LOS ANGELES (AP)The Los Angeles Rams haven’t made a first-round draft selection since picking quarterback Jared Goff back in 2016. They don’t have a first-round pick in the upcoming draft, and they don’t have a first-rounder next season, either.
Even Rams general manager Les Snead acknowledges his strategy of abandoning the top of the draft for a half-decade makes it slightly more difficult to patch holes that constantly pop up on any NFL team’s roster. Snead still believes the Rams can consistently find complementary talent along with the occasional star on the second and third days. He has been largely correct in recent years with the likes of receiver Cooper Kupp and safety John Johnson.
Snead needs to be better than ever this month, and he’ll have to do it after the limited player evaluation period caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Again, Snead is confident in his staff to put him in position to succeed.
”We rely on the film more than any other piece of data, in terms of the evaluating,” Snead said. ”If you relied on it 90%, maybe you’ve got to rely on the film 94%. If you relied on it 80%, maybe you need to rely on it 88%.”
Snead will need to make some good reads off that tape, because the Rams have plenty of priorities and fewer ways to fill them during this unusual offseason. One year removed from a Super Bowl run and coming off another solid 9-7 season, Los Angeles has lost much more talent than it acquired over the last month.
The Rams’ biggest free agent signing was pass-rushing linebacker Leonard Floyd. They managed to retain defensive tackle Michael Brockers and left tackle Andrew Whitworth, but they lost key players on almost every tier of their lineup.
The Rams don’t have a first-round pick, but they also don’t have one single imperative need. Snead can pick the best talent available when he finally gets to make his first selection Friday.
The Rams traded their first-rounders in 2020 and 2021 to Jacksonville for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, so they’re currently slated to begin this draft with two second-round picks, No. 52 and No. 57. They acquired their other second-rounder last week while trading receiver Brandin Cooks to Houston. This receiver-rich draft should present an opportunity to get a young replacement for Cooks, the Rams’ top deep threat, to play alongside Robert Woods and Kupp.
Los Angeles has plenty of players to replace, particularly on defense. Leading tackler Cory Littleton left in free agency, along with edge rusher Dante Fowler and kicker Greg Zuerlein. Clay Matthews was cut, and the offense lost running back Todd Gurley and Cooks. The Rams had in-house candidates to replace all of those departed players except Zuerlein, but there’s really no position except tight end where LA’s depth couldn’t use an upgrade.
Even after signing Floyd as the nominal replacement for Fowler, the Rams clearly will need help on the edge to replace Fowler and Matthews. Their in-house candidates to replace that production don’t have a stellar history of production, but finding a difference-making edge rusher in the second round or later obviously can be difficult. ”I don’t think you can have enough guys that can rush the passer on defense,” McVay said.
CAN I KICK IT
The Rams signed two NFL newcomers to compete for the chance to replace Zuerlein, the franchise’s stalwart kicker since 2012. Snead still made it clear he would consider drafting a kicker if the right name is available at the right time. Goff hopes the Rams land a strong leg to bail out the offense on stalled drives.
”Having Greg at that 60-yard range was a luxury we had, and something that I didn’t take for granted,” Goff said. ”Hopefully we find a guy who can who can fill those shoes.”
TAKE THE BALL
Gurley’s replacement is likely to be Darrell Henderson, a third-round pick last year, or longtime Rams backup Malcolm Brown. That won’t stop Snead from drafting another running back; McVay wants to run the ball by committee next year. Snead believes he can find a guy with his available picks.
”The running game does require things other than talent,” Snead said. ”You can be successful having maybe a lesser level of talent running the football, the key being figuring out how we want to run the ball.”
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