Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams should have plenty of company in the first round of the NFL Draft next week.
The franchise, which hasn’t made a first-round pick since snapping Jared Goff in 2016 and currently doesn’t have another first-round pick until 2024, is expected to be joined by a record seven other teams that traded their first-round picks in what has become a growing trend in recent years.
Whether it’s teams emulating the Rams’ model of flipping uncertain picks for cost-controlled rookies to more proven veterans with more lucrative contracts or others that have gone the way of Kansas City and Buffalo used in trading future first-round picks to move on to take a future franchise quarterback, teams are dropping out of the first round of the draft at a breakneck pace.
It will be the third time in four years that at least seven teams will not make a first-round pick unless one of those teams trades, which has only happened twice in the first 52. years of the common draft.
Former Tampa Bay general manager and SiriusXM analyst Mark Dominik said the increase in the salary cap, more power for players and general managers willing to take more risks drove the change.
“I think that’s the unique thing because the players are actually getting a bit more aggressive in their position and the clubs are ready to do that,” Dominik said. “Twenty years ago, if you tried to cross paths with (former Chiefs general manager) Carl Peterson, you’d never play football again. … That mentality kind of disappeared in the league. That’s why you’ve seen more first-round picks moved and traded because clubs are willing to do so.
“So having a known product, especially because some of these guys are elite, is better than having this first-round pick that you hope to be who you can be.”
No one has been as aggressive as the Rams. General manager Les Snead traded two first-round picks to take quarterback Jared Goff in 2016, another first for receiver Brandin Cooks in 2018, traded first-round picks in 2019 for more picks, dealt two more firsts rounds to acquire All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and two more for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
That added to a Super Bowl-winning slate last season.
“The model works,” Snead said. “It allows us to constantly win games, to constantly fight for the NFC West. We’ll try to use our picks in innovative and creative ways, and sometimes it’s going to be picking players out of the draft and sometimes it’s going to be using them to go acquire players.
The Rams’ aggressiveness has rubbed off on other teams, looking to match Los Angeles’ success in recent years.
Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said there’s never “too much of a price tag for someone who’s awesome” — especially when it comes to quarterbacks. now has Russell Wilson in place.
“You can ask all these guys here. You have to have a quarterback to stand a chance,” Hackett said at owners meetings last month. “That’s all it takes to get a quarterback.”
Of the eight teams that gave their first-round picks this year, the Broncos were one of six that did in quarterback trades with the Rams, Cleveland (Deshaun Watson), San Francisco (Trey Lance), Indianapolis (Carson Wentz) and Chicago (Justin Fields).
The other teams to do so were Las Vegas and Miami, who both traded their top picks to add breakthrough receivers they hope can make the most of their existing quarterbacks, with the Raiders getting Davante Adams from Green. Bay and the Dolphins getting Tyreek Hill from Kansas City.
After making 11 top-100 picks in the last two drafts to rebuild the roster, Miami is expected to pick no more until No. 102 after using those picks to advance in the draft last year to take receiver Jaylen Waddle and attack. Liam Eichenberg then the deal for Hill.
“We’ve been building here for a few years,” said general manager Chris Grier. “The chance to go aggressive and add a better talented player to a position is something we just felt was too good to pass up.”
There are already five teams that have traded their 2023 first-round picks, with the Rams and 49ers distributing those picks last year when they got their quarterbacks, with the Browns trading three years of first-round picks against Watson, with the Seahawks giving up a second first-round pick for Wilson and the Saints trading their 2023 first-rounder for an additional 2022 first-rounder.
The trend shows few signs of running out of steam.
“Any successful team gets curious and you want to know why and you kind of dig ‘OK’. They did it and what are the opportunities they got the most out of it,” the chief executive said. Jets, Joe Douglas “Again, there are a lot of different ways to skin a cat in terms of list building. It’s just what your core philosophy is at the end of the day.”
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