NFL DRAFT: Rams celebrate their LA return by drafting first

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Rams are on the clock. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are on top of their board.

And the Rams' choice with the No. 1 pick in next week's NFL draft will be the first big star added to this franchise for its return to Hollywood.

Yet the pressure on those two quarterbacks is nothing compared to the scrutiny on general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher, the two men making the choice.

With a lackluster past in St. Louis behind them, they mortgaged a portion of their future in a bold bid to solve their biggest problem of the present. The Rams have hovered just below .500 during each of their first four seasons under Snead and Fisher, who are both in the final year of their contracts.

''This is a fun time, an exciting time,'' Fisher said. ''We're going to get the right guy, and everybody is going to like him, and we're going to go out and win some games.''

The Rams don't intend to reveal their choice before Commissioner Roger Goodell announces it, but they're overwhelmingly likely to draft a quarterback to be their franchise savior. Nick Foles and Case Keenum didn't do much last year to spark the NFL's least productive offense, which hasn't been dangerous since the early years of Sam Bradford, their ill-fated No. 1 pick in 2010.

With a standout defense and a decent collection of offensive skill players, this team would need an elite quarterback even if it hadn't just moved to Los Angeles, where a big name and a winning season would do wonders to capture the vast metropolis' attention after 21 years without the NFL.

''We made the decision and this move for this football team,'' Fisher said. ''Coincidentally, it was a great time. Wherever we could have been (playing), we would have done the same thing. But when you take into consideration what's ahead for this franchise and the enthusiasm and the excitement, the timing couldn't be better.''

A few more things to know before the Rams' draft party in downtown LA:

BIG CHOICE: The Rams gave themselves two weeks to make a final decision between Goff and Wentz, two gifted quarterbacks who aren't widely expected to be immediate NFL superstars. Snead and Fisher realize they're drafting only one piece of a winning team - and that piece might not be ready to fit by September.

''Any rookie quarterback is going to learn on the job and may not peak in years one and two, and will probably be peaking later in life,'' Snead said. ''When you pick No. 1, I think philosophically, you're not necessarily picking for what Coach Fisher pencils in for opening day. It's really what he pencils in for the next decade.''

TOUGH CALL: Goff or Wentz? Draft experts don't have a clear consensus on the best choice.

The 6-foot-5 Wentz is 23 years old and a polished passer who knows how to play under center, unlike many college quarterbacks these days. Yet the kid from Bismarck would be making a big leap to Los Angeles after playing at FCS power North Dakota State.

Goff was a three-year starter at California, leading the Golden Bears' program from ineptitude to respectability under coach Sonny Dykes. The 6-foot-4 passer could use some more muscle, and he'll have to get used to a pro-style offense.

BRIGHT LIGHTS: Both quarterbacks expressed excitement this week about the possibility of stepping into the LA spotlight when they visited the Rams for meetings and evaluation. Neither seems to lack confidence in his ability to handle the scrutiny on any No. 1 pick.

''I can be the franchise quarterback,'' Goff, a Bay Area native, told the Rams' official website. ''I can be a guy who's the face of the franchise, a guy who can lead them to where they want to be - go to the playoffs, and to Super Bowls, and be very successful.''

THE BIG ONE: The Rams don't have another pick until the fourth round after giving up their two second-round choices and their third-round selection. That's considered a high price to pay, but Snead and Fisher began preparing for this possibility four years ago by stockpiling young players to provide depth while managing the team's salary cap situation.

For example: If Goff or Wentz becomes the starter in short order, the Rams won't have to sign a veteran starting quarterback to an exorbitant salary until Goff or Wentz gets his second deal.

''We've got a core of young guys that are coming up on second contracts, and this will help to keep them part of the core,'' Snead said. ''When you keep that (rookie) salary for a quarterback, it allows you to go out and get free agents to add to the mix as well. It's managing a budget.''

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Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Greg Beacham on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gregbeacham

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