The NFL Draft is finally here and its another year in which the Rams don’t have a first round pick but the real fans know that’s not a biggie. They haven’t used their first round pick since trading a principal’s ransom for Jared Goff and yet it hasn’t mattered.
A lot has been written about how the Rams front office spends cap space like they’re Netflix, but all the money went to additional seasons of “Marco Polo” while giving up “Ozark” or “Stranger Things”. That said, they are great at finding value late in the draft.
The Sean McVay era Rams draft strategy is all about finding first-round caliber studs at later round prices. It’s largely worked and unfortunately enabled their bad spending creating a frustrating dichotomy. Here are the grades from the last three Rams draft classes.
Los Angeles Rams Draft Grades 2017-2019
The 2017 Draft: The Foundational Draft
This was the most important Rams draft to date. Jared Goff was coming off an atrocious rookie season and they brought in Sean McVay to salvage Goff whom the Rams had invested a ton of draft equity in the year before. Outside of Todd Gurley, the Rams had little to no weapons so that was the mission.
Unfortunately, they didn’t’ have a first-round pick (which was the 5th overall) because it went to Tennessee as part of the Goff trade. The good news is they made the most of their picks getting players that set the foundation for what the Sean McVay Rams would become.
With six of their eight picks, they came away with tight end Gerald Everett (2nd round), receivers Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds (3rd round), safety John Johnson and linebacker Samson Ebukam (4th round), and defensive end Tanzel Smart (6th round). That’s a solid haul.
Kupp and Johnson are cornerstones of the Rams offense and defense respectively, and both are due to receive big extensions next year.
Everett is on the precipice of a breakout and has had big moments already.
Ebukam had the big Monday Night game against the Chiefs and has the opportunity to become a full-time starter.
Smart hasn’t cracked what is a stacked defensive line but provides solid depth, which is all you can expect from a sixth-round pick.
It’s worth noting that tight end and fan cult hero, Johnny Mundt, was an undrafted free agent in this draft. Overall, this was a great draft for the Rams.
The 2018 Draft: Les Turns The Trade Machine to 11
Coming off an 11-5 season and a playoff loss to the Falcons, this Rams draft operated from a position of a front office trying to maximize this team’s Super Bowl window before their bills came due (spoiler alert they didn’t).
Les Snead and the Rams front office wheeled and dealt like Ric Flair and had themselves an offseason that moved at Ludicrous Speed.
They once again were without a first-rounder having traded it for Brandin Cooks (oops) whom they extended (D’OH), extended Gurley (oof), Rob Havenstein (eh), and Aaron Donald (well duh). But that’s not all. Here are all the trades the Rams made during this offseason.
- The Rams traded their first-round selection (No. 23) and sixth-round selection (No. 198) to the New England Patriots in exchange for WR Brandin Cooks and the Patriots’ fourth-round selection (No. 136)
- The Rams traded their second-round selection (56th overall) and cornerback E. J. Gaines to Buffalo in exchange for Buffalo’s sixth-round selection (195th overall) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
- The Rams traded their third-round selection (87th overall) to Oakland in exchange for Oakland’s third- and seventh-round selections (89th and 217th overall).
- The Rams traded their fourth-round selection (124th overall) and a second-round selection in 2019 to Kansas City in exchange for Kansas City’s sixth-round selection (209th overall) and cornerback Marcus Peters.
- The Rams traded their seventh-round selection in 2019 and linebacker Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants in exchange for the Giants’ fourth and sixth-round selections (135th and 176th overall).
- The Rams traded their fourth-round selection acquired from New England (136th overall) to the Carolina Panthers for the Panthers’ fifth and sixth-round selections (147th and 197th).
- The Rams traded their fifth-round selection (160th overall) to Denver in exchange for cornerback Aqib Talib.
- The Rams traded defensive end Robert Quinn and a sixth-round selection (209th overall) to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the Dolphins’ fourth and sixth-round selections (111th and 183rd overall).
- The Rams traded their two sixth-round selections (183th and 217th overall) to Denver in exchange for Denver’s fifth-round selection (160th overall).
- The Rams traded their sixth-round selection (194th overall) to Atlanta in exchange for Atlanta’s two seventh-round selections (244th and 256th overall).
- The Rams traded Tavon Austin to the Dallas Cowboys for their sixth-round selection (192nd overall).
- The Rams traded offensive tackle Greg Robinson to Detroit in exchange for Detroit’s sixth-round selection (194th overall).
- The Rams traded their seventh-round selection (241st overall) to Washington in exchange for tight end Derek Carrier.
In short, the Rams were Jordan Belfort on IPO day. So when it came time for the actual draft they didn’t exactly set the world on fire although it still could. They selected offensive tackle Joe Noteboom (2nd round), Center Brian Allen (4th round), Johnathan Franklin Myers (4th round), linebackers Micah Kiser (5th round), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (5th round), Running Back John Kelly (6th round), Defensive Tackle Sebastian Joseph Day (6th round) and Defensive End Trevon Young (6th round). Also Linebacker Justin Lawler (7th round), and linebacker Travin Howard (7th round).
This wasn’t the murderer’s row that 2017 was but it does have some talent that hasn’t hit their stride. In fact, no one from this draft save for Franklin-Myers (cut a year later) made any contributions their rookie year.
Noteboom and Allen redshirted in 2018 and struggled at times in 2019 before injuries derailed their second seasons.
Okoronkwo was hurt his entire rookie year and still couldn’t crack the rotation in 2019 yet fans see him the same way people see bands and believe they’re due to become HUGE.
Kelly played a little while Gurley was hurt but was cut in favor of 2019 rookie Darrell Henderson.
Unfortunately, this draft is one big incomplete as there are no real blue-chippers that immediately made an impact but they could down the road.
The 2019 Draft: Navigating The Future
The Rams draft of 2019 was one of trying to do two things at once. They were coming off an embarrassing Super Bowl performance and were trying to fix all their holes while also trying to draft for the future as their bills were quickly coming due. They once again traded their first-round pick, this time trading down for a package of picks from the Falcons.
Their draft was solid with two immediate blue-chippers in Safety Taylor Rapp (2nd round) and Offensive Tackle Bobby Evans (3rd round). They also famously took Darrell Henderson (3rd round) and he’s now the starting running back.
Their other two draft picks, Offensive Tackle David Edwards (5th round) and Safety Nick Scott (7th round), are on the depth chart but likely won’t make a huge impact. Still, this was a solid draft as they got three players in Rapp, Henderson, and Evans who were able to make contributions in their rookies seasons with solid future contributors in Long and Gaines.
The Sean McVay era Rams draft strategies involved a lot of chaos but inside the chaos they were able to find value in the middle rounds. They clearly have a solid scouting department helping them maximize their ability to thrive without first round picks. They don’t have first rounders in 2020 and 2021 as part of the Jalen Ramsey trade so they’ll once again have to dig deep and find value again.