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Rams head coach Sean McVay, left, talks to general manager Les Snead after NFL football practice Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Rams head coach Sean McVay, left, talks to general manager Les Snead after NFL football practice Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Sports reporter Adam Grosbard in Torrance on Monday, Sep. 23, 2019. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

INGLEWOOD — On stage at the YouTube Theater, Rams general manager Les Snead turned to the crowd of season ticket holders at Rams Revealed Live and asked what he should do with the team’s first-round draft pick. A chorus of suggestions were offered, so many that they rendered each other indiscernible.

“You see,” Snead said, grinning, “this is exactly like a draft meeting.”

The Rams held their first such meeting on Monday, jump-starting the next phase of their offseason as prospects gather this week in Indianapolis for the NFL draft combine. As has become their custom in recent years, the Rams won’t send any executives, coaches or scouts to Lucas Oil Stadium, just their medical staff to perform physicals.

Regardless, the Rams’ brain trust begins the work of crystalizing the team’s draft board this week, from meetings discussing the merits of certain prospects to virtually recording measurables from the combine as new data points.

And the Rams could end up using a first-round pick for the first time since 2016, No. 19 overall to be exact.

Head coach Sean McVay joked last week about whether or not the Rams would actually use the pick, or trade it for some other asset. Like the 2017 pick, which was used to move up to No. 1 and draft Jared Goff. Or 2018, which was traded for Brandin Cooks. Or 2020 and 2021, which turned into Jalen Ramsey, like 2022 and 2023 turned into Matthew Stafford. Then there was 2019, when the Rams traded down from No. 31 three times to end up at No. 61.

But the Rams recognize that having this year’s first-rounder, particularly with where it is in the draft, gives them new options this offseason.

“I think that’s the great thing if you sit at 19, conceptually, is you’re going to have a bunch of players probably fall to you who you had as top-15 picks,” COO Kevin Demoff explained to reporters backstage at the YouTube Theater. “You may have the chance if someone falls who you have as a top-eight pick and they fall to 14-15, are you going up and getting them? Or you may have 4-5 players fall to you that you didn’t expect to be there and you feel comfortable trading back.”

Some needs will vary based on how the pre-draft weeks play out. The offensive line could grow in importance if the Rams lose either right guard Kevin Dotson or center Coleman Shelton, both of whom can enter free agency. Defensive back and edge rusher could be addressed via free agency or the draft.

And at quarterback, the Rams could opt to bring back Carson Wentz or another veteran option. McVay has expressed doubt about whether Stetson Bennett IV will return after missing his rookie season on the non-football injury list for undisclosed reasons. The Rams spent a fourth-round pick on him a year ago and could have to return to that well in April for a QB who could develop behind Stafford.

“I don’t think that that would discourage us from taking another swing at a quarterback prospect but it has to be the right one,” Demoff said. “When you walk in thinking you need it is when you make mistakes.”

Free agency begins in two weeks, and unlike a year ago when the team sat and watched, the Rams have some salary cap space to work with. They got a head start last week by to a one-year, $5 million contract after he took hold of a substantial role down the stretch of last season.

“He brings such an energy. He’s going into Year 9; he’s been in the playoffs eight years out of eight. That’s not just by coincidence,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “When he wasn’t playing in the first part of the year, he wanted to be out there and he voiced that in a professional way. And it was just, ‘You’re going to get your shot. When you get your shot, go make it.’ And he did and he stayed positive and he was a locker room favorite and he and Matthew had a great rapport.”

That $5 million contract for Robinson is already more money than the Rams spent on veteran free agent additions Robinson, Ahkello Witherspoon and John Johnson III last offseason. Needless to say, it’s going to be a very different spring for the Rams than a year ago.

“We had a fun one last year and I think expectations are much higher this year; they’re kind of where we’re accustomed to them being and I think that’s something our group is excited about,” Demoff said. “The goal was always could we get back to the point where we had draft capital, where we had salary cap space, we had flexibility to go allow Sean and Les to do what they do best, which is dream big, get crazy and have an offseason. So we sit at the precipice of that.”

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