There is a great deal of interest in the LA Rams draft strategy over the past six seasons. But truth be told, I don't believe that any scrutiny over the success or failure of the LA Rams past draft classes tells the entire story. After all, when did the LA Rams begin embracing the national media narrative that the LA Rams have squandered their draft picks?
To truly appreciate the LA Rams draft process, we need to step back and accept the history of the Rams roster building process. While we all lived it, loved it, and lauded it when it happened, our short-term memories have been blocked with the struggles suffered in the 2022 NFL season. So here's a quick recap:
2017 NFL Draft: Round 1 - QB Jared Goff
Sure, the LA Rams drafted QB Jared Goff in 2016, but the price of drafting him carried over into 2017 too. Was it worth it? I think so, yes. Goff was a successful quarterback, in 2017-20, he missed just one of 64 games, and led the LA Rams to a 42-20 record in the regular season, and a 2-3 record in the NFL Playoffs. He even led the Rams to Super Bowl LIII.
2017 NFL Draft - 2022 Comp Picks: The LA Rams target elite players with their top picks, and rotational players who can eventually lead to compensatory picks in future drafts. The 2017 NFL Draft yielded OLB Samson Ebukam (Round 6), TE Gerald Everett (Round 6), S John Johnson (Round 4), WR Josh Reynolds (none- Comp awarded for Troy Hill)
2018 NFL Draft: Round 1 - WR Brandin Cooks
Keeping the same load-up roster theme, the LA Rams traded their 2018 first-round and sixth-round picks to the New England Patriots for WR Brandin Cooks. Was it worth it? It certainly proved to be worth it in 2018, as he afforded the Rams a deep-ball threat dimension to an already potent offense. With WR Cooper Kupp falling to injury, Cooks and teammate Robert Woods carried the Rams to SB LIII.
2018 NFL Draft - 2023 Comp Picks: The Rams still carry some players on the roster, but NT Sebastian Joseph-Day (Round 6), and OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Round 7) restored some of the LA Rams draft picks.
2019 NFL Draft Round 1 - What happened to that pick?
The LA Rams 2019 draft is the draft class that may or may not deliver a bevy of compensatory picks to the Rams in 2024. While the Rams have already eliminated RB Darrell Henderson Jr and OL Bobby Evans, players who could net the Rams awarded compensatory picks in the 2024 NFL Draft class include: DB Taylor Rapp, DB David Long Jr., NT Greg Gaines, OL David Edwards, and DB Nick Scott. Keep in mind that the Rams targeted veterans throughout their past six seasons in an effort to stock the roster.
Other draft picks for players some have ignored
Other Notable draft picks for veterans include:
Rams trade 2020 first-round and 2021 first-round and fourth-round picks for DB Jalen Ramsey
Rams trade 2021 fifth-round draft pick for IOL Austin Corbett
Rams trade 2022 first-round and fourth-round picks and a 2023 first-round pick (Plus Jared Goff) for QB Matthew Stafford
Rams trade their 2022 sixth-round pick and 2023 fourth-round pick for RB Sony Michel
Rams trade 2022 second-round pick and 2022 third-round pick for OLB Von Miller.
In short, the Rams very draft strategy was to get talented players who could be developed and allowed to sign elsewhere in the NFL Free Agency Market for the opportunity to be awarded additional compensatory draft picks.
The Rams seldom extended any player whose fair market value exceeded their budget. Recall how the LA Rams allowed both ILB Cory Littleton and OLB Dante Fowler Jr. to sign elsewhere, and that Littleton was an undrafted rookie who made the NFL Pro Bowl for the Rams. DE Morgan Fox was another unheralded and undrafted player whose fourth and final season with the LA Rams warranted an extension, but the Rams opted not to do so.
The 2023 NFL Free Agency market will be important to the LA Rams in several ways. It will set the Rams 2024 NFL Draft up if their outgoing free agents land lucrative contracts. But perhaps more importantly, the NFL marketplace will ultimately determine just how well the LA Rams drafted in 2019.
The NFL tampering period begins on Monday, March 13, 2023, at 9:00 am PT. While I don't look for the LA Rams to make instant or splashy moves, the reception of any former Rams players will be a vital key as to how the Rams view their 2024 draft options.
No, the LA Rams draft history has not been a strategy used by other NFL teams. But It has not been a pattern of blown picks and falling asleep at the wheel as some have portrayed. The Rams have never viewed the NFL Draft as a tool to build Pro Bowlers on the roster. In fact, the Rams have used picks to acquire those elite players, and used the rest of their picks to round out their rotational needs and kept a check on the salary cap. In the end, the Rams have enjoyed success in five of the past six seasons, and competed in two Super Bowls in the past six years.
But that all changed in 2022. Not only were did the LA Rams discover that the lower tier of their active roster was not prepared to step up for the team, but the Rams front office was thwarted twice by the Carolina Panthers with trade offers intended to plenish the Rams roster. It seems that the word is out, and that more and more NFL teams now value players over picks. That has forced the Rams to come out with a new strategy, and instead focus on NFL Drafts and grow their own Pro Bowlers. After all, if the Panthers had adopted the Rams strategy, it's time to try a different tactic.
Based on that, these LA Rams must have been doing it the right way after all.