As the Rams are going through their first on-field work with the new coaching staff in voluntary veteran minicamp, the club is about to embark on selecting its 2017 class of rookies in this week's NFL Draft.
It's an always exciting time around the league, as dreams of playing football at its highest level are realized. And with Sean McVay preparing for his first draft as the Rams' head coach, there's a sense of freshness around the building.
As Washington's offensive coordinator under Jay Gruden, McVay had been a significant part of the draft process in evaluating players for his unit. But there's clearly more responsibility for him in Los Angeles with defense now under his purview.
"It's been great," McVay said in a Tuesday press conference. "It's been an enjoyable process and one that I know we're both looking forward to how things shake out Thursday, and then how that affects the way we go about Friday with being at 37."
McVay and general manager Les Snead both spoke of how well the pre-draft process has gone from an evaluation and preparation standpoint. They described a strong partnership between the coaching and personnel departments, and the two appeared at ease with one another on the podium.
"We've spent a lot of time together, just watching and evaluating. I think there's a lot of things, just the way that he assesses players when we're having that communication as we watch," McVay said, adding he and Snead have a great rapport. "Ultimately, it's about us being on the same page. Once decisions are made, decisions are final and we're all on board and moving in the same direction. That's exactly how it's felt ever since I was fortunate enough to get here."
"Let's take on the offensive side of the ball, [McVay] knows exactly what each player needs to do for his offense to be successful and what traits they need to have," Snead said. "He does a great job articulating it, does an even better job making cut-ups of players in the NFL — probably specifically Washington — what they do well, what they do not so well and why they fit that role. We try to then go look for those traits from players in the draft."
What's helped in setting that vision is having defensive coordinator Wade Phillips on staff. Given his decades of NFL experience, he has a precise knowledge of the traits he wants in each position. And according to Snead, Phillips has been particularly entertaining in articulating them.
"You do know when he likes a player and how he phrases it — it's definitely must-listen," Snead said.
"He knows what it looks like when you get certain players in his system, and they're able to flourish," McVay said of Phillips. "His ability to articulate that to Les and his staff is something that they've done a great job listening to, and kind of categorizing those guys in the draft with how they would fit."
The Rams, of course, are without a first-round pick in 2017, having traded it to Tennessee for last year's No. 1 overall pick. As of now, Los Angeles' first draft pick is slated for No. 37 overall — the fifth selection of the second round. Snead, however, did not dismiss the possibility of the Rams moving around.
"You never know who may fall that we think could help that might be somebody you go get. Or, the price might be too high and you sit back," Snead said. "You probably go into it with this in mind, 'Look, all things are open: moving up, staying pat, making your pick, going back and adding, maybe more picks to the next rounds.'"
If the Rams do stay at No. 37, they will have plenty to go over following the first round. Though the club's brass is currently simulating plenty of scenarios, there's no way to know for sure what will happen until Thursday.
"Let's say this — it's going to be foggy on Thursday night when the bell rings, but it'll be a lot clearer when those 32 picks are made," Snead said. "We'll have plans. We'll sit here, I'm sure a lot, talk about what might occur, the scenarios, who's left, are all of our players left that we're really targeting or just a few. And then I think that will affect the strategy from there."
Neither Snead nor McVay divulged much about the Rams draft board — as is to be expected. But both mentioned that the way it's set up is more along the lines of best player available than drafting for need.
"I think you always try to set your board with not taking needs into play," Snead said. "I always say this: Best player available is always speculative. That's our best player available. Time will tell — it's usually about three years later — whether you were right. But I do think there's a blend of common sense in this thing where there's some definite needs that will help us as a team in 2017 and the future."
"I think the thing that he said that is critical is that you do have needs, but you don't want to overreach for a need — meaning, if you have a specific player valued at that spot and you don't get a certain guy at that spot, you don't then go to the next guy because of it being a need," McVay said. "But I think when you look at it, there's a certain position that might have a little bit more depth at, you'll lean towards that need. But I don't think you want to reach for it."
And so for this 2017 Draft, Snead and McVay appear ready to implement their shared vision for the next group of Rams.
"I think from our standpoint," Snead said, "it's up to us in personnel to find those guys that fit exactly what Sean and his coaching staff want and need to go take on the division, win that thing and get to the playoffs."