Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead talks about the value of draft picks
IRVINE, Calif. — Six months ago, as the Los Angeles Rams celebrated winning Super Bowl LVI with the usual parade and cheering rally, their top front office official took his own cheeky victory lap.
Rams general manager Les Snead built the team’s win-or-lose list with trades for quarterback Matthew Stafford and other key players by offloading 12 of Los Angeles’ draft picks before last season. Most observers saw it as an all-in bet the Rams could win now, without waiting to build a team based on potential. Basking in victory during the parade, Snead wore a T-shirt that bore his face and laced profanity internet meme about his take on the draft picks that have emerged around him and his aggressive approach.
The Rams’ bold methodology goes against conventional approaches to roster building in the NFL, where draft picks are typically coveted because they allow teams to sign potentially influential players at the lowest salaries allowed.
Snead may have forced a re-evaluation. Eight teams — a quarter of NFL clubs — entered the 2022 draft without a first-round selection. They included the Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders, teams that gave up picks in exchange for receivers Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams this offseason.
Quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan, who had each led teams to Super Bowl appearances, were also traded for picks, with Wilson landing with the Denver Broncos and Ryan with the Indianapolis Colts.
While other teams follow the Rams’ plan, Snead will try to keep the team competitive without a first-round pick through 2024 as its well-paid stars age. In an interview during training camp, Snead opened up about how he actually evaluates draft picks, what he thinks is behind other teams’ aggressive personnel moves, and how he assesses when a player’s career ends. player is over.
The interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Did you enjoy becoming a meme?
I’m intentionally not on social media, but the teens had fun with it. It didn’t surprise me that it took off because we ended up winning the Super Bowl. Heck, it could have taken off if we had gone the other way and lost. Social media is good for that, right? Make fun of you to some extent. It’s easy to catch fire. But I think there is an element of superficiality there.
What were the most important factors in persuading Aaron Donald not to retire? [Donald, a seven-time All-Pro defensive tackle, considered retiring at 30 before signing a contract extension that made nearly $46 million of its $95 million total payable in bonuses over three years.]
Sean [McVay, the coach of the Rams] and him have a good relationship, so I think they were able to talk about the big picture, about life, about football and talking about things. I think myself and the front office, talking to his reps, was really, ‘OK, if Aaron wants to play football, then it’s really up to us to find a way to get the right money. Aaron shouldn’t be retiring because of us. The third part, and I think Aaron did a really good job, is because he was honest and said, “Look, I know I’m three.” Then he works creatively to be able to reward Aaron, but also design a contract where if he retires in three years, it doesn’t punish the club going forward..
How does Donald’s impending retirement affect how you build defense?
We’ll never have another Aaron Donald, so we shouldn’t be looking for that. What we should be doing is finding other ways to pressure the quarterback. But replacing Aaron Donald? It’s an unsuccessful call.
Last year, the motto seemed to be “All In”. After winning the Super Bowl, is the team’s sense of urgency the same?
One phrase we’ve thrown around is “Attack Success”. We’ve really been in it since 2017; it wasn’t just last year. Once we broke through we realized we had a special head coach and playmaker, difference makers on the attacking side of the ball and we still had a salty defence. Let’s attack this window, and we will attack it again.
How do you marry being aggressive and trading first-round picks while using later-round picks to your advantage?
We were aware that we were in this window and had the opportunity to struggle. We now have this subset of draft picks. [Twelve of the Rams’ 22 starters in the Super Bowl were drafted by the team.] What is the most effective way to use them? This means you can trade and collect more draft picks, which we do a lot.
What’s nice about our system is that when we draft a rookie, we don’t necessarily rely on them to begin with. We can develop it and support it. So I would say the new meme that won’t become a meme would really be the Rams “focusing on draft picks.”
What do you think of other teams making bolder trades this offseason?
If so, I think they’re doing it because we actually won the world championship. So selfishly I’m glad we won the world championship and if the teams think what we did, we can offer them a version of a plan. But I think over the last five to ten years teams have started to do things differently and attack their windows or attack their rebuilds. I’m not saying it was just us – maybe what we did accelerated it – but there was a tendency for teams to be less conservative.
If it wasn’t you, then what do you think caused it?
Some would say there is a younger, perhaps less traditional group of head coaches and general managers. Perhaps it is the influx of analyses. Teams may realize that we may be more into a microwaveable period as the five-year plan may be outdated. Can you do this work in a two year plan? I think you also need to add to the players element. Some say, “Wait a minute, I’m in my prime and I’m not sure this is the place to be. Could you move me to a place where I could win? “There are many factors.
When do you think you’ll start to realize that the championship window is shrinking, and how are you going to deal with that?
It could be as simple as we start losing more games. But I think where we are is when you have players in their prime, that means maybe more than half their career is over. At that point, it’s up to us to monitor where someone might drop off. This does not necessarily mean that you could now replace them. It could mean he gets fewer reps. It could mean that he practices less. How do you continue? And you will always try to fill in your holes when necessary.