It’s Thursday, April 25 at about 4:45 in the afternoon — the first day of the 2019 NFL Draft. Across the country, men and women of the league’s 32 teams are finishing up a final phone check, making sure each team can get in touch with one another just in case there’s an enticing trade proposal.
Inside the Rams draft room at their Cal Lutheran facility in Thousand Oaks, scouting assistant Tory Woodbury takes his seat in the back-left corner of the room where he’ll be on the phone with the team’s representatives at the site of the NFL Draft in Nashville. While the Rams have screens at each seat to display picks as they come through electronically, it’s Woodbury’s job to communicate everything that’s going on in Nashville — team selections, trades, and, most importantly, when the Rams are on the clock.
As he slips on the headset, Woodbury remarks that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Rams traded their first-round pick to gain extra selections. Woodbury’s a former pro quarterback, and head coach Sean McVay will later say to him, “I know your cadence came in strong,” after hearing Woodbury call out the picks throughout the first round.
But before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium in Nashville, senior personnel advisor Taylor Morton comes to Woodbury just to go over the draft procedures one last time — Morton will be the one to communicate Los Angeles’ pick to Woodbury, who will then tell the representatives Nashville, who will write the name on the card to turn it in.
Simple, really. But it must be done right.
Assembled staff are fairly quiet as the draft starts. With four big screens in the middle of the room, the Rams’ electronic draft board lies on the two center screens. NFL Network and ESPN’s telecast of the NFL Draft sandwiches the board to the left and right. There’s an additional, smaller screen with the official time left for teams on the clock above these four. And to the left of the room, there’s a projector screen displaying the last few picks and the picks to come.
There is, however, a bit of stirring when Woodbury announces Arizona’s No. 1 overall pick — quarterback Kyler Murray out of Oklahoma.
McVay tells the room that even though Murray will be a twice-a-year opponent for the foreseeable future, the silver lining is that Los Angeles won’t have to face him in new Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense until late in the season — when there will be a substantial amount of NFL tape to break down.
This happens around 5:15. The Rams’ selection isn’t until No. 31 overall, so there’s still hours before the club will be on the clock. Because of that, McVay and general manager Les Snead occasionally disappear to another room to ostensibly meet privately about plans for the first-round pick. But they’re in the draft room enough that it becomes clear toward the backend of the first round that the club’s first-round dream-scenario targets were off the board.
And once the draft selections reach the mid-20s — with Oakland, Baltimore, and Washington on the clock, for instance — the phones start to ring more often for Snead, McVay, executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff, and vice president of football and business administration Tony Pastoors.
Check out the guys who make up the 2019 Los Angeles Rams draft class!
Between the four men, you’d probably need a few hands to count the amount of times a person on the other end of the line heard, “We’ll get back to you.” At about 8 p.m., 40 minutes before the Rams would get on the clock, McVay asks if Atlanta’s trade proposal — No. 31 and No. 203 for No. 45 and No. 79 — was the best, receiving nods in the affirmative.
Around five minutes later, Denver’s potential interest in quarterback Drew Lock is brought up in the room — since he was still on the board as the first round was coming to an end. In his Monday Football Morning in America column, NBC Sports’ Peter King had actually put in his mock draft that the Rams could trade with the Broncos for exactly that reason.
Of course, nothing on this comes to fruition, and the Broncos eventually draft Lock at No. 42 on Friday.
The potential trade offers continue to come in even as the Seahawks trade back to the Giants at No. 30 overall so that New York can take Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker.
At that point, it’s 8:40 and the Rams are on the clock.
It’s clear the team will trade back, as Morton comes over to Woodbury and asks to have the contingent in Nashville confirm the time on the clock. They do, and the time in the draft room is correct.
There’s no sense of panic, and in all it’s not as tense as it might be were the Rams unsure of their plan. But L.A. has been working through these types of scenarios for weeks, so the course of action is clear. The Rams have accepted the Falcons’ proposal, so now Pastoors gets on the phone with the league to officially call in the trade. Pastoors’ conversation couldn’t have taken more than 40 seconds, and when he hangs up, he lets the room know, “We’re out.”
The Falcons logo appears on the “on the clock” screen, as Woodbury announces to the room that Atlanta has selected offensive lineman Kaleb McGary with the 31st overall pick.
With all this coming at the end of the first round, there’s not much more to watch after the Falcons’ pick. New England takes Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry at No. 32, and that’s all she wrote for Day 1.
“It’s good — it’s what we wanted,” McVay says to the room of the first-round trade. “Good job.”