LOS ANGELES -- Seven decades ago, the Los Angeles Rams took a flyer on a T-formation quarterback named Norm Van Brocklin. This was December of 1948. Van Brocklin had just led Oregon to a tie for the Pacific Coast Conference championship, but he still had another year of eligibility remaining and teams believed he would go back to school. He slipped all the way to the 37th overall selection, which at that time took place in the fourth round.
To this day, Van Brocklin remains the only 37th pick to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
He now signifies hope. Hope for teams scrambling to find that franchise cornerstone with the fifth pick of the second round. Hope for an organization like the present-day Rams, who, nearly 70 years later, won't make their first selection in the 2017 draft until, yep, 37th overall.
That pick will take place next Friday night, on April 28, probably a little after 4:30 p.m. PT. And there is really no telling which direction the Rams will go, because so many picks will be made before them and because so many of their positions need fixing. They badly need talent at receiver and tight end, but they also need depth at cornerback and safety. They need to identify their left tackle and center of the future, but they also need to start building the next wave of defensive linemen and linebackers.
If you had to narrow it down -- based on the Rams' biggest needs and this draft's greatest strengths -- you would probably go with a receiving threat or a defensive back. The Rams have been linked to an assortment of both. And on a conference call with NFL Nation reporters on Tuesday, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. identified East Carolina receiver Zay Jones as someone who could slip to the Rams at 37.
"It would make sense, if he gets to that point," Kiper said of Jones, the FBS record holder for receptions in a career and in a single season. "I thought at one point Kansas City might take him. But there's a chance he can get into the second round and go in that early-round, two area to the Rams.”
From 2000 to '16, the 37th overall pick produced three players who were invited to at least one Pro Bowl: guard Andre Gurode, defensive back Eric Weddle and tackle Jon Stinchcomb. They combined for 10 Pro Bowl invites and two All-Pro selections. All 17 of those picks have combined to serve 60 seasons as the primary starters for their respective teams, as defined by Pro-Football Reference.
The No. 1 overall pick since 2000? Eleven Pro Bowl players, 30 Pro Bowl invites, three first-team All Pro selections and 95 seasons as primary starters.
No. 2? Eight Pro Bowl players, 33 Pro Bowl invites, 12 first-team All Pro Selections and 84 seasons as primary starters.
No. 3? Nine Pro Bowl players, 47 Pro Bowl invites, 12 first-team All Pro Selections and 100 seasons as primary starters.
As you might have guessed, the overall success of players declines as one moves further down the draft. But it isn't necessarily a straight line south. Since 2000, the No. 11 overall selection has produced 16 first-team All-Pro selections; 24th overall has combined for 33 Pro Bowl invites; 35th overall has recorded 77 seasons as starters. Picks 9 to 16 produced a combined 66 first-team All-Pro selections, 10 more than picks 1 to 8. But slots 33 to 40 only produced a combined 26 Pro Bowl players over these last 17 years -- 12 fewer than slots 25 to 32, 16 fewer than slots 17 to 24, 39 fewer than slots 9 to 16, and 42 fewer than slots 1 to 8.
The Rams hope to someday add No. 27.
Les Snead has made five second-round picks in five prior drafts as the Rams' general manager. Two (Janoris Jenkins and Lamarcus Joyner) turned out well. Two (Brian Quick and Isaiah Pead) did not. And one (Rob Havenstein) is still to be determined. This will be the eighth time in franchise history that the Rams are drafting 37th overall. The other seven selections ...
RB Robert Holcombe, 1998
QB Ron Jaworski, 1973
LB Fred Brown, 1965
LB Johnny Baker, 1963
DB Dewey McConnell, 1952
C Roger Harding, 1945
Only the two quarterbacks -- Van Brocklin and Jaworski -- spent more than three seasons as starters.