Thursday, May 30, 2024

Will Rams keep or trade first Round 1 pick since 2016? GM Les Snead has been picky

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Jared Goff poses for with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked first in the 2016 draft by the Rams.

The Rams have not had a first-round pick since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell introduced Jared Goff as the top selection of the 2016 draft. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

It has been nearly a decade since the Rams selected a player in the first round of the NFL draft.

Consider: Sean McVay has coached the Rams for seven seasons, twice guiding them to the Super Bowl, without once opening camp with a newly minted first-round pick.

That could change on April 25.

For the first time since 2016, general manager Les Snead is poised to choose a player among the first 32 picks in the NFL draft.

The Rams currently hold the No. 19 pick but Snead’s history suggests he will trade back for more picks or, possibly, trade up for a desired prospect.

The Rams have run “models” that also involve their second-round pick if they choose a player at No. 19 or move up or back, Snead said last month at the NFL owners’ meeting.

Read more: Rams knew all along Aaron Donald was retiring but can scheme or draft compensate?

“There are scenarios where, right, if you move back, move up, maybe there’s a chance you get three players in the first and second rounds versus two,” he said, “and then there’s a possibility you only end up with one, right, if you move up.”

Snead has been on the job since 2012. While showing a great knack for acquiring former first-round picks through trades and free-agent signings, he has chosen players in the first round in only five drafts, including two when the Rams had two first-round picks.

Future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald represents the most successful pick, Greg Robinson the least. Coincidentally, both were taken in 2014.

Even before Donald announced his retirement last month, the Rams were in desperate need of pass rushers, especially edge rushers.

“It will definitely be a priority,” Snead said.

Young players such as tackle Kobie Turner and outside linebacker Byron Young showed as rookies last season they can be effective. New defensive coordinator Chris Shula will need more, however, if the Rams are to improve on last season’s 10-7 finish and contend for the Super Bowl.

Cornerback, linebacker, receiver, tight end and possibly quarterback are other positions the Rams could explore with a total of 11 picks.

Matthew Stafford is the starting quarterback and veteran Jimmy Garoppolo the backup. Stetson Bennett is scheduled to participate in offseason workouts, but his future with the team is uncertain.

Read more: Rams say mystery absentee Stetson Bennett will participate in offseason workouts

So Rams fans are eager to see what Snead will do on the first night of the draft.

A look at his first-round picks and how they fared during their NFL careers:

2012 — Michael Brockers, defensive tackle, Louisiana State, No. 14 pick: The first player Snead selected for the Rams started 12 games as a rookie and played nine solid seasons with the team.

Though never voted to the Pro Bowl or All-Pro team, Brockers was a leader, unsung run-stopper and effective wingman for Donald on teams that reached the playoffs in 2017, 2018 and 2020. Traded to the Detroit Lions in 2021, he finished his career in 2022.

2013 — Tavon Austin, wide receiver, West Virginia, No. 8 pick. Alec Ogletree, linebacker, Georgia, No. 30 pick: Don’t write off Austin because of his two seasons in Los Angeles. His selection at No. 8 proved a stretch, but the dynamic playmaker was a triple threat as a receiver, ball-carrier and kick returner during three Rams seasons in St. Louis under then-coach Jeff Fisher..

The decision to extend his contract before the 2016 season — the Rams’ first in their return to Los Angeles — was questionable. After McVay was hired in 2017, the new coach could not find a way to effectively utilize Austin, who was traded to the Dallas Cowboys before the 2018 season.

Ogletree played five seasons for the Rams and was a key member of the 2017 defense that helped the Rams reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Though he signed an extension during the 2017 season, he was traded to the New York Giants in the spring of 2018.

2014 — Greg Robinson, offensive tackle, Auburn, No. 2 pick. Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh, No. 13 pick: Snead and the Rams envisioned the 6-foot 5-inch, 330-pound Robinson as a franchise left tackle. They missed badly.

Robinson struggled and amassed penalties during his first three seasons. The Rams declined to exercise his fifth-year option and, after offseason workouts in 2017, traded him to the Lions.

Eleven picks later, Snead hit the jackpot.

In 10 seasons, Donald was a three-time NFL defensive player of the year and eight-time All-Pro. He amassed 111 sacks and helped the Rams win Super Bowl LVI.

Read more: Former All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White joining revamped Rams secondary

2015 — Todd Gurley, running back, Georgia, No. 10 pick: Gurley was sidelined most of his final season at Georgia because of a knee injury, but the Rams did not shy from making him a top-10 pick. They eased him into the lineup, and in 13 games he rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns and was voted NFL offensive rookie of the year.

In 2016, Gurley produced despite playing in what late in the season he called a “middle school offense.”

With McVay calling plays in 2017, Gurley became the focal point of a playoff team and was voted NFL offensive player of the year. The Rams subsequently awarded him a then-record contract extension for a running back.

In 2018, Gurley was hampered by late-season knee issues that forced him to sit out the final two games and slowed him during the NFC championship game and Super Bowl LIII. He was voted All-Pro for the second year in a row but played only one more season for the Rams before they cut him in the spring of 2020.

Jared Goff (16) and Todd Gurley psych themselves up before going on the field.

Jared Goff (16) and Todd Gurley were highly productive draft picks for the Rams. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

2016 — Jared Goff, quarterback, California, No. 1 pick: Snead traded up a record 14 spots to select Goff with the first pick.

It did not pay off immediately — Goff was 0-7 as a rookie starter — but Goff flourished the next season under McVay, leading the Rams to the playoffs in 2017 and the Super Bowl a year later.

The Rams gave him an extension that included $110 million in guarantees.

Goff’s performance fell off in 2019 and in 2020 McVay grew frustrated with the quarterback. A few weeks after a NFC divisional-round playoff defeat in January 2021, the Rams traded Goff, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Lions for Stafford.

Stafford led the Rams to a Super Bowl title in the 2021-2022 season. Last season, Goff led the Lions to victory over the Rams in an NFC wild-card playoff game at Detroit.

Get the best, most interesting and strangest stories of the day from the L.A. sports scene and beyond from our newsletter The Sports Report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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