The NFL draft begins Thursday, April 25th and for once the Rams actually have their first-round pick. In the last few years, they’ve traded their firsts away to acquire Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks respectively. Those trades paid dividends (and got Cooks PAID). This year they have the 31st pick and many are expecting the Rams to actually use it. Mocks have them going defensive line but it would be better long term if the Rams trade down.
Last year’s all in strategy came at a price. They traded a second rounder for Marcus Peters and a third for Dante Fowler. Despite still having a talented roster, the Rams would be better served with those picks because they have areas on the team that need to be rebuilt. Eric Weddle was a great pick up but he’s only on the team for two more years and they need to restock the cabinets at safety. John Johnson is the only safety that’ll likely be on the team long term and they need both another starter and depth.
The same can be said for the cornerback position. Marcus Peters and “Slot God” Nickell Robey-Coleman are likely to remain after next season (assuming Peters doesn’t suffer another season where he gets burnt like Shireen). Aqib Talib is probably gone after this year and his absence was already felt last year as they didn’t have much depth. They need to start rebuilding the position now as this draft contains a lot of quality corners. The Rams did this with their linebacker position and while it hurt them at times last year, having several young players to go along with Clay Matthews gives them flexibility especially if any of the young linebackers pan out.
The other big reason why they should trade down for a bundle of picks instead of taking somebody at 31 is it would save a bunch of money long term. Les Snead locked up a ton of players last year to long term deals and next season those bills come due. Not to mention they’ll have to pick up Goff’s 5th-year option. All of a sudden the Rams won’t have the kind of flexibility to bring in any high profile names. They’ll be locked into this core for a long time even if Snead can Jedi mind trick guys into restructuring (looking at you, Todd Gurley).
Les Snead looks at the Eagles and Patriots as the models to build a contender and keep the championship window open as long as possible. The Pats have Tom Brady on a team friendly deal and Bill Belichick is content to just let talent leave and pick up a compensatory pick or two later. The Eagles are doing the same thing although they’ll be tested once Carson Wentz comes due.
Last season was used to restock on the offensive line and at linebacker and this year he should focus on restocking the secondary and the defensive line. To do that he’s best served taking advantage of some team that HAS to have a player that somehow falls that far (it is almost inevitable). The Niners will be better and if the Seahawks don’t end up trading Russell Wilson, the Rams need to find a way to stay ahead in the division. A trade down is the smartest move they can make because it’s exactly what Bill Belichick would do.