Reason III: Football players try to win games, not draft position
The mindset of every football player, or professional athlete for that matter, is to compete at their highest level and try to win whatever competition that player faces. Even raw rookies will try to compete. The biggest difference between seasoned veterans and rookies in the NFL is simply a matter of experience.
Of course, not all rookies hit the ground running as well as rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua has while competing in the LA Rams offense. Standing just 6-foot-2 and weighing 205 pounds, Nacua had success written all over him as soon as his name was called by the LA Rams in Round 5 of the 2023 NFL Draft with the 177th overall pick. And yet, to some fans, Nacua's epic success has somehow become the gold standard for all rookies.
So far this season, Nacua has caught 64 of 96 passes (66.7 percent reception rate) for 827 yards and two touchdowns. He is nearly at the production of Rams WR Cooper Kupp for his entire rookie season, when Kupp hauled in 62 of 94 passes for 869 yards and five touchdowns.
Competition forges excellence
Regardless of how the rewards are established, there are no participation rewards in the NFL. That, after all, is the beauty of the sport. The LA Rams cannot suddenly be expected to play at some level benearth their utmost effort simply to land a better draft position. And for that matter, who is to say that a player who excels in college football will suddenly excel in the NFL?
Young players need the experience of competing in order to learn how to win. Success is not something that simply happens organically. Players must learn how to make huge plays in a football game, and when. That is not something that jumps off the whiteboard as part of the training. It comes through the arduous process of trial, and error.
So far this season, the LA Rams have played nine games, and faced seven NFL teams with a legitimate shot of competing in post season this year. While the Rams only won a third of the games in the first half of the season, the team was very competitive in all but two of those games. And each week brought more and more experience for a very young team.