In 11 NFL drafts as the Rams general manager, Les Snead has selected nearly 100 players.
But only three quarterbacks. And none since 2016, when the Rams traded up a record 14 picks in the first round to select Jared Goff at No. 1.
This year’s draft could be the first time in seven years — and the first time during the Sean McVay era — that the Rams select a prospect who plays the sport’s most important position.
Matthew Stafford, 35, remains the starter as he prepares for his 15th NFL season. Stafford led the Rams to a Super Bowl title two years ago and then signed a four-year extension that included $120 million in guarantees.
After last season’s 5-12 finish, the Rams did not re-sign backups John Wolford or Bryce Perkins. So Snead and McVay are in the market — through the draft, post-draft free agency or a trade — for at least two quarterbacks.
For the seventh year in a row, the Rams do not have a first-round pick.
That means top quarterback prospects such as Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, Will Levis and Hendon Hooker probably will be gone when the Rams select their first player in the second round with the No. 36 overall pick.
Brigham Young’s Jaren Hall, Stanford’s Tanner McKee, Houston’s Clayton Tune, Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell, UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Texas Christian’s Max Duggan, Fresno State’s Jake Haener and Georgia’s Stetson Bennett are among other quarterbacks available.
The Rams have been “intentional” about evaluating quarterbacks in the second tier, Snead said.
“For whatever reason, you don’t have them in tier one,” he said, “but they have just enough of some tier one-type variables that you go, ‘Wow, they might be a tier two, they might have a chance to be a backup, they might have a chance.’”
When evaluating quarterbacks, McVay said decision-making, passing accuracy, innate leadership traits, and poise and performance in important moments are factors.
“There’s certain guys that are easier evals just because they might be doing certain things that you would ask,” McVay said, “but that doesn’t mean that they’ll end up being a better player.
“So I think you have to be able to look at the total group and their total body of work, and then figure out how do they elevate others around them and what are those elite traits and do we feel like it translates to our level and what we would ask, and then ultimately we would adjust to them as well.”
With multiple needs — edge rusher, receiver, offensive and defensive line and cornerback among them — there is no predicting when the Rams might select a quarterback.
Or if they will.
“If you have a need and you just force a draft pick to fill a need, but that pick doesn’t fill the need, at the end of the day, all that work, you still have a need even though you filled a roster spot,” Snead said. “So that’s the tricky thing and probably quarterbacks are a little bit trickier just because that is a tougher position to predict success in, especially from college to the NFL.”
In 2014, Snead selected Southern Methodist quarterback Garrett Gilbert in the sixth round with the 214th pick. The Rams waived Gilbert at the end of training camp, signed him to the practice squad and then released him during the season. Gilbert was on the New England Patriots practice squad last season.
In 2015, Snead chose Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion in the third round with the 89th pick. Mannion played in 10 games in four seasons, starting once. Last season, Mannion was on the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad.
Under former coach Jeff Fisher, Goff did not play until the 10th game of his rookie season. He was 0-7 as a starter but flourished the next season under McVay. In 2017, Goff led the Rams to their first playoff appearance since 2004. The next season, the Rams advanced to Super Bowl LIII before losing to the New England Patriots.
The Rams rewarded Goff with an extension that included a then-record $110 million in guarantees. But the Rams missed the playoffs in 2019and lost in the NFC divisional round in 2020, McVay souring on Goff down the stretch.
Two weeks after the season, Snead dealt Goff, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Lions for Stafford.
Stafford passed for 41 touchdowns in 2021 and led the Rams to victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Last season, however, he worked through right-elbow issues, was sidelined because of a concussion and sat out the final seven games because of a spinal bruise.
Meantime, the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers advanced to the NFC championship game with rookie Brock Purdy stepping in for injured Jimmy Garoppolo.
The 49ers had selected Purdy in the seventh round with the 262nd pick, the last one in the draft.
Does the 49ers’ success with Purdy — he will carry a salary-cap number of only $889,000 this season — influence Snead’s thinking?
“It just shows you that it can be done,” Snead said, “and I do think right player, right situation, that’s probably the key, right?”
McVay complimented Purdy for his performance but, citing Stafford’s success in his first season with the Rams, he said there are different ways to approach quarterback issues.
“It’s kind of a moving target,” he said, “and it shows you that there’s different ways to be able to get it done.”