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Were Les Snead’s draft misses just an overreaction to a bad season?

Did fans overreact to a bad season when it comes to Les Snead’s draft history?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams-OTA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the offseason, Los Angeles Rams general manager took a lot of criticism for his draft history. The Rams were coming off of a 5-12 season and following free agency, the entire 2019 draft class didn’t sign a second contract to remain with the team.

At that point, it’s easy to point fingers and blame the general manager for not scouting or drafting good players. There was a consensus that Brad Holmes, now the general manager for the Detroit Lions, possibly deserved more credit than he was given at the time when he was in Los Angeles.

While some of that can be true with Holmes and criticism of Snead was warranted to an extent, it all felt like an overreaction to what was a bad season.

One thing that is often forgotten is that the NFL Draft is hard and every general manager is going to go through runs where they struggle to hit on players. Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider went through this from 2018-2021. However, his 2022 class in which he landed Charles Cross, Abraham Lucas, Kenneth Walker, and Tariq Woolen has shifted the tides.

At the end of the day, the draft is pretty random. You can prepare and scout to help your chances. With that said, even then, you’re not going to have a 100 percent hit rate. The draft is a lot like baseball, if you’re batting .300, you’re doing alright.

It’s still very early and time will tell, but Snead looks to have drafted a solid draft class that can help shift the tides. Through two weeks, Steve Avila looks like a future potential all-pro caliber guard. Byron Young has been productive on the edge and Kobie Turner is making his mark on the defensive line. The biggest hit right now might be Puka Nacua who is breaking rookie records and leads the NFL in receptions.

Now, patience is needed, and that goes both ways.

For the players that haven’t produced yet like Tre Tomlinson, Davis Allen, and Nick Hampton, they just need time to develop. For two years, TuTu Atwell was labeled a bust and now ranks eighth in the NFL in receiving yards and looks like an NFL-caliber receiver. The bust label gets thrown around too quickly sometimes.

At the same time, two games doesn’t make a NFL career.

The list of players mentioned above need to continue to show development and show that they can be building blocks moving forward. Players develop at certain speeds and while instant gratification is nice, not every player is going to hit their ceiling immediately while others may hit their ceiling too soon.

Over the last two draft classes without Holmes, Snead is doing alright. In 2020, the Rams found Cobie Durant and Kyren Williams. At the very least, Derion Kendrick and Russ Yeast are defensive contributors. Again, this past draft class looks to have the makings of a really good one.

Again, this isn’t to say that Snead doesn’t deserve some criticism for his draft history. The 2020 draft class is rough. While Snead has managed to find solid contributors, the Rams have lacked difference-maker caliber draft picks. However, that’s also to be expected when you’re not drafting inside the top-50 or sometimes not inside the top-75 when finding that caliber player is possible, but rare.

Looking at Snead’s draft history, the Rams general manager was still finding solid contributors rather than selecting outright busts. The issue with the 2022 season, is that when your entire team is constructed with contributors due to injuries to star players, that strategy rears its ugly head. When those contributors are asked to do something that they weren’t brought in to do, that’s when the problems started.

When things go as poorly as they did last season, there’s typically a reason for that and it’s only natural to want to point fingers at someone or something. Given that the Rams weren’t getting a lot of major production out of their rookie classes, the scapegoat ended up being Snead.

Hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to the NFL Draft. To reiterate, Snead did deserve some criticism. With that said, the criticism that he took for the Logan Bruss selection was likely overblown, especially considering who the alternatives were at that point in the draft at that position group. The TuTu Atwell over Creed Humphrey debate only got louder as the offensive line struggled. However, with opportunity and proper development, Atwell has found his stride.

There’s no doubt that Snead’s seat was getting warmer heading into the 2023 NFL Draft and by the early looks of it, the return is promising. We’ll see how this class continues to develop, but Snead potentially showed why he remains one of the longest tenured general managers in the NFL.