It is a massive gamble, without question. It’s also a storyline the NFL must love: The Rams appear set to draft a QB No. 1 after pulling off a blockbuster trade with the Titans.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead have said all off-season that Case Keenum would be their QB headed into Week 1. That may still be the case, but it appears he’s not going to be long for the job.
The Rams pulled off a blockbuster trade on Thursday morning, sending picks 15, 43, 45 and 76 in this year’s draft, plus their first- and third-rounders next year, to the Titans for the No. 1 pick, plus picks 113 and 177. The move leapfrogs Los Angeles ahead of Cleveland and into position to choose the quarterback it wants as the face of the franchise as it relocates west, while Tennessee comes away with a stockpile of early-round picks.
“Being able to acquire six players in the top 76 this year, along with next year when you factor that into it—I am assuming five in the top three rounds—that is 11 players that we can add to this football team that should not only increase our depth, but give us good quality players at all those positions,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said in the team’s statement announcing the move.
From Tennessee’s perspective, this is a significant haul for a rebuilding team. It is not all that dissimilar to what the Rams scored from Washington a few years back when the Redskins wanted to move up to take Robert Griffin III at No. 2.
That trade backfired on Washington. Will Carson Wentz or Jared Goff give the Rams a better outcome this time around?
The interesting backdrops for the Rams’ move are that a) this draft class overall is seen as a bit underwhelming—a reason why some thought Tennessee would have a hard time trying to trade down; and b) this year’s top quarterbacks aren’t generally seen as on par even with last year’s 1–2 pairing of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. The Rams jumping to No. 1 puts it very much in the ballpark that QBs could go 1–2 again this year, with the Browns taking whichever of Goff or Wentz falls past Los Angeles.
Regardless, the Titans scored a major coup in picking up two extra top-50 picks this year plus that additional first-rounder in 2017. If Laremy Tunsil indeed was the focus for Robinson had the Titans stayed put, he should now be in range, at pick No. 15, to pick up a solid offensive tackle anyway—Michigan State’s Jack Conklin and Ohio State’s Taylor Decker both could still be on the board by then.
The early chatter on Los Angeles’s end is that Wentz is the target here. Multiple reports, including one from the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer, indicated that the team is leaning towards taking the North Dakota State QB at No. 1.
Fisher and Snead still could be right about Keenum and Week 1, then. Perhaps Los Angeles has a different view on Wentz, but the consensus coming from outside is that Wentz—who was limited for much of his senior season by a broken wrist and logged just 612 career passes in college—will need more than one off-season to get to the top of a team’s depth chart.
But in coughing up their 2017 first as well, the Rams must have reached the conclusion that getting Wentz (or Goff) now would be far more beneficial than waiting on next year’s quarterback crop.
It is a massive gamble, without question. It’s also a storyline the NFL must love: The Rams relocating to Los Angeles, preparing to play in the L.A. Coliseum, then snagging the No. 1 pick. The league’s desire to get back into one of its major media markets certainly has been fulfilled with a bang.
Fisher and Snead were under fire before the relocation, having produced a run of disappointing finishes. The trade up to No. 1 should buy them a longer grace period, but it also inextricably ties their fates to that of their new quarterback—who by all indications should be Wentz. Los Angeles has committed its next two drafts to him, so recovering from any sort of misfire could not begin until at least 2018.
Even this year, the Rams now are facing a 99-pick gap between their first selection (No. 1) and their second (No. 100, in Round 4). The Titans are set to make six picks in the interim (15, 33, 43, 45, 64 and 76). Which method will pay off? The answer will determine both teams’ fates for several seasons to come.