There’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to the NFL draft, especially when it comes to picking quarterbacks. So the Los Angeles Rams move from No. 15 to No. 1 doesn’t come with any sort of money or draft pick back guarantee.
If the Tennessee Titans had been willing to throw in such a warranty, the Rams would have been wise to jump. Alas, the Rams now must spend the next two weeks trying to figure out whether North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or Cal’s Jared Goff can become the quarterback they mortgaged so much of their future to acquire.
Unlike in 2012 when Andrew Luck was a safe bet for the Indianapolis Colts with the top pick or even last year when Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota came with major NFL pedigrees and reputations as franchise building blocks, both Goff and Wentz head toward this draft with their share of question marks.
Wentz played at FCS North Dakota State, leaving some to wonder if his performance will decline when facing top competition. Goff is a little smaller but comes from an “Air Raid” offense that didn’t ask him to handle NFL progressions.
For frame of reference — though it’s not a hard-and-fast evaluation shared by all NFL teams — ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had Luck ranked first in 2012 with Winston and Mariota rated Nos. 4 and 5 on his final 2015 big board. Todd McShay also had Luck at No. 1 overall and had Winston first and Mariota fifth on his list of the top 32 players.
This year, Kiper has Goff ranked seventh and Wentz eighth, while McShay puts Wentz at No. 10 and Goff at No. 11. Even among other draft pundits and teams, there doesn’t seem be a consensus on whether Wentz or Goff is the better player, let alone the best player in this draft. Moments after the trade was announced, some draftniks reported the Rams were zeroed in on Goff at the same time others were saying the same thing about Wentz.
It’s hard to believe the Rams would make such a bold move all the way up to No. 1 and give up their first four picks this year and first- and third-rounders next year without already knowing which quarterback they prefer. At the very least, the Rams have to be convinced that both Goff and Wentz are worth the price.
Former NFL coach Rick Venturi, who knows a thing or two about big draft trades, believes the Rams have two good options even if neither is as complete as Winston or Mariota or among the five best players overall in the draft.
“There’s five freaks in the draft when you get into the Myles Jacks, the [Jalen] Ramseys, some of those guys, I think they’re freaks,” Venturi said. “But I will say that you can’t go anywhere without a quarterback. You can have a really good team but really you can’t go anywhere. And the Rams are competitive enough week in and week out with their defense and their running game, their running back is tremendous, that if they were to get a guy who can win behind the center then you are going to solidify for a real long time.”
Venturi has been on both sides of big draft trades, working for the Colts when they traded away the rights to quarterback John Elway in 1983 and then for the Saints when they gave up their entire draft and premium picks the following year to move up for running back Ricky Williams in 1999.
“Honestly, you are going to have to invest to get that guy,” Venturi said. “Now, that’s a tremendous investment, I have to get my grips on that, that’s maybe even more than we gave up for Ricky Williams, I think, I know it’s a hell of a lot more than we got for Elway in ’83. But like I said, you are not going to go anywhere without a quarterback so whether a guy is a freak or not, in that sense, I don’t think those freaks are also graded all that much higher than those two guys either.”
Neither Wentz nor Goff comes with the same hype as Elway or Williams, but they still could become the long-term answer at quarterback the Rams need. In fact, Venturi is a believer in both players.
“I really like both of these kids,” Venturi said. “I don’t think you can go wrong with either one. I like Wentz a little bit better. Both of them are great kids. Goff has a great release. Goff, people can say whatever they want but he took a terrible team and made it competitive. Wentz has won, I give him a little advantage too, that’s a real pro-style offense at North Dakota State. But if you said to me, that you will take one and I take the other guy, I’d be OK with that, too. But I really like these two guys. I think you’ve got two guys you can win with and build with, honestly.”
That could turn out to be the case but for their sake, it’s now imperative that the Rams do whatever is necessary to make sure they get the right one.