Sean McVay says Rams won't 'punish' draft prospects who opted out in 2020

Cassandra Negley
·3-min read

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is more concerned with what a player shows on the field than if he chose to be on the field during a pandemic. 

McVay took a different approach than others during his pre-draft news conference when asked about evaluating college football players who opted out of the 2020 season. Via NBC Sports:

“The tape is always the best guiding light. So you go back to their ’19 film and you use that as the most important reference. Then the character is all a big part of it,” McVay said. “[General manager] Les [Snead] and his group do an outstanding job of vetting these players and really our coaches as well, it’s all part of it. But the most important thing that guides our decision-making is, first and foremost, the tape.

“You don’t punish a guy. This past year has certainly been, I think, one that is different in so many ways, but you don’t punish guys for that. You go back to the tape. You look at what they’ve previously done — and then there are some projections with guys that maybe have less tangible evidence on the tape, and it all is a part of the evaluation process. But certainly nothing weighs more than when you’re evaluating them playing the game that we’re going to ask them to do.”

The Rams, whose front-office personnel are drafting from a posh Malibu beach house, do not have a selection in the first round. Their first draft pick is at No. 57 overall. 

Steelers prefer players who didn't opt out 

McVay's comments follow those of Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. Colbert reiterated a stance the organization's front office made around last year's draft by saying the Steelers would rather take a player who was on the field in 2020. 

"As I stated in the summer, if a player chooses to opt out for whatever reason, that's their decision and we will respect it," Colbert said on Monday, via "However, if a player played in 2020 and those players are of equal value, the one that didn't play and the one that played, we'll take the one that played because we don't know what the opt-outs will be like in their first season back in football.

"We believe it's hard to sit this game out. Sometimes it happens because of injury, but this time it was pandemic-related for the most part. But we will take the players, again if they're close. It's not to say we're not gonna draft somebody that opted out. I couldn't say that. But if I have a choice and we have a choice, we'll take the one that played if their value is close."

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday those who played in 2020 are stronger candidates to be drafted than those who opted out. He and head coach Mike McCarthy noted that players likely missed about 700 snaps and missed opportunities to improve. 

Those assessments certainly make sense. There's value in extra reps for any young player. But there's also the argument that players who opted out didn't take as many hits and were able to work on overall health. If the talent and upside is there, it's there no matter if the player was on the field for a 2020 season or not. 

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