New talent with no stage
The Rams’ decision to go younger in 2020 was not simply based on a random spin of a decision wheel. All NFL teams run the ebb and flow of the NFL salary cap, loading up on young talent when their finances are all but spent, and signing younger players to expensive follow-up contracts when the money is available. It’s that choreographed rhythmic reloading of the roster with highly paid veterans that is the make or break two-step of every NFL general manager.
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And it’s that need to count the cards, keep an eye on today’s roster while planning for tomorrow that truly distinguishes NFL careers at building a championship team. It’s a high tightwire. Go too heavy on veteran talent, and the team falls perilously from the heights of the NFL playoffs to the NFL has-been pile, all the while left with no funds and no draft picks. But go too young and the team spends more time developing talented players who are more than happy to sign big paychecks elsewhere to compete for an NFL championship.
Full of talent but starving for an opportunity
The LA Rams had the perfect opportunity to dredge the ranks of the 2020 NFL Draft and free agents after the draft as the talent pool for 2020 was incredibly deep. Thanks to imperfect information, the inability to assess medical conditions, and the sheer number of NFL-worthy prospects, many NFL teams set artificially high standards on their draft boards. Many teams shied away from any prospect who was injured in his college career. So too, many teams focused exclusively upon players from major NCAA football schools. That left very talented players who had a college injury and small school players wide open. And the Rams were waiting with contracts after the NFL draft.
A team typically compensates for that by giving undrafted players particular attention, trying to pick out those players who will contribute on the roster in specific roles or as a player who can be developed into something special over time. But COVID-19 has greatly reduced the on-field practices, halved the preseason games, and forced the coaching staff to work at an incredible pace simply to get the team ready for the season.