Los Angeles Rams head football coach Sean McVay, center, talks...

Los Angeles Rams head football coach Sean McVay, center, talks with reporters during an NFC coaches availability at the NFL owners meetings, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. Credit: AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack

LOS ANGELES — The most recent time the Los Angeles Rams made a first-round pick in the NFL draft, Sean McVay was Washington's offensive coordinator and Puka Nacua was a high school freshman.

That was way back in 2016, just after the Rams moved back home to Los Angeles from St. Louis. General manager Les Snead's team was nothing special at that time following 12 consecutive non-winning seasons, and the Rams decided they needed to make a big splash in Hollywood by trading up for Jared Goff.

Boldly adding a solid quarterback — and eventually trading that quarterback for Matthew Stafford — put McVay in position to lead the Rams back from irrelevance and into near-annual playoff contention. They've racked up six winning seasons, five playoff berths, three NFC West titles, two Super Bowl appearances and one championship since the most recent time they picked in the first round.

The Rams have been annual Thursday nonparticipants in the draft for several very good reasons, in fact: McVay probably wouldn't have enjoyed all of his success without Snead's judicious use of his first-round picks as capital for improving his team with veterans.

The Rams' first-round pick in 2017 went to Tennessee as part of the Goff deal. Their pick in 2018 went to New England to land receiver Brandin Cooks. Snead used his first-rounder in 2019 to trade back for more draft capital.

Los Angeles' first-round selections in 2020 and 2021 then went to Jacksonville for star defensive back Jalen Ramsey, while his first-rounders in 2022 and 2023 went to Detroit in the deal for Stafford. Both players were vital to the Rams' championship run in early 2022.

The Rams are finally back in the mix this year with the 19th overall pick, and their fan base is waiting to see whether they'll actually have something to cheer on a Thursday in April.

MANY POSSIBILITIES

Snead's philosophy around the value of his picks has been widely adopted at this point, to the point where it's often more difficult to make the type of bold moves that landed Goff, Ramsey and Stafford in LA. Snead has kept open the possibility of trading out of the first round yet again, and he will probably keep listening to offers until the last minute.

In other words, everybody realizes the Rams' first-round drought might not actually end this spring.

AFTER 99

Following last season’s impressive return to the playoffs, the Rams appear to be close to title contention again, perhaps only needing a couple of elite talents to be a serious contender. But the Rams also lost one of the NFL's best players and a major portion of their franchise identity with the retirement of Aaron Donald last month.

The All-Pro left a massive hole in the roster, but also a more literal hole in the center of the defensive line. The Rams are short on bodies to line up alongside promising nose tackle Kobie Turner, let alone anybody with a fraction of Donald’s ability.

SO MANY PICKS

The Rams also kept their own second-round and third-round picks, and they get an extra pick at the back of the third round as compensation for losing defensive coordinator Raheem Morris to the Atlanta Falcons. Los Angeles has 11 total picks this month after making 14 picks in 2023.

NEEDS

Along with the vacancy on the interior defensive line, Los Angeles also needs another pass-rushing linebacker after failing to bolster an area of weakness in 2023 during free agency. McVay would always welcome another offensive playmaker, particularly a speedy receiver or a backup running back. The Rams probably need to address their long-term future at both offensive tackle spots soon, either in this draft or the near future.

DON'T NEED

The Rams look set at quarterback for 2024 with Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo and possibly Stetson Bennett, although 2025 could be a different story. Their interior offensive line looks better than it has in years, while Los Angeles already bolstered its weak secondary with free-agent acquisitions Tre'Davious White, Kam Curl and Darious Williams.

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