LA Rams find their quarterback, picking Cal's Jared Goff

LOS ANGELES (AP) Welcome to Hollywood, Jared Goff.

The Los Angeles Rams are returning home with a new face of the franchise after choosing the California quarterback with the first overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.

Two weeks after trading up from 15th to grab the top pick from the Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles selected Goff over North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, hoping they've finally found the solution to their perennial problem at football's most important position.

''We've probably known for a little while,'' Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. ''We've spent a lot of time, and we feel like Jared is our guy. This is a big deal for this franchise.''

The 6-foot-4 Goff is a Bay Area native who set records and grew into a top prospect in three seasons with the Golden Bears. Now he'll be competing for the chance to throw the first passes at the Coliseum in the Rams' return in September.

Fisher and general manager Les Snead acknowledged that Goff was their target when they traded six picks to get to No. 1. Fisher didn't outright tell Goff, but he strongly hinted at the Rams' decision in the days leading up to the draft.

''I kind of had an idea,'' Goff acknowledged in a phone interview. ''It was a good feeling.''

Goff was generally considered to be a more polished pro product than Wentz, and the Rams reached the same conclusion after extensive evaluation of the top two prospects. Goff and Wentz visited the Rams' temporary headquarters in coastal Oxnard, California, where Goff is expected to report next weekend for his first rookie minicamp.

''We just feel Jared has the skill set to be a difference-maker at the position, from arm strength to mobility to all those qualities,'' Fisher said.

The Rams heralded the draft and their return to Southern California after 21 years away with a block party in the LA Live entertainment district downtown. Thousands of fans and season ticket holders began lining up seven hours before the first pick, and they erupted in cheers when Goff's name was called by Commissioner Roger Goodell on the large video screen.

''We're going to protect him and allow him just to play,'' Fisher said. ''He's got the personality to embrace the market. He's got the personality to be one of those faces of the franchise, but he also understands that it's not up to him. It's collectively up to the rest of the team.''

The Rams missed the playoffs last winter for the 11th straight season in St. Louis, with their strong defense unable to bail out the NFL's least productive offense and worst passing game despite star rookie running back Todd Gurley and a solid offensive line. Nick Foles lost his starting job to Case Keenum, but neither quarterback distinguished himself.

''We didn't just want to come home,'' Snead said. ''We wanted to come home and contend consistently.''

Hoping to make a splash in their new home while finally landing an elite passer, the Rams traded six draft picks to Tennessee two weeks ago for three picks in return, including the No. 1 choice. That's an enormous commitment to Goff, but he isn't flinching at the scrutiny.

''I'm going to handle it just like every other game I've ever played in,'' Goff said. ''It's just another thing I'm probably not going to have to deal with much, because I don't think it will affect me much.''

While Goff isn't considered a can't-miss star in the mold of former top picks Andrew Luck or Cam Newton, he won over the Rams with his collegiate performances and strong work in draft preparation.

Although the Rams intend to watch Goff's growth carefully, Fisher said it's ''the goal'' for Goff to start in their season opener Sept. 12 at the 49ers, the quarterback's favorite team growing up.

''It's going to happen pretty soon, probably sooner than later,'' Fisher said. ''But we've got some things to do, coaching-wise.''

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

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Follow Greg Beacham on Twitter, www.twitter.com/gregbeacham

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