When the Rams come on the clock Thursday night at No. 31 overall, it’ll be their first chance to select a player in the first round since taking quarterback Jared Goff No. 1 back in 2016.
And while there are plenty of analysts out there who feel like Los Angeles has a good chance to trade back and gain some extra selections, general manager Les Snead said on Tuesday that of course the Rams have to be prepared to choose a player when they’re on the clock.
“If your choice was to trade back, you’ve got to have a partner and there’s no guarantee in that. I think that’s first and foremost,” Snead said. “I think it will be – if you pick at 31, you’ll get a quality player. The benefits of trading back would be, can you acquire an extra mid-round pick?”
The Rams have been able to acquire some high-quality players with those mid-round picks as of late, with Snead pointing to players like wide receiver Cooper Kupp, safety John Johnson, wide receiver Josh Reynolds, outside linebacker Samson Ebukam, and defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers as contributors who have come from those rounds in the last two drafts.
But if the Rams are going to pick at No. 31, which positions might be in play? Given Goff’s performance over the last couple seasons, you have to figure it won’t be QB.
But most other positions... who knows? .
Here’s a look at four spots in advance of this year’s NFL Draft.
Check out photos from day six of the Los Angeles Rams Phase 1 of the offseason program.
Many of the mock drafts over the last couple months have had the Rams addressing their defensive line at No. 31 — and it makes sense. This is one of the few positions the Rams have where a starter from 2018 has departed and there isn’t necessarily an immediately apparent replacement.
That departure would be defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who currently remains a free agent, but is unlikely to be back with L.A. in 2019. Suh started at nose tackle in each of Los Angeles’ 2018 matchups, playing 88 percent of regular-season snaps. That’s some significant production Los Angeles must replace.
And with a deep defensive line class, this could be the opportunity to do it. The Rams have cited defensive lineman Michael Brockers’ versatility to play either nose tackle or five-technique defensive end as an asset to give them the flexibility to pick the best available at DL, instead of perhaps reaching to create a fit.
Given the plethora of names available, Los Angeles should have a good amount of options if the club wants to a defensive lineman at No. 31.
If there’s another position mocks have seemed to focus on in the lead up to this year’s draft, it’s offensive line.
That also makes sense, given the departures of two starters, left guard Rodger Saffold and center John Sullivan.
However, the Rams do have two players in line to start in their place — 2018 draft picks Joseph Noteboom for left guard, and Brian Allen for center.
Still, those two players were the depth pieces for last season. And so having them as starters does reduce the reserves Los Angeles has for that group. Plus, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Austin Blythe are heading into the final year of their respective contracts. So it stands to reason that the Rams could pick up another player — not necessarily to help immediately, but to contribute in the future.
And given the versatility Noteboom has up front — he was drafted as a tackle, but enters this season as a guard — Los Angeles could pick either an interior lineman or tackle to help set the Rams up for success in the future.
The Rams don’t necessarily have an immediate need in the secondary, with starters Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and John Johnson set to return, slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman also set to return, and the free-agency signing of safety Eric Weddle. But Talib and Peters both enter 2019 on the last year of their respective contracts, and Weddle is 34 years old — meaning there’s reason to consider the future at No. 31.
Selecting a member of the secondary early in the draft would give the Rams a premium depth piece, and an heir apparent at either safety or corner. While both corner and safety positions aren’t necessarily considered as deep as defensive line in the 2019 draft class, either could be an asset for the 2019 Rams.
According to most analysts, there are two premium linebackers in the 2019 draft class who will likely go near the top of the first round: Michigan’s Devin Bush, and LSU’s Devin White. Barring a surprising trade up, that probably puts both out of the conversation for the Rams.
Still, Los Angeles does likely need to beef up its depth at inside linebacker. Los Angeles currently has Cory Littleton, Micah Kiser, and Travin Howard — plus the versatility of Clay Matthews — at that spot. But at least based on the outside evaluations, it seems more likely that the Rams could choose players in the mid-round range to increase their depth at ILB.