Rams make case for having NFL's most accomplished roster

LOS ANGELES -- Les Snead should puff his chest out in Indianapolis.

The Los Angeles Rams' general manager -- nearly fired about 15 months ago -- might just be overseeing the NFL's best, most accomplished roster.

Snead and the Rams contingency descended upon this year's scouting combine Tuesday. Four days earlier, they traded for All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters. Three weeks before that, they became the first team ever with the Associated Press' Offensive Player of the Year (running back Todd Gurley), Defensive Player of the Year (defensive tackle Aaron Donald) and Coach of the Year (32-year-old Sean McVay). A month before that, they completed an 11-win season in which they scored an NFL-leading 478 points.

The Rams nonetheless have a lot of work ahead of them. They have to plug holes on defense, they have to identify the next wave of offensive linemen, and somewhere along the way, they probably have to pay Donald an inordinate amount of money. But in Peters, they added another young, affordable, elite player, of which they have many. Now the same Rams franchise that was coming off 10 consecutive losing seasons at this time last year boasts a roster that could be envied by 31 other teams.

To make that case, we compared their roster to all the others. (Players who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents were not included.)

Top-20 picks: The Rams' roster includes eight players who were selected within the first 20 picks of their respective drafts, second only to the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles with nine. (Third place is a tie between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Miami Dolphins, with seven each. The Buffalo Bills have only one.) The Rams didn't have a first-round pick last year. They recently selected two tackles who flopped dramatically at No. 2 overall (Jason Smith and Greg Robinson). And they still have eight. Another -- Sammy Watkins, the fourth overall pick in 2014 -- could return on a franchise tag.

2017 Pro Bowlers: Eight players on the Rams' roster were invited to the Pro Bowl this year. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team that can even match them. OK, four of those Rams Pro Bowlers came on special teams, including the long-snapper. But still. (The New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings have seven each, while the Chicago Bears are the only team without any.) Quarterback Jared Goff and left tackle Andrew Whitworth were added as replacements, while Gurley, Donald, punter Johnny Hekker, kicker Greg Zuerlein and return specialist Pharoh Cooper cracked the initial list. Long-snapper Jake McQuaide was included later.

Major-award winners: The Rams now boast an Offensive Player of the Year (Gurley), a Defensive Player of the Year (Donald), an Offensive Rookie of the Year (Gurley) and two Defensive Rookies of the Year (Donald and Peters), as voted on by the AP. Take those four awards, add the MVP, and the Rams are tied with the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots for the most awards on their roster, with five each. But the Panthers got their five from only two players (Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly). The Patriots got them with only one (Tom Brady). The only other team with three players winning those awards is the Saints, with Drew Brees (two-time Offensive Player of the Year), Alvin Kamara (Offensive Rookie of the Year) and Marshon Lattimore (Defensive Rookie of the Year).

First-team All-Pros: The Rams have eight players who have been first-team AP All-Pros -- Hekker, Donald, Whitworth, Cooper, Gurley, Peters, Zuerlein and edge-rusher Robert Quinn. That's tied for the most in the NFL with the division-rival Arizona Cardinals, who have Andy Lee, Patrick Peterson, Budda Baker, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Iupati, David Johnson, Chandler Jones and Tyrann Mathieu. (The Dallas Cowboys are next with seven, at least three more than any other team. The Bears and the New York Jets don't have any.) The Rams drafted five of their eight All-Pros, three of them within the past four years.

Value and control: This is an area where the Rams really separate themselves, and it might be the most important. Let's take a look at their All-Pros. Those aforementioned eight players will combine to cost $45.82 million toward the 2018 salary cap. Three of them are 25 or younger; seven of them are signed through at least the 2019 season (assuming the Rams exercise their fifth-year option on Peters). Now let's compare that to the Cardinals' All-Pros. Those eight will cost a combined $77.08 million toward the 2018 salary cap. Two are 25 or younger, but three can be free agents at season's end.

The Rams' franchise quarterback, Goff, is only 23 and will cost a combined $16.51 million toward the cap over the next two seasons. Six of the seven players he targeted most last season -- Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Josh Reynolds and Gurley -- will cost a combined $16.15 million toward this coming season's salary cap. And all of them are in the books through at least the 2019 season.

Puff out that chest, Les.