Monday, October 2, 2023

Super Bowl 2022: Trading draft picks for established stars helped Rams build championship-caliber roster

The Los Angeles Rams‘ 2020-2021 season ended in the divisional round of the playoffs against Green Bay. After the loss to the Packers, the franchise decided to make a change. In January, general manager Les Snead was aggressive in trading Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to Detroit in exchange for Matthew Stafford

The Rams did not make several moves since going 10-6 a year ago, but they did make significant ones. Los Angeles retained cornerback Darious Williams and edge rusher Leonard Floyd. They did not have a first-round pick and the only real contributions received from the 2021 NFL Draft class were limited to wide receiver Ben Skowronek and cornerback Robert Rochell.

Running back Cam Akers suffered a torn Achilles during training camp. Rather than taking a chance with the talent on the roster, Snead acquired Sony Michel from New England in August. As part of the deal, the Rams traded sixth- and fourth-round picks. 

Outside of Stafford, the two most impactful moves that the NFC West franchise made occurred in November. When Denver made edge rusher Von Miller available, Los Angeles flipped second- and third-round picks to the Broncos. Miller was the fourth-highest-ranked edge rusher this season, according to PFF. He has recorded at least one sack in six of the team’s last seven games. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald commands a lot of attention up the middle and that frees up Miller and Floyd; the latter also had 9.5 sacks this season.

Twelve days after acquiring Miller, Los Angeles signed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who freed himself of a lucrative contract from Cleveland in heroic fashion. The move was made with the intention of pairing the ex-Giant with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods but a season-ending injury to Woods occurred less than 48 hours after Beckham’s signing.

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Finally, safety Eric Weddle was signed Jan. 12 in response to injuries sustained in the secondary. Every time the franchise had a significant injury, Los Angeles either had a ready-made replacement on the roster or quickly moved to acquire one.

The transactions made over the course of the last year were no different than the tendencies shown by Snead during his employment. It has been well-documented that first-round picks are of little consequence to the organization. They used significant draft capital to trade up to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft for the right to select Goff and then traded multiple first-round picks to Jacksonville in exchange for Ramsey. 

Kupp and Donald are homegrown talents but the rest was largely imported, including offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth. There is no mandate that a certain percentage of the roster must be occupied by the team’s own draft choices. Talent acquisition is an equal opportunity venture and no one should find fault in how a Super Bowl-winning team was constructed. At the end of the day, winning a Super Bowl is the ultimate goal and it is difficult to achieve.

After Patrick Mahomes won a Super Bowl in his second season, many believed they would become the next Patriots dynasty. Fast forward to today, the Chiefs have appeared in two of the last four Super Bowls with just one victory to show for it. If the Rams hoist the Lombardi Trophy in a little more than a week, Snead should be commended for the moves he made to assemble that team. Only seven active general managers will have won a Super Bowl once Kevin Colbert steps down in Pittsburgh later this year. 

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