A new league year in the NFL means another draft day that Rams fans don’t have to mark on their calendars. With no expectations for the Rams to re-join the first round after surrendering this year’s pick in the Jalen Ramsey trade, fans stayed on the sideline while pick after pick in the first round gave hopes to teams that drafted yesterday, just not the Rams.
Day 2 is already off to a hot start in headlines. Shortly after the conclusion of the first round Thursday evening, Rams GM Les Snead tested positive for Covid-19, while reports are confirming that Sean McVay has tested negative. Fans wish Snead a healthy recovery from the illness, which is undoubtedly paramount at the moment, but it’d be daft to think that hopes around the organization won’t remain high on the hot-seat GM to make the right moves in the midst of a playoff window.
The good news is that after the Mac Jones pick at no. 15, enthusiasm for remaining talent in the first round fell faint and the majority of the final 10 or 15 picks felt skewed more toward Day 2 potentials. With the focus now on the second and third-round set to take place Friday, a clearer sense of who remains in the Rams’ reach will preoccupy Snead and the organization with massive hopes that the picks in-store fill the needs caused by free agency and depleted salary cap space. Day 1 has created a number of storylines, here are the ones that emerged from the first round and how they affect the Rams, NFC West, and NFL.
How the First Round of the 2021 NFL Draft Affects the Rams Going Forward
Trey Lance to the 49ers: More Trouble for the NFC West
Listen. Mac Jones or Justin Fields were meant to be the pick at 3. Playbook sage Mac Jones was portrayed by the media as Shanahan’s favorite due to a methodical style of play that can execute more and improvise less. Meanwhile, the elusive dual threat posed by Justin Fields became the wishful pick for the organization and GM John Lynch as they hoped to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo not by drafting another version of the Alabama quarterback but going in a different direction in terms of ability. The ultimate decision feels like a meet-me-halfway proposition that the head coach and organization agreed upon.
By taking North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, the burden falls on the rest of the NFC West to figure out a plan to stop a dual-threat Shanahan offensive threat or pray that 49ers fans won’t be hollering for Garoppolo’s benching by Week 2. Their maneuver in taking a quarterback this year became the headline of the draft now as people around the league were certain that San Francisco was beginning to see their playoff window dissipate if Garoppolo continues to fail as the right quarterback for this team while on a franchise QB’s salary. They faced a dilemma similar to the Rams where the quarterback felt like a missing piece between becoming a first-round exit and a Super Bowl contender, this is their Matthew Stafford.
Trey Lance can be considered the riskiest pick of the draft, heightened only by the trade that made it happen. The cause-and-effect of this pick looks something like 31 defensive coordinators working tirelessly on a blueprint to stop the newly introduced tandem of quarterback-offensive coordinator in SF, hoping it’ll prevent another 2019 Greg Roman-Lamar Jackson campaign from happening.
It’s an easy comparison but Lance’s potential stems from a 2019 college highlight reel that appears identical to Jackson’s MVP campaign that same year. Lance’s 14 rushing scores and 28 passing touchdowns without an interception is potential as hell! While Justin Fields still feels like the quarterback that would’ve kept me up if I were Raheem Morris, Lance unleashes a gear for Kyle Shanahan not previously seen in the careers of Jimmy Garoppolo or Matt Ryan.
The bold pick at no. 3 overall became an electric start to this year’s draft, and while the first twenty picks felt loyal to predictions made among the rapid-spreading epidemic of mock drafts this year, Trey Lance is cerebral and physically gifted enough to live up to the hype. Which is all we can deem it at this point.
NFC And NFC West Contender Picks
Another potential silver lining resulting from Day 1 of the draft was that few teams in the NFC playoff hunt from last year got significantly improved based on their picks today. 18 of the 32 picks today came from AFC teams and the only standout draft prospects headed to the NFC are Kyle Pitts (#4, Atlanta Falcons) and Penei Sewell (#7, Detroit Lions), simultaneously two teams that are far out of playoff contention. Pour one for Goff.
Tampa Bay’s final pick of the round with the linebacker from Washington, Joe Tryon, was a solid pick to boost pressure from the defensive line on opposing offenses, but at this point, any draft picks this year serves as an invitation to the bench in Tampa after retaining their loaded roster.
Second to Tampa in the NFC power rankings, Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers chose the worst day in the calendar year to fight in public, which lends to the idea that their drafting of a cornerback and blatantly ignoring a crippling need for receivers (arguably their missing piece to a Super Bowl) was a clear display of pettiness toward Rodgers for lashing out on their anniversary.
Cowboys fans will be first to identify themselves as the dark horses of the NFC after picking Micah Parsons, which prompts me to cross my fingers with hopes that a talented and physically gifted player like Parsons doesn’t join the revolving door of linebacking hopefuls in Dallas that includes Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and newly retired Sean Lee.
The lack of a splash player from this year’s first-round for any of the contending teams in the NFC gives the Rams an opportunity to prove that sitting this year out perhaps wasn’t the worst move. Especially when it grants you, Jalen Ramsey. With plenty of names to key in on and evaluate in the second and third round, the Rams’ potential starter on either side of the ball is still out there on Day 2.
Who’s Left On Day 2
While some of the talent on Day 1 felt closer to Day 2 prospects, the top names on the list of available players could put some pressure on Les Snead to trade up and fill some needed holes most apparent on the defensive side.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, to most viewers’ surprise, fell out of the first round and if the Rams hope to find an impact player for a position in dire need that is reminiscent of first-round talent at linebacker akin to Devin White, Owosu-Koramoah is the guy to get.
Carlos Basham Jr. is a bright prospect for fans that want more talent on the edge within the 3-4 schematic that Raheem Morris will be adopting from Brandon Staley, but also names that Snead could sit at 57 for.
Asante Samuel Jr. is an interesting name to potentially trade up for now that the players lost to Cleveland (S John Johnson III, CB Troy Hill) are providing more field for Jalen Ramsey and the remaining secondary to account for, aiding a defensive line that didn’t play quite as big as the names on the depth chart. With the addition of Trey Lance in the NFC West, who doubles as a magician when it comes to facing secondaries, the Rams’ secondary may need an identical campaign to their all-time performance in 2020 which can also lead Snead to give a look at Oregon safety Jevon Holland.
The depth at secondary in this draft will give Snead some leeway in picking positions of need later in the rounds rather than reaching with limited capital on Day 2. With a fanbase in a realistic, win-now mentality watching Day 2, Snead is feeling the pressure to draft the right impact players all while facing this nasty illness. Wishing him a speedy recovery, and a successful draft day.