The Los Angeles Rams are sitting at a crisp 7-1 after taking care of business against the Houston Texans on Sunday. The team has yet to be truly tested, but the first half of the season suggests the sky is the limit with Matthew Stafford captaining a Sean McVay offense. The front office appears to agree, as news broke today that Los Angeles is sending a second and a third-round pick to Denver in exchange for the services of one Von Miller.
This has been the Rams' modus operandi under general manager Les Snead. Draft picks are valuable, but proven players are far more so. NFL draftees, in particular, take a while to become impact players. Hitting on a first-round pick is great, but the Rams have a chance to win right now and do not have the time to wait for anybody to come along, even if they are ultimately great players. It's a big difference in philosophy from the recent trend in NFL strategy, which hinges on accumulating as many draft picks as possible in order to have more darts to throw at the board in the hopes that a few pan out.
The Rams are not the first team in NFL history to decide on this route, but they're taking it to its logical extreme. The last time the Rams picked somebody in the first round was 2016, when they selected Jared Goff. They traded their 2017 first-rounder to get Goff. They traded their 2018 first-rounder for Brandin Cooks. They traded out of the first round in 2019 and sent out their 2020 and 2021 first-rounders for Jalen Ramsey. And, of course, they acquired Stafford in exchange for Goff and their 2022 and 2023 first-round picks.
In this upcoming draft, the Rams don't have a pick until the fifth round as of today. Unless they pull off another trade in the next year or two, they'll have gone eight years without picking in the first round.
Given the Rams went to the Super Bowl and have made the playoffs three of the last four years, I would say the strategy is working. But it is a unique trend that we may never see again. Few teams have all of what the Rams have right now: a defined championship window, a recognition of that window, and the free reign to do whatever it takes to make the most of it.
There are, of course, predictable ways for this to go wrong. If the Rams get unlucky and stumble for a few seasons, they'll be in cap hell with all the superstars under contract with zero way to get reinforcements on the cheap. But if they win the big one, it's impossible to think of it all as anything other than a roaring success.