Here’s the scenario … Your team can win one Super Bowl, but there’s a catch: Your team will be among the worst in the division for the foreseeable future after winning the big game.
Would you still take the Super Bowl win?
We all know what Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead would do.
The Rams’ season continues to fall apart as the team fell to 3-9 after last weekend’s loss to the Seahawks. Los Angeles, though, doesn’t have a first-round pick after trading it away to Detroit to acquire quarterback Matthew Stafford. In exchange for Stafford, the Rams sent QB Jared Goff, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, and a 2021 third-round pick and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023.
And it worked amazingly last season, as the Stafford-led Rams defeated the upstart Cincinnati Bengals and star-in-the-making QB Joe Burrow in February’s Super Bowl.
Would things be more difficult in 2022? Sure. Climbing back up that moment is always difficult, even with a full complement of returning players.
But 3-9 difficult?
Blame it on injuries, starting with Stafford.
He’s likely going to miss the remainder of the season with what is being reported as a spinal cord contusion. The injury is serious, too – there’s no guarantee Stafford will ever return from the injury, let alone this season.
Alas, the Rams don’t have that early first-round pick to potentially nab Stafford’s future replacement. That pick belongs to Detroit.
Instead, Los Angeles will likely turn its attention to another position badly in need of repair: the offensive line. Despite no picks in the first or fourth rounds, the Rams still have 11 picks in the 2023 NFL draft.
Right side already set for 2023?
Los Angeles started its 12th different offensive line combination last Sunday, becoming the only team in the Super Bowl era to use a different starting five along the line in each of the first 12 games, according to Elias Sports Bureau via ESPN.
Let’s take a look at the Rams’ line:
LT Ty Nsekhe (undrafted free agent, 2012): 65.2 PFF grade
LG Matt Skura (undrafted free agent, 2016): 49.1
C Brian Allen (fourth round, 2018): 63.9
RG Coleman Shelton (undrafted free agent, 2018): 53.3
RT Rob Havenstein (second round, 2015): 73.2
Other linemen used include: OT Alaric Jackson (undrafted free agent, 2021): 64.1; T Joseph Noteboom (third round, 2018): 67; G Bobby Evans (third round, 2019): 29.8; G Oday Aboushi (round 5, 2013): 62.8; G David Edward (round 5, 2019): 58.2; G Jeremiah Kolone (undrafted free agent, 2018): 36.1, and; T Chandler Brewer (undrafted free agent, 2019): 66.6
Now, out of that total, Evans, Nsekhe, Edwards and Skura are all unrestricted free agents. Evans, Edwards and Skura are having below-average seasons, while the best of the group, Nsekhe, will be 38 next season and isn’t a part of the team’s long-term plans.
Draft-wise, the Rams’ recent history is a bit deceptive. Los Angeles has drafted eight offensive linemen since 2018, a span covering the past five drafts. That includes one first-rounder and two third-rounders.
However, only one of those linemen has panned out. This year’s rookies, third-round guard Logan Bruss of Wisconsin and seventh-round tackle AJ Arcuri of Michigan State, have combined for 54 snaps on offense, all by Arcuri. Bruss was lost for the year after tearing his ACL and MCL during a preseason game against Houston.
Tremayne Anchrum, a seventh-round guard in 2020, has received two snaps on offense. Meanwhile, the team could lose guards Bobby Evans and David Edwards (third- and fifth-round picks, respectively, in 2019) and first-round tackle Joseph Noteboom (first-round, 2018) this offseason to free agency. Tackle Jamil Demby (sixth round, 2018) is out of the league.
That leaves Allen, the 2018 fourth-rounder, as the only offensive lineman recently drafted by the team who has enjoyed some modicum of success. Moving forward, you figure Havenstein will be back at right tackle, as he’s the team’s highest-graded lineman. Pencil in Bruss at one of the starting guard spots.
So, if you squint a bit, you can see the beginnings of a solid offensive line. If Bruss starts next season at right guard, then Los Angeles conceivably has the entire right side of their starting line already set, with Havenstein at right tackle and Allen returning at center.
That takes the team back to its lack of a first-round pick.
Even if the Rams had managed to hold onto that pick, the team might have passed on a tackle with a high first-round pick, as the Rigdon big board ranks the top two OTs higher than most analysts.
However, there is a general consensus top two: Ohio State’s Paris Johnson (No. 5 in the Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board) and Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski (No. 8), although Skoronski’s size makes him a candidate to move to guard.
After that, Georgia’s Broderick Jones (No. 22) and Ohio State’s other OT, Dawand Jones (No. 29), also could hear their names called on Day 1.
Some prominent analysts, though, say this is a bad draft for teams that need a starting offensive tackle. Here’s what Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline said about the offensive tackles: “I’m not a fan of the OT class, I believe it is awful compared to recent classes, and at most, there will be two tackles selected in the first round, Paris Johnson Jr. of Ohio State as well as Peter Skoronski of Northwestern. I have Skoronski on my guard board until I find his true measurables.”
Supply and demand, though, means it’s possible all four tackles are taken in the first round (whether they deserve to go in the first it or not).
For now, start with Tennessee’s Darnell Wright (No. 54), Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan (No. 73) and Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron (No. 77). Those three make up the third tier of tackles.
Overall, those seven tackles are the only ones ranked among the top-100 prospects.
By comparison, nine of the top 77 players this past draft were tackles, with five of them going in the first round in what was otherwise considered an average, top-heavy draft for that position.
So the one way the Rams are guaranteed of coming away with a potential starting rookie left tackle is if they draft one with their pick in the second round – even if that means they have to over-draft that player.
The team’s relatively high pick in the second round, though, should be in the range of the third-tier group of tackles that includes Wright, Duncan and Bergeron, assuming all enter the draft.
Another one to watch is Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison (No. 140), who is much lower on the Rigdon big board than where some analysts rank him.
From Pauline: “Considering the void of talent at the offensive tackle position, a situation made even more dire after Olumuyiwa Fashanu of Penn State announced he was returning to State College, Harrison’s value will increase. I presently grade the junior as a mid-second-round choice but firmly believe he could end up in the bottom third of round one.”
The team could go OL in Rounds 2 and 3
So, unless the team’s salary cap situation somehow magically changes, expect one of those aforementioned players to man the left side of Los Angeles’ line in 2023 – and hopefully beyond.
It then becomes exponentially easier to find a guard capable of starting as a rookie, even on Day 3.
Los Angeles has one pick in each of the second and third rounds, none in the fourth, then has three in the fifth, four in the sixth and two in the seventh rounds, giving them 11 total.
Therefore, don’t be surprised if the Rams’ double-dip at offensive line with its pick in the third round.
Only one interior lineman cracked the top 50 in the Rigdon big board, Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence (No. 38). However, there’s good depth, with eight guards and five centers ranked among the top 150 prospects.
Ideally, Los Angeles will come away from the draft with a combination of Torrence and Harrison with its first two picks in the second and third rounds. The more realistic combo, though, would be Wright and a guard like Texas A&M’s Layden Robinson (No. 100).
Then, with nine picks remaining, Los Angeles can take a best-player-available approach.
Sure, they have needs elsewhere – 2019 second-round safety Taylor Rapp will also be an UFA, so safety could also be a priority. And Stafford’s future is up in the air with few options to replace him.
But the Rams can’t draft for need with the rest of its picks after those two rounds, as all of the remaining picks are in the fifth round or later.
That would mean the team doesn’t address the now-shaky QB situation until the fifth round, where players like TCU’s Max Duggan (No. 158) and Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman (No. 173) could be available.
Here’s the latest Fanspeak mock draft, including the teams that don’t have a pick in Round 1:
1. Houston Texans: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
You’re going to get tired of seeing his name here every week, so here’s a tidbit to chew on: Young is the most-popular player mocked to Houston with the No. 1 overall pick by national analysts, according to NFLMockDraftDatabase.com.
2. Chicago Bears: Edge Will Anderson, Alabama
Here’s why Chicago won’t trade out of this pick for a QB-needy team: then it’ll miss out on either Anderson or Georgia DL Jalen Carter, the two clear-cut best defensive players in this draft.
3. Seattle Seahawks: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Love him or hate him, both Seahawks’ QBs are UFAs at the end of the season, and Stroud is the next-best signal caller. If Detroit is drafting behind Seattle, then maybe the teams can swap picks for draft capital and hope either Will Levis of Kentucky or Anthony Richardson of Florida are still available – huge risks on many levels. This is the safest pick.
4. Detroit Lions: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
Who’s gonna QB the team next year? Who cares – just watch this and know this dude will pair with Aidan Hutchinson for the next decade. That’s a win.
Jalen Carter is a man amongst boys #Georgia #LSU #SECChampionship
— CFB Saturday Slate w/ Mick N Bus (@MickNBus_CFB) December 3, 2022
5. Carolina Panthers: QB Will Levis, Kentucky (TRADE WITH PHILADELPHIA)
Look through Twitter too long and you might come away thinking Levis is the worst QB prospect in the history of the draft. Scouts still like him.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina (TRADE WITH CAROLINA)
NFLMockDraftDatabase has the team taking Georgia CB Kelee Ringo with this pick. That might be a disaster, although Ringo has fans among several prominent draft analysts. You can bet Eagles defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson knows a thing or two about Smith, as Wilson is an Upper Marlboro, Md., native, which is about 25 miles south of Fort Meade, Md., where Smith went to high school his freshman through junior years.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State
The team needs more playmakers to surround QB Trevor Lawrence, but they’ll also need a new RT if Jawaan Taylor signs elsewhere in free agency. See above regarding scarcity of position.
8. Arizona Cardinals: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
It feels like QB Kyler Murray is on borrowed time in Arizona. Either way, the Cardinals are going to need a better offensive line.
9. Indianapolis Colts: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
This pick just feels like a disaster waiting to happen, so the new coaching staff will be crucial if paired with this pick. With that said, Richardson has some Josh Allen-vibes to him in that he’s entering the professional level with concerns about his accuracy and decision-making – but there’s no denying his elite athletic traits.
10: Denver Broncos: QB Tanner McKee (TRADE WITH ATLANTA)
In order to move up from No. 24 to No. 10, Denver would have to give up its first four draft picks to move up this high, according to CalculatorSoup. Would Atlanta be willing to take on Russell Wilson’s contract to sweeten the deal and lower the cost of picks? To be clear, this would be a huge over-draft and therefore an enormous risk. And it would limit Denver’s ability to fix its leaky offensive line. But the team can’t assume McKee – or, for that matter, Richardson – falls to them in the third round. Keep in mind, QB needy teams Detroit and Washington are lurking not too far behind the No. 10 overall pick, plus Las Vegas, Tennessee, both New York teams, Baltimore and Minnesota all may be in the market for a new signal-caller, depending on what happens in the offseason. So, basically, as soon as Richardson is drafted, expect McKee to go not soon after – even if it’s relatively high in the first round.
11. Green Bay Packers: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson
The Packers could use some upgrades to its offensive line, but they’re also not known as a team that reaches in the first round. That’s why the pick of Murphy would be a no-brainer. This is what happens when teams with needs at premium positions like offensive tackle and quarterback panic in Round 1 – it pushes players like Murphy down, usually to a better team’s benefit.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Know what would really make Pittsburgh fans made? Draft the son of a former Steelers great just a few picks ahead of them. Porter is still a work-in-progress but could turn into a star by years 2 or 3.
13. Houston Texans: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Remember how we said last week that Wilson could fall in the draft, mainly because he’s deemed scheme-specific to a 4-3? Yeah, now we realize how dumb that sounds.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
It’s funny how sometimes even the best teams say they don’t draft for need, then something like this happens. Fact is, Jones isn’t a bad prospect and should go on to enjoy a long, productive career. But he likely won’t be ranked as a top-15 prospect by many analysts due to his measurables. Address the position in the next round? Then you’re hoping a lower-ranked prospect is still available Then you’re hoping a tackle worthy of starting as a rookie is still available. That might be an even bigger risk than taking Jones in Round 1.
15. Detroit Lions: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
The Lions need playmakers on defense, especially at cornerback, and Gonzalez is the best CB left. Easy decision. They may regret not taking a QB with their first first-round pick, but a Jalen Carter-Christian Gonzalez pairing is probably a safer bet than Anthony Richardson/Gonzalez.
16. Los Angeles Chargers: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
The Chargers are another team that doesn’t reach in the draft. If this pick comes down to Bresee or TCU receiver Quentin Johnston, then expect the team to go with the higher-ranked player, which in this case is Bresee, who happens to fill a need for the Chargers, too.
17. New England Patriots: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
A nice, safe pick for New England’s pair of young QBs.
18. Washington Commanders: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
This is where Johnston finally lands, as the Commanders don’t have anyone on offense who really scares opposing defenses. This is a start.
19: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
A player like Robinson could help extend QB Tom Brady’s career and effectiveness. Current starter Leonard Fournette is signed through 2024, when he’ll be 29 – right on the verge of that cut-off point when most RBs historically have lost their effectiveness. Either way, some analysts say Robinson is a better prospect than Fournette was when he went No. 4 overall in 2017.
20: Seattle Seahawks: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
This will give Stroud a huge target and the offensive line a de facto “sixth” lineman.
21. Tennessee Titans: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
The Titans also need more playmakers on offense as RB Derek Henry and QB Ryan Tannehill. Last year’s pick of Treylon Burks was a good start. JSN gives them another dynamic player to worry opposing offenses, but his health will be closely monitored after he missed most of this season with lingering hamstring issues.
22. New York Jets: S Brian Branch, Alabama
Let’s take a glass half-full approach: QB Zach Wilson may be a major disappointment thus far, and the team’s surprisingly good season may put them out of reach of drafting a QB in Round 1. However, the team may have found at least a suitable stop-gap in Mike White, who has passed for an incredible 684 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, since taking over for Wilson the past two games. And the team may have the defensive rookie of the year in CB Ahmad Gardner (although Seattle CB Tariq Woolen is also making a strong case). So you can make the argument here that New York should come away with Branch and be very happy with the pick. But that won’t happen – Jets fans may howl if the team takes a safety with this pick.
23. New York Giants: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Say you can have one of two but not both unrestricted free agents: QB Daniel Jones or RB Saquon Barkley, who are both enjoying career-years. Most teams would stick with the QB in this scenario, plus a younger RB like Gibbs would be a cheaper option to re-signing Barkley.
24. Atlanta Falcons: WR Jordan Addison, USC
Taking a QB in Round 1 would be an admission that Desmond Ridder, the team’s third-round pick out of Cincinnati, was a bad pick. Considering Ridder hasn’t taken a single snap this season, that seems highly unlikely; hence, the reason Atlanta might be willing to trade down in this draft. RT Kaleb McGary will be a UFA at the end of the season, but re-signing him might be a better option than taking a risk on the fourth-best OT in Round 1. Therefore, the run on offensive playmakers continues with the pick of Addison, who would pair nicely with this year’s solid first-round pick (and another USC receiver), Drake London.
25. Baltimore Ravens: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Another pick, another offensive playmaker. Baltimore is seemingly always searching for a star receiver – the team has drafted eight WRs since 2018, including two in the first, third and fourth rounds. Hyatt will help the team stretch the field once again.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Kelee Ringo, Cincinnati
CBs Eli Apple will be an UFA and Chidobe Awuzie is out for the foreseeable future with a torn ACL. Taking the best-remaining CB makes too much sense here. However, there are some concerns about Ringo, as he’s been targeted often this season, mostly with success. Ringo allowed three receptions of over 30 yards against LSU in the SEC Championship Game, one touchdown and was called for a pass interference penalty in the endzone – all presumably against “lesser” talent.
27. Dallas Cowboys: RB Devon Achane, Texas A&M
Click here for a full explanation of this pick – it’s not as crazy as it sounds.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: DE B.J. Ojulari, LSU
The Chiefs have their pick of a very good remaining group of pass rushers. Just keep this in mind: Pass rushers are an investment in the future, as they typically take a few seasons before they acclimate to the NFL. Case in point: Kansas City rookie first round pick George Karlaftis of Purdue has 2.5 sacks thus far.
29. Minnesota Vikings: CB Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M
Minnesota is to cornerbacks what Baltimore is to receivers in that the Vikings always seem to be in search for a good CB. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Jones has great size but didn’t put up big numbers this season as opposing teams generally didn’t look his way.
30. Buffalo Bills: OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
Spencer Brown, the team’s third-round pick in 2021, has been a disappointment at right tackle with a PFF grade of 48.8, among the lowest in the league among starting tackles. The massive 6-foot-8, 340-pound Jones may be a bit of a reach here, but what do you give the team that seemingly has everything?
31. Philadelphia Eagles: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
See above. In fact, drafting for Philadelphia is kind of like buying a gift for that super-rich family member – what can you get them that they don’t already have a better version of? Simpson would sort of be like buying that family member a Starbucks gift card: Inventive? Not at all. But you know it’s both needed and will be appreciated.
Los Angeles Rams, second round: G O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
New Orleans Saints, second round: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah
Cleveland Browns, second round: WR A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
Miami Dolphins, second round: RB Kendre Miller, TCU
San Francisco, third round: RB Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
* Draft order courtesy of Tankathon.
** Miami lost its first-round pick due to tampering charges.
Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak.com. He also covers the NFL draft from a Dallas Cowboys perspective in this subReddit. And his big board is updated at least once per week during the season and leading up to the draft.