Blockbuster trades offer plenty of drama and intrigue to the NFL Draft, and this year’s double-barrel deals involving the Rams and Eagles are no exception. The Rams’ bold move to the top of the draft came only months after the team’s return to Los Angeles, and the Eagles’ jump from No. 13 to No. 8 to No. 2 provided pre- draft fireworks the likes of which we’ve rarely seen in the NFL.
But for all the spectacular maneuvering by both teams to move to the top of the board, the underlying reasons for giving away a king’s ransom to get there point to a sense of desperation that ultimately might result in disappointment.
The Rams and Eagles obviously are going quarterback at 1-2, with the Rams expected to take Jared Goff of California and the Eagles focused on Carson Wentz of North Dakota State. But in a league in which quarterbacks are the most sought-after currency on any roster, the chances for failure are far greater than the other way around.
That’s not to say Goff and Wentz won’t be any good by the time they provide a big enough sample size to judge their careers, but there might be more wishing and hoping from the teams ready to draft them than solid evidence that they’ll be good. Consider how many failed first-round quarterbacks have littered the NFL landscape over the decades.
In fact, this draft has a similar vibe to 2011, when some of the biggest quarterback reaches in recent memory were made: Jake Locker at No. 8, Blaine Gabbert at No. 10 and Christian Ponder at No. 12. They all quickly became cautionary tales to any team trying to wish away the quarterbacks’ shortcomings on draft day.
The Rams and Eagles surrendered gargantuan draft packages to move into position to draft Goff and Wentz, but with a lack of consensus around the league about whether they truly are worthy of the first two picks, it is more likely than not that neither will live up to the monstrous cost their respective teams will have paid.
“Jared Goff comes from a no-huddle, shotgun, spread offense where most of the information comes from the sideline, so that will cause him to have some serious adjustments,” said ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, the former Bucs and Raiders coach. “But I think Jared Goff has everything I’m looking for in the pocket. He has great feet. He keeps his feet alive at all times. He takes punishment. He’ll create new launching spots. He’s a very talented pocket passer. I would want him if I were still coaching.”
The Rams hope Goff is a latter-day version of another first-round quarterback out of Cal. But it’s expecting a lot to think he will come close to what Aaron Rodgers has done in Green Bay, and Rodgers wasn’t even close to going near the top of the 2005 draft, slipping all the way to No. 24.
Wentz came out of nowhere to become one of this year’s most coveted quarterbacks. Scouts love his intangibles and upside after his two-year run as a starter. This, even though he played only seven games last season, finishing with 17 touchdown passes and four interceptions after missing time with a wrist injury.
Can Wentz make the stratospheric jump to the NFL? Especially in a place like Philadelphia, where withering criticism from fans and media makes it even tougher to succeed?
“That’s the million-dollar question,” said Gruden, a former assistant coach in Philadelphia. “That’s something you’re going to have to prove no matter who you are, whether you’re a player or a coach in the NFL, and especially in Philadelphia, given what the Eagles just gave up to get a player. There is a tremendous amount of pressure.”
Draft expert Mike Mayock believes Wentz can take the heat.
“Let’s forget all the physical traits and go to the intangibles,” said Mayock, an NFL Network analyst. “You’re talking about a midwestern kid with midwestern values and work ethic. He’s a Division I player that goes to the Senior Bowl and is not overwhelmed at all. As a matter of fact, he’s the best quarterback there by far. People came away [from the Scouting Combine] buzzing about this Carson Wentz kid. He’s intelligent. He’s got a great work ethic. He loves the game of football. And I do believe he’ll handle Philadelphia, because he’ll work so hard and be so humble. I think the blue-collar Philly fans are going to love him.”
We’ll soon find out.
If history is any indication, trade-ups for quarterbacks usually result in disappointment — often brutal and franchise-rattling disappointment.. In the last 10 years, only two first-rounders who were acquired via trade are still with their respective teams: Joe Flacco of Baltimore and Teddy Bridgewater of Minnesota.
Among the others who proved they weren’t worth the price: the Jets’ Mark Sanchez, Gabbert, Robert Griffin III, Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn and . . . Johnny Manziel.
And who can forget the biggest draft-day debacle ever, when the Chargers gambled and lost with Ryan Leaf in 1998.
So good luck to the Rams and Eagles. They’re gonna need it.