Both the Eagles and the Rams entered the off-season with first round picks outside the top 10. They now inherit the top two overall picks following huge trades and plan to draft a Quarterback. One team made a very smart decision, the other has made one of the riskiest decisions a team in that situation could possibly make.
The intention of trading up to draft a Quarterback isn’t one that needs much explaining. It’s the most important position on the roster and if you believe a franchise guy is available then you should take the necessary risks to ensure that he ends up wearing your uniform. But this years’ draft is a little different.
There are no out-and-out “franchise” guys who could walk in to an NFL starting role and impress straight away. Instead, the top two Quarterbacks are predicted to achieve great things if they sit a year and land in the right system with the right coaches. This is where things get messy for one team and smart for the other.
The Rams have been heavily linked with Jared Goff in the run up to the Draft, a polished pocket passer coming out of Cal who demonstrated composure in tough situations, showed great accuracy and consistency against some of the most intimidating opponents possible (throwing just 30 interceptions in 1,569 attempts) and holds plenty of school records.
The other Quarterback in question (who will most likely land in Philadelphia) is NDSU’s Carson Wentz. A prototypical modern day Quarterback in terms of his frame who has surprising amounts of athleticism. Wentz had a 64% pass completion rate during his time with NDSU and threw for a total of 45 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. But as noted in a previous article, these stats hide a lot. To keep a long story short, there are a lot of unknowns about Carson Wentz due to the talent levels of the teams he faced in comparison to North Dakota and the dominant Offensive Line and backfield he had around him.
So of the two teams trading up to land one of these Quarterbacks, which team has made the smartest move? The answer is unfortunately very obvious. Regardless of if it’s Goff who’s used to playing behind leaky Offensive Lines or Wentz who will thrive under the comfort in the pocket, the Rams have built their Offense from the ball out..leaving them in a perfect position to take a Quarterback at number one.
In 2015 the Rams added one of the brightest running backs in the NFL to their roster in Todd Gurley. A 1,000 yard season in your rookie year is certainly one way to make a debut and the Rams run-heavy offense would be a perfect fit for Wentz who averaged just over 14 throws a game in College due to a similar situation.
With a running back in place, the Rams then added two tackles in the way of Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown. The team ended the Draft with four Offensive Linemen drafted and when you take into account their first round pick of Greg Robinson in 2014, the direction could not be clearer.
The Line went on to help the Rams rank seventh in rushing yards and give up the lowest amount of sacks in the league. With the protection in place and a dominant run game already establishing itself, all the Rams really need is a franchise Quarterback (Nor Case Keenum or Nick Foles are long term solutions) and some more weapons on the outside. This is the perfect opportunity to sign a future franchise signal caller for the Rams.
Let’s compare that to the Eagles who spent $56M on Quarterbacks this off-season. Their Offensive Line is not only low on depth in certain areas, but as its new shape began to form during Free Agency, it became clear that this would only be a short term solution.
Jason Peters is still battling a degenerative injury and it’s fair to say he was not 100% during the games he played in last season. When Johnson moves over to claim the throne on the left hand side, the Eagles are going to need starters and depth. Why? Four members of the Offensive Line are entering their final contracted year. With minimal cap space to work with, plenty of other holes on the roster and 20 other contracts to worry about..it may not be a top priority.
So you turn to the Draft, right? Not so fast. The Eagles are now without a first round pick in 2017, a second rounder in 2018 and let’s not forget a third and fourth round pick in this years’ draft.
Not only that, but the birds will struggle to find a franchise running back in the later rounds of the draft. It can be done, it has been done before..but in trading up to draft a Quarterback, the Eagles have essentially committed themselves to a communal backfield. It worked for the Chiefs, but can it work with an ageing Darren Sproles, an injury prone Ryan Mathews and a line that’s low on depth? It’s possible, the potential is there and Pederson knows how to utilize a fullback as well as anybody..but if it’s Wentz the Eagles end up with, a heavy run game would definitely be of use.
These points may not seem relevant, but to quote the article I wrote recently on why trading up for Wentz would be a mistake;
Last season, NDSU had the best Defense in the league as well as the best rushing Offense. Of all of the team’s Offensive plays, they ran the ball 61% of the time. Their run game was so dominant that Wentz threw under 200 yards in four of the teams seven conference wins during his final season. Their Offensive line? They allowed just 8 sacks in the 7 games he played.
Averaging 14 passes a game against inferior Defenses whilst the rushing Offense dominated the conference, Wentz simply comes with too many unknowns. BUT that isn’t why the decision to trade up was a bad one.
If Wentz landed in LA, he would find himself in familiar territory. A strong Offensive Line and a run heavy Offense that runs out of the shotgun and is able to give Wentz all the help he needs to ease into the NFL. Philadelphia would be a binary opposite of this situation.
The Eagles Offense simply lacks the fortress needed for a project Quarterback to succeed or the potential to build one. Whether it’s stepping in for an injured Bradford or starting two years down the line, it’s going to be a long time before the Eagles can fortify their Offense to help build around the Quarterback.
Chip Kelly built from the outside in during his tenure, the Rams in their last two drafts built from the ball out. In terms of right now, the Rams are primed to take a Quarterback and mould him into something special whilst the Eagles find themselves standing on the edge of a knife. Instead of trying to help Sam Bradford succeed by protecting him and adding a dominant running back that they hoped they would find in DeMarco Murray, they’ve looked to try and eventually start a new era. The difference is that the Rams have started their era with clarity, structure and direction. The Eagles have yet to end their old one and are already tearing at the seams, making the decision to draft a future franchise Quarterback a questionable one.