LA Rams champ shows up in late fashion for another draft

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LOS ANGELES — The Rams have been back in Los Angeles for just over six years now, and they’re thriving as trendsetters in Hollywood.

For example, they sat in the first round of the NFL draft before it was cool.

Barring a dramatic trade, the defending Super Bowl champions won’t make a first-round pick for the sixth straight year when the NFL’s top prospects reunite in Las Vegas. Thanks to two major deals to acquire the veteran talent that led them to their title, the Rams aren’t expected to make a pick at all until the end of the third round.

“It really makes Thursday nights not stressful at all,” general manager Les Snead said with a laugh.

Snead and his front office have been the most aggressive group in the league in recent years using their capital project to secure concrete, proven assets. Their current first-round pick went to Detroit in the trade to acquire Matthew Stafford, while their second- and third-round picks went to Denver for the half-season hire of Von Miller.

These transactions played a major role in the Rams’ championship last season, and the rest of the NFL has understood the importance of this equation. A record eight teams are without a first-round pick this month, with most following the Rams’ lead in using their draft capital to acquire someone more foolproof than a prospect.

Los Angeles broke through last season with a talent base built on this fundamental strategy. The success propelled by the Rams star was bolstered by Snead’s success in later rounds, where he found a great handful of starters under coach Sean McVay in recent years.

The Rams’ once unorthodox strategy is working, and Snead has shown no indication he’s changing it — which is fortunate, as they don’t have a first-round pick next season either.

Once the Rams show up in late draft fashion on Friday night, they’ll have eight picks — just three going into the sixth round. Los Angeles’ first pick is expected to be 104th overall. Every other team has at least one pick before that, and several teams have a few. Five of Los Angeles’ eight picks are make-up picks for losses on the roster, and only three are among the top 210 overall picks.

Given their current draft status, Snead will have to make a stellar pick to get an immediate contributor to the 2022 team. Still, rookie contributors aren’t typical for the Rams: Last season’s team received no significant regular-season help from any of the 2021 draft picks except for linebacker Ernest Jones and cornerback Robert Rochell, both of whom were subsequently injured. But Snead found seven players in the fifth, sixth or seventh rounds who ultimately became major contributors over the last four drafts, including defensive starters Sebastian Joseph-Day and Jordan Fuller.

The Rams can’t firmly target specific needs with such low picks, but they could clearly use depth in the secondary after coming through last season with a less-than-exciting group of defensive backs around Jalen Ramsey before losing the starting cornerback Darious Williams in free play. agency last month. A talented offensive lineman could be a candidate for the starting spot at right guard vacated by Austin Corbett. The Rams have long shown they can never get enough offensive talent after using their top three picks over the past two years on skill-positioned players. They’ve also picked a running back in four straight drafts.

The Rams can’t target surefire starters in the draft, but they can certainly bolster their special teams. Mid-term draft picks typically get prominent roles in kicking coverage units, and the Rams have been successful in acquiring versatile athletes to fill multiple roles in those units. Los Angeles could also use a late-round pick on a punter to compete with veteran signing Riley Dixon for the chance to replace Johnny Hekker, who was released in a cost-cutting decision after a decade with the Rams.

For the second straight season, the Rams are doing their team-building work this month out of the office. They move into a house project, ” a luxury property showcasing the best reasons to live in Southern California. Last season’s home was in Malibu overlooking the ocean, and this season’s estate is perched high atop the Hollywood Hills with lavish views of the Rams’ beautiful hometown — if air quality allow it, of course.

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