No First-Round Draft Pick? No Problem for the Rams.

Los Angeles hasn't picked in the first round since drafting Jared Goff in 2016

Head coach Sean McVay of the LA Rams.
Sean McVay and the LA Rams have done well in the draft's later rounds.
Getty Images

Twenty years ago today, the Chargers selected Eli Manning with the first pick in the 2004 NFL draft and then traded him to the Giants for No. 4 overall pick Philip Rivers after Manning threatened to sit out the season. “It was my decision,” Manning revealed in 2021, shedding light on what went down. “I was just worried about the Chargers organization at the time. Manning’s call or not, it was a move that worked out, generally, for both teams — Manning went on to win two Super Bowls with the Giants, while Rivers put together a (likely) Hall-of-Fame career and kept the Chargers in contention year after year before leaving the franchise as LA made the pivot to Justin Herbert at QB 1.

The season after the Chargers brought Herbert to the Golden State, LA’s other team made a blockbuster trade that involved a pair of first-round quarterbacks changing teams when the Rams shipped former No. 1 pick Jared Goff and a package of picks to the Detroit Lions in exchange for former No.1 quarterback Matthew Stafford. Much like the Rivers-Manning swap, the move has largely worked out for both teams, as the Rams won the Super Bowl three seasons ago and the Lions were a game short of reaching the big game this year (and probably should have made it.)

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In another twist to the Stafford-Goff swap, it was the Lions who eliminated the Rams from the playoffs this season in a matchup that was largely unexpected — no one thought Los Angeles would be a playoff team following multiple years of going “all-in” and trading first-round picks for established players. Critiqued by many, that strategy has largely worked for the Rams, who amazingly have not made a first-round selection in the draft since taking Goff at No. 1 in 2016. (That drought has the Rams tied for the second-longest streak without an opening-round pick since 1967.)

Thee Rams have been a borderline force since Sean McVay took over as head coach and have been over .500 in six of his seven seasons with two Super Bowl appearances and one win. All of that has been accomplished without the Rams using a single first-round pick to select a player.

Instead of using their picks, the Rams — who surrendered first-round selections in 2022 and 2023 to Detroit in exchange for Stafford and won a Super Bowl because of it — have treated them as the non-guaranteed assets they are and used them to acquire proven talent. Aiding Los Angeles has been their ability to knock it out of the park with secondary selections like Cooper Kupp, Kyren Williams and last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Puka Nacua.

Slated to make the No. 19 in Detroit (another coincidence) tomorrow night from their war room in a $16.5-million mansion in Hermosa Beach, the Rams and general manager Les Snead have maintained that all options — trading up, trading down or staying put at 19 — are on the table. “All three of those options are probably as real as it can get, in a reality, for sure, and we’re going to explore all three,” Snead said. “No pressure. Just a great opportunity to add a quality player that hopefully makes an impact. That is, if we do pick in the first round.”

Even if they don’t, the Rams are going to be just fine.

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