It’s March 2015, and I am taking part in the #NFLUKMock on twitter with fans and writers from across the league. I am representing the Rams and having fallen in love with Todd Gurley during his time in college at Georgia I want to make him my first pick in the draft. Around pick number 8 the commissioner messages me and asks who I am going to take – he’s a pal and he’s not picking so I tell him – he responds like I’m a crazy person as the Rams have found running backs in Tre Mason and Zac Stacy.
I wanted Gurley because he’s a game changing elite talent, and would totally change the face of the franchise, but now my friend has gotten in my head and I choose Andrus Peat instead.
Fast forward to today and Todd Gurley is one of the contenders to Tom Brady’s 2017 MVP award and had led the Rams offence to the playoffs and first NFC West title since 2003. Gurley has 1817 yards combined and 17 touchdowns with 2 games to go.
When Sean McYey was brought in for Jeff Fisher, the Rams were upfront about the complete lack of options and protection for their young quarterback Jared Goff. GM Les Snead had probably been lucky to survive the firings in LA but set about his task in the off season.
I have to take my hat off to the fella, he brought in a rock of a left tackle Andrew Whitworth, spent high draft picks on receiver Cooper Kupp and tight end Gerald Everett, as well as free agent receiver Robert Woods and traded a 2nd round pick and cornerback EJ Gaines for receiver Sammy Watkins.
I have seen Seahawks fans jokingly say that their team should draft offensive line with every pick of the draft, but Les Snead actually went there, he saw the problem and threw players at it, completely revitalising the Rams offence, it is a completely different unit and the difference is chalk and cheese.
I genuinely thought the Bills had won that trade, Watkins had looked extremely average and disinterested for a while and the Rams were lacking in defensive backs so why trade Gaines. At the same time the Bills also traded corner Ronald Darby to the Eagles for Jordan Matthews, and look to have come out the wrong end of that trade too.
So what of the Rams? The future looks ridiculously bright, what can stop them becoming the next big dominant team in the West? They have the young coach, the young QB, and I struggle to think of any reason they may fail.
I’m clutching at straws here you understand, but one reason for potential drop off could be the eventual loss of Wade Phillips. Phillips is a superb defensive coordinator, probably the best in the NFL, yet he is not a young man and at some point must hand over the reins, he was possibly on the verge of retirement before the Rams job so this situation will be an interesting watch.
Trumaine Johnson is probably their best defensive back, as you know good defensive backs are key to a pass rush – giving the linemen those extra moments to be able to get to the QB. Johnson is playing out the 2nd franchise tag in a row and surely they would not put it on for a third time. His fellow DB Lamarcus Joyner is also a free agent this year, they will get paid, but it all adds up.
Another big time defensive star is Aaron Donald, probably the best in the league, yet it is well know he is unhappily playing on his rookie contract, missing the opening of the season due to a hold out. The second contract of Ndamakong Suh was crippling to the Miami Dolphins, that being after the Lions refused to pay him as much, I’m not suggesting Donald may leave, but in the next couple of years they will want to pay Donald, Johnson, Joiner, Gurley and eventually Goff.
We all know what has happened to the Seattle Seahawks when their stars got paid – they couldn’t afford to bring in any other quality. Having a lot of money tied up in 8-10 stars of the team relies on the GM’s ability to draft new young players to support them, if Les Snead can draft as he did this season, then the Rams could be here for some time yet.
For those keeping score in the #NFLUKMock I followed up Andrus Peat with Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Tyler Lockett, Bryce Petty and Kurtis Drummond, so it wasn’t all a complete loss!
Photo from: latimes.com