LA Rams a perfect fit for this 'old-school' rookie quarterback
By James Dudko
While the quarterback position may not be a top priority for the LA Rams headed into the 2023 NFL draft, that doesn't mean the team wouldn't be wise to come away with at least one passer who can be developed. Fortunately, Rams' general manager Les Snead can find a signal-caller described as "old-school," in the form of Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee.
A two-year starter for the Cardinal, McKee is a "big, old-school, pocket type," according to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. He also credited McKee with being a "good fit for a team running a traditional offense where he’s playing under center."
Those descriptions should tick a lot of boxes for Rams' head coach Sean McVay. He's worked with a host of quarterbacks who share a similar physical profile to McKee, including Rams' starter Matthew Stafford.
McVay also calls an offense that keeps his QB1 under center more than most. His scheme demands standing tall in the pocket and making all the throws required at the NFL level. McKee would need a lot of development to reach that level, but the Rams haven't been shy about evaluating quarterbacks hidden in the lower tiers of this year's class.
LA Rams ready to draft late-round QB
Snead admitted the Rams have run the rule over passers likely to be available after Round 1:
"We’ve definitely been intentional about the second tier, right, and those players that would probably be beyond the [top] four, even the fifth one now [from] Tennessee [Hendon Hooker] that’s talked about a lot going early, going before us, things like that."- Pro Football Talk's Charean Williams
McKee belongs in the so-called "second tier," with the 23-year-old projected by many to hear his name only in the later rounds. He goes to the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round with the 158th pick of Dane Brugler's mock draft for The Athletic, while Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News sends McKee to the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh, 246th overall. But he has a Day 2 grade from the draft analysts at NFL Draft Buzz.
The Rams should move up if McKee is still on the board in Round 5. Stafford would be grateful, since Baker Mayfield is no longer on the roster, while neither Byrce Perkins nor John Wolford have convinced. McKee's a better fit than both for McVay's offense.
Stanford star perfect for Sean McVay's system
At 6-foot-6 and 228 pounds, McKee compares favorably to 6-foot-3, 220-pounder Stafford. Standing above six feet and tipping the scales over 210 pounds is a theme among QBs McVay's coached, with Vikings' quarterback Kirk Cousins and Detroit Lions' quarterback Jared Goff sharing similar measurements.
Working under center is also key. By mid-October, Cousins had "thrown 31% of his passes from the traditional look," according to Sports Illustrated's Fan Nation Purple Insider Matthew Coller.
Cousins threw on the watch of Vikings' head coach Kevin O'Connell, McVay's offensive coordinator when the Rams won Super Bowl LVI. Coller noted O'Connell revealed how being under center helps "maximize the deception of what we’re trying to do based upon marrying the run and the pass."
That deception means play-action passing, something Stafford executed 122 times for 1,247 yards in 2021, according to Pro Football Reference. Numbers from Next Gen Stats showed Stafford continued to lean on the PA game last season, including against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3.
McKee would fit in this system because he completed over 60 percent of his passes for the Cardinal, including many off of play action, per Paul Bretl of The Packers Wire.
McKee's experience in Stanford's traditional offense should ensure a quick transition to backing up veteran Matthew Stafford. The latter's 35, so the Rams can't ignore the need for a passer who can step in early if required, but also be carefully developed as a potential long-term successor.
And with a rookie quarterback who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 231 pounds, he passes the eye test as a durable NFL player.