Inside the draft room: One last trade to pick up Greg Gaines

This is the final installment of our Inside the Draft Room series. If you missed them, catch up with Part I here and Part II here.

After a flurry of trades to pick four players on Friday night, there’s not much time before the Rams get back at it in the draft room on Saturday morning.

There are positives to living in pacific time during the draft. The first two nights start at 5 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively — so you’re not picking players late into the night. But the drawback is that Saturday’s fourth-round proceedings begin at 9 a.m. It’s an early morning.

Check out the guys who make up the 2019 Los Angeles Rams draft class!

As the day begins, Los Angeles has four picks — No. 162, No. 167, No. 169, and No. 251. The first three are in the fifth round, and the final in the seventh.

Rams assistant director of college scouting Ted Monago enters the draft room at about 8:58, saying that this is the day where it’s time to find gold.

“You can always find gold,” he says.

In this case, that starts with the Rams finding a way to move up for defensive tackle Greg Gaines. General manager Les Snead would say later that afternoon at the post-draft press conference that acquiring Gaines was the team’s “first priority” for Saturday. According to Snead, he and McVay had met that morning, and came to the conclusion that Gaines would be the right fit to compete for the nose tackle spot vacated by the departed Ndamukong Suh in Los Angeles’ base 3-4 defense.

But because the Rams opened the day with selections toward the end of the fifth round, there was work to be done in order to make the priority reality.

Knowing this was the plan in retrospect fills in a few blanks as the fourth round plays out. Snead and McVay enter the draft room after ostensibly meeting about Gaines and stand in front of the defensive draft-board screen at the front of the room. After a while, it becomes clear that McVay has a player in mind who he believes can fill a specific role to help complete the makeup of Los Angeles’ defense. It also becomes clear that McVay feels like L.A. will have to trade up in order to get him.

Executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff and vice president of football and business administration Tony Pastoors are working the phones, and they discuss with Snead and McVay the potential trade options. Much like it happened on Friday night, some teams are willing to deal if a player they want to select comes off the board. But for a while, none of those deals come to fruition. Those in the room also discuss which teams they know Gaines has met with, just to make sure they’re ahead of any other club that might want him.

At one point, a team Snead had called about a potential swap calls the Rams’ GM back when that team is on the clock. But it’s a courtesy call, as that club’s time to make a selection is winding down — not a call to trade.

“I appreciate the call. I was just expecting you to pick and not call us,” Snead says — since that’s the way most of these non-trades have gone. “I’ll remember that.”

With the group of Snead, McVay, Demoff, and Pastoors in and out of the room, all working together to find a suitable partner, one proposal emerges that will clearly work around pick No. 132. As it turns out, it’s with the Patriots, who have back-to-back picks at No. 133 and 134. After both sides confirmed that New England didn’t plan on picking the player Los Angeles wanted at No. 134, McVay, who’s on the phone with the Pats, spells out the terms of the deal: L.A. gets No. 134 and No. 243 in exchange for No. 162 and No. 167.

Pastoors phones the league to officially execute the trade, and Los Angeles selects Gaines at No. 134.

The Rams have their nose tackle.

Following Snead, McVay, and defensive line coach Eric Henderson, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips gets on the phone with Gaines to welcome him to the team and says it outright — the Washington product has a chance to make an impact right away.

“It’s going great now, we’ve got you on our team!” Phillips says. “We’ve got a place for you — you know, Ndamukong Suh left, so you’ve got a spot. We’re looking for you to get after it, OK?”

“Big shoes to fill — I’m up for it,” Gaines replies.

“Hey, you can do it,” Phillips says. “That’s why we got you now.”

As the pick is announced on NFL Network, the room applauds. Then there are a few hoots and hollers when a graphic displays the Rams’ defensive front: Clay Matthews, Michael Brockers, Greg Gaines, Aaron Donald, and Dante Fowler.

After selecting Gaines, the Rams now have a long time to wait for their next pick at No. 169. And, finally, it appears Los Angeles isn’t going to make a trade.

As the selections turn to the 160s, the discussion on who the Rams should pick centers around building depth at certain spots versus picking players who can definitely make the gameday roster. Both are important, and the Rams come up with a plan to select players who can, hopefully, check off both boxes.

In addition to the usual personnel staff, there are a few coaches in the room as the Rams come on the clock at No. 169.

“Anybody feel different than that?” McVay asks, as the group comes to a consensus on who to pick. No one does, and L.A. turns in the card for Wisconsin offensive tackle David Edwards.

When the sixth round becomes the seventh, scouts and assistant coaches essentially have to become recruiters. At one point, assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Barry jokes that it’s taking him back to his days as a coach for USC.

Coaches and the personnel staff go back and forth, in and out of the draft room throughout the final round of the draft. But in the lead up to No. 243, the Rams discuss a player special teams coordinator John “Bones” Fassel is particularly fond of. Penn State safety Nick Scott was apparently Fassel’s favorite special teams player in this draft, so he’s understandably quite happy when L.A. turns in the card for Scott at No. 243.

And to close out the Rams’ selections, Barry advocates for taking Texas Tech linebacker at No. 251, touting his quick-twitch movement and football instincts. And yes, he’s most known to the public as one of the stars of the Netflix show Last Chance U. But inside the draft room, the talk is more about his ability as a player and what he’s overcome to put himself in position to play in the NFL.

“Love the way you handled adversity,” McVay tells Allen when the Rams call him to tell him the good news.

That completes the Rams 2019 draft — six trades to net eight players. And while the selection process is done, each player’s NFL story is only beginning.

This is the final installment of our Inside the Draft Room series. If you missed them, catch up with Part I here and Part II here.

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