Rams 2023 draft: Long-term or immediate plans with first pick?

Something that came up in Wednesday’s edition of Turf Show Times: The Podcast, the best Rams podcast that I’ve ever listened to and that’s a statement I can guarantee is true, was the prospect of LA thinking immediate or long-term with their first pick. The Rams are slated to pick 36th overall when they are on the board for the first time, but there’s still months for general manager Les Snead to act on a trade and that’s something we can’t rule out.

If the Rams do make a trade before they’re slated to pick, you can almost guarantee that it is for immediate help.

If Snead waits until LA is on the board on day two and then either picks a prospect or trades back, then it is possible that once again the Rams are thinking about the future at the cost of helping in the present.

What would be better for an LA Rams team with so many current needs but simultaneously current cap space issues that could potentially be alleviated with a high-floor prospect at a low-value position (center, guard, running back, run-stuff defensive tackle , safety, as examples)?

For many years, the Rams have not picked players in the draft who could help the team as rookies, or even in their second seasons.

During Sean McVay’s first season in 2017, at a time when the LA Rams were coming off of a 4-12 campaign and had more job openings on the roster, Snead did find Gerald Everett, Cooper Kupp, John Johnson in the first three rounds. All were immediate contributors and it sure helped that Kupp has been one of the best receivers in the NFL.

Then in 2018, the first three picks were Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen, and John Franklin-Myers. In 2019, Snead picked Taylor Rapp, Darrell Henderson, David Long, and Bobby Evans on day two. In 2020, the day two picks were Cam Akers, Van Jefferson, Terrell Lewis, and Terrell Burgess. And in 2021, Tutu Atwell and Ernest Jones were the day two picks.

Out of those 13 players, Rapp could start soon, Akers and Jefferson had chances to be on the field in Week 1, and Jones would have his chance to start at linebacker, a position of need. But the others were seemingly blocked or didn’t develop as quickly as hoped. In the cases of Henderson, Long, Evans, Lewis, and Burgess, they never played well enough. JFM is showing out for the New York Jets. Noteboom and Allen have missed far too much time or didn’t earn roles early enough.

Even Jefferson, Akers, and Atwell didn’t have the impacts—or so far have not had the impacts—that Snead and McVay were hoping for.

Short term or long-term, the Rams needed to draft better players so they wouldn’t end up in their current predicament. The 2022 draft class didn’t have a single pick in the top-100 and the team basically had to go long-term with every pick, except for Logan Bruss, who was injured almost immediately in the offseason.

If the Rams do go “immediate help, low floor” with their first pick, they might find a new starter on the offensive line or a safety to replace Nick Scott and Rapp, they should one or both leave, but that player is no guarantee. And he may never tilt the field.

If the Rams decide to swing for the fences and draft a quarterback, they won’t have anyone helping them in 2023, and probably not 2024, but that pick could help them bridge the gap after Matthew Stafford and upgrade LA’s depth at the most important position.

Perhaps the best solution then is to look at the edge rushers.

The 2023 edge rusher class could be deep and that’s been the case for several years now. Many of the best edge rushers in the NFL were not top-10 picks, or even first round picks, from Maxx Crosby to Matt Judon to Za’Darius Smith and Trey Hendrickson. There have also been some outstanding interior rushers outside of the first round, like Chris Jones (maybe the new best defensive player in the NFL) to Grady Jarrett and Cam Heyward, although those picks were a while ago.

The Rams have needs all over the roster and they might need to make a difficult decision with Leonard Floyd to save some money. Even if they don’t, edge is still a need. And it might be the best of both worlds.

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