The LA Rams have an uphill battle to land the top pick of the 2024 NFL Draft
By Bret Stuter
When the LA Rams ended the 2022 NFL season, the Rams 5-12 record stared back at the team, almost in defiance of the team that had opened the season with the mantra of "Run it back." Instead, the LA Rams would flip their number of 2021 wins to 2022 losses, and 2021 lossed to 2022 wins. That would force the LA Rams to stop, look, and listen to what was happening with the team
What became of that self-introspection was a decision by the team to reset the Rams roster. Essentially, the Rams would swallow the financial poison pill of signing so many elite and highly regarded players, take hits to the 2023 NFL salary cap, and have an unfettered 2024 NFL salary cap to start anew.
That sounds logical, in theory. But in practical application, it meant the outright release of OLB Leonard Floyd and ILB Bobby Wagner, and trading away DB Jalen Ramsey and WR Allen Robinson for pennies on the dollar. While the overall philosophy was shared repeatedly with fans, the fact that the Rams roster shrank in free agency while the rosters of other NFL teams grew rapidly.
Another theory forms over 2023 Rams roster struggles
That vacuum of information became a breeding ground for a new theory to explain what the LA Rams might be up to. The NFL, as all professional sports leagues, has strong penalties in place in the rare circumstance that any team willingly does not compete. But the Rams' willingness to accept a less than optimally competitive roster for the 2023 NFL season was viewed by some as a decision to subtlely tank in 2023. Why?
The LA Rams hold a first round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, which may be the first first-round pick used since the team hired Head Coach Sean McVay in 2017. Coincidentally, local collegiate favorite USC quarterback Caleb Williams is projected to be selected first overall in the 2024 NFL Draft. It was not long before some folks connected the dots and believed that the LA Rams changed their strategy to have a clear shot at the first overall pick of the 2024 NFL Draft and a chance to select QB Caleb Williams.
It feels a bit ironic for teams that fail during the regular season to be rewarded in the next year's NFL Draft, doesn't it? Lose now to get a shot at a better rookie prospect in the future? Well, it may seem to be counterintuitive, but the truth of the matter is that the NFL has learned that for the health of the entire league, all teams must have a fighting chance at success. That means that the rules are designed to create more competition. Bad teams are given preferential treatment in the NFL Draft and claiming players off the NFL Waiver Wire.
Rams may not be good this year, but they won't land top pick
Has it been effective? Well, based on a recent Tweet by Adam Patrick, it seems that the NFL has been very effective at pulling up bad teams to a more normal number of wins. Keep in mind that of the seven worst teams in terms of the historic number of six or fewer wins below, not one of those teams is projected to win seven or fewer games in 2023.
So how well are the LA Rams expected to do this season? NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund projects the LA Rams to win 6.9 games in 2023. That simply will not get the Rams into a position to select the first overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. If Frelunds projects are relatively correct, the Rams will be making the seventh overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft
The Arizona Cardinals not only hold their own first round pick, but also have a claim on the first overall pick of the Houston Texans in the 2024 NFL Draft. That almost ensures that the Cardinals will not only get their pick of the litter, but that the team could easily trade their other first round draft pick and get significant value in return.
The LA Rams are unlikely to finish the 2024 NFL season worse than both the Arizona Cardinals and the Houston Texans. Will the Rams have an incredibly valuable pick to use on Day 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft? Yes.
But don't look for the LA Rams to land USC quarterback Caleb Williams in the 2024 NFL Draft. The LA Rams will likely not be close to drafting number one. And who knows? Caleb Williams may not be the top prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft by the time it arrives.