting department’s underlying strategies and protocols, if any, for the highly important 2023 draft? Let’s review the post-draft comments of General Manager Les Snead and his comrade-in-arms Head Coach Sean McVay and see if they shed any light.
Was there a master plan to restock roster needs? Or was it a case of the draft unfolding in such a way that targeted players fell to where the Rams had them slotted? Snead weighed in on the overall mindset.
“I don’t think we ever said, ‘Let’s set a number and try to reach it.’ What we did know is we had a lot of picks and a lot of them on the third day, a lot of them in (rounds) five, six, and seven. So it could have gone either way...You’re always moving back, using up, but sometimes it’s, ‘Hey, let’s use the ammo to go get a player that we identify and things like that’. There was never a number, but we were well aware that we had a lot of picks so let’s try to make the most of each one, every time we went to pick... There’s a lot of people that do a lot of work...(Special Teams Coordinator) Chase Blackburn and that group who did a lot of work, and we were able to, let’s call it not necessarily reward them, but their work paid off and we actually followed the game plan and made the picks.
McVay built upon the overall strategy by giving fans a bit deeper look into the coaching perspective of roster needs and how individual players fit into the overall scheme.
“I think you want to create that competition. We were thinner at certain spots, but I don’t think that ever led us to feeling like you’re reaching. You were able to really identify (and) stay true to the way these guys were slotted and the amount of work that went into that, but they also accommodated a lot needs. So you were able to check off both of those boxes... We got a lot better in terms of the depth of our football team”.
When it came to evaluating the potential of the draft class, Snead was more theoretical about fitting them into the overall system, while McVay cut right to the chase and related he has high expectations of the class.
“Anytime rookies come in, Snead said, “I’m like, okay, first day of school, right? It’s like, oh, you’ve been at this town going to this school and all of a sudden your parents rip you out of town and drop you off, and you’ve got to show up to that first day of school. There is the element of butterflies, but it’s neat to make teammates out of it. I think when these guys go and maybe train together for the let’s call it pre-draft, pre-combine training, (and) go to the combine they start to bond... it definitely helps them when they go to that first day of school, like wow, I got a buddy here, so it’s not so bad...Sean and I talked, there was a few where you were like, ‘Wow, they sound like they’re very poised on what’s going on’ “.
McVay said, “ ... (it’s all about) how these guys come in and earn their opportunities (and) what that looks like, but there’s a handful of these guys that are going to come in and have legitimate chances to be starters on opening day. But that’s all going to be earned...And so when you look at it from a positive lens, I think that’ll be a good thing, but we’re a much more competitive football team by the nature of these 14 players”.
For the players, now comes the reality of training camp (starts June 25) and showing they can not only play the game at the pro level, but create enough separation in their positional units to keep their coaches eye.
For the braintrust, it’s back to identifying team needs and doing the film review and legwork to fill them. Since Les Snead took over in 2012, the Rams have made 111 draft picks, bettered only by the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. 67 of those picks have come in the seven-year partnership with Sean McVay. Going forward, will the duo continue their current rate of 10 picks per draft? That answer is best left to the L.A. General Manager.
“I know this, Snead said, “if we ever get back to where we just have seven picks, man, that’s going to seem like a boring day”.