By Jordan Ray
Which will it be?
When the Los Angeles Rams are on the clock April 28 at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre in Chicago for the 2016 NFL Draft, which quarterback’s name will they send in as the No. 1 overall pick?
“We know (it will be a quarterback),” ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said April 14 on his weekly podcast. “We just don’t know which one it will be.”
Will it be Cal’s Jared Goff?
Goff threw for 78 touchdowns in his final two seasons with the Golden Bears and is touted by Kiper as the “most gifted pure passer in the draft class.”
“He has good size, vision, pocket mobility and very good accuracy, especially on passes requiring touch,” CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang told Medill Reports.
But there are questions about Goff’s relatively thin frame (6 feet 4, 215 pounds), small hand size (9 inches) and inconsistent play on the field, including a nightmarish five-interception performance against Utah last season.
So how about North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz then?
At 6-5 and 240 pounds, Wentz is bigger, faster and stronger than Goff, but also faced a lower level of talent at FCS powerhouse NDSU than Goff’s Pac-12 opponents.
Rang said Wentz has proven enough in the predraft process to warrant being taken first.
“Though there are obvious concerns about the level of competition Wentz faced, the physical talent and composure under the spotlight he demonstrated at the Senior Bowl, Combine and Pro Day has been very impressive,” Rang said.
The drafting history of Rams coach Jeff Fisher benefits Wentz, as well.
“While coach of the Houston Oilers, Jeff Fisher bet and won big with Steve McNair out of Alcorn State with the No. 3 overall pick back in 1995,” Rang said, “so he may be more willing than most to gamble on a ‘small school’ quarterback.”
Whomever the Rams don’t pick will likely be taken one spot later by Philadelphia. The Eagles sent five picks (No. 8, No. 77, No. 100; a first-rounder in 2017; and a second-rounder in 2018) to Cleveland last week for the No. 2 overall selection plus a fourth-round pick.
“You have to be very comfortable with both of those quarterbacks and believe they have a shot to be great, Pro Bowl-caliber,” Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said a news conference last week. “It’s hard to be great if you don’t take some risks.”
It’s only the fourth time the top two picks have been traded.
“Teams are desperate for quarterbacks,” former Rams safety and current NFL analyst Matt Bowen told Medill Reports. “Jared Goff and Carson Wentz aren’t (ready to play in the NFL), in my opinion. They both need time.”
And the Rams are certainly one of the most desperate.
They ranked last in the NFL in passing yards (2,805), completion percentage (57.7) and touchdown passes (11) last season.
In an attempt to improve their situation, the Rams parted with a first-round pick (No. 15), two second-round picks (No. 43 and No. 45) and a third-round pick (No. 76) in this year’s draft, along with a first-rounder and third-rounder next year.
Bowen said losing all those picks will hinder L.A.
“If you throw Carson Wentz in the field on the Rams with not a lot of talent at wide receiver or offensive line, what are you doing?” Bowen said. “Who (are) you throwing to? Who’s blocking for him?”
“If the quarterback selected at No. 1 turns out to be a franchise quarterback,” Rang said, “and by that I mean be a consistent starter who helps this club reach the playoffs, the trade up will have been well worth it.”
Whichever quarterback the Rams take will have big implications for not just one, but two franchises that finished 7-9 last season.
“I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision,” Bowen said.
TollyTaylor contributed to this report.
Which records will Ohio State break?
Ohio State has a deep crop of prospects, including defensive end Joey Bosa, cornerback Eli Apple, linebacker Darron Lee, offensive tackle Taylor Decker and wide receiver Braxton Miller.
NFL analyst Mike Mayock said during the Senior Bowl that the Buckeyes could have “seven or eight guys in the first 50 picks,” which would be historic.
Records Ohio State could break include:
• Most players selected in the first round, 6 (2004 Miami)
• Most players selected in the first two rounds, 7 (2000 Tennessee/2008 USC)
• Most players taken in a seven-round draft, 14 (2004 Ohio State)
When will Paxton Lynch be taken?
The top two quarterbacks, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, are basically locks to be picked in some order by Los Angeles and Philadelphia, but that leaves the third quarterback, Paxton Lynch, in an interesting situation.
Several teams are potential suitors for the Memphis product. San Francisco, Cleveland, the New York Jets and Denver are all in the market for quarterbacks, and a few teams with aging passers, namely San Diego and Arizona, could give Lynch a look, as well.
Where Lynch falls will be one of the more dynamic subplots of the first round. He could go as early as No. 7 overall to the 49ers or even fall to the second round.
Will slow 40-yard dash times affect the top wide receivers?
While there are some intriguing wide receivers in this year’s class, including TCU’s Josh Doctson, Baylor’s Corey Coleman and Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell, the group as a whole didn’t impress with their speed at the NFL Combine.
Wide receivers averaged a 4.56 40-yard dash time, the slowest for the position group in 11 years.
The real question is: how much will it matter? ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay still had Coleman, Treadwell and Doctson all going in the first round of his April 21 mock draft.
How will the trades affect the top of the first round?
The Tennessee-L.A. and Cleveland-Philadelphia trades will shake up the first round, assuming the Rams and Eagles select quarterback. Some other potential fallout:
• Will anyone else move up? Cleveland has shown it’s willing to move back in the draft. Would a team such as the Jets be willing to strike a deal with the Browns if quarterback Paxton Lynch is still available at No. 8?
• Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil was supposed to be the guy at No. 1 to Tennessee, but will the Chargers snag him at No. 3? How far could he fall?
• Assuming L.A. and Philadelphia pick quarterbacks, Jacksonville at No. 5 has a guaranteed shot at one of the top three defensive players (Jalen Ramsey, Joey Bosa or Myles Jack). Who falls to them and whom do they pick?
• Whom do Cleveland and Tennessee take? Both traded back in the first round, but will all those extra picks pay off? Will the Titans, who already have Marcus Mariota at quarterback, regret passing up Tunsil to protect him? Will the Browns regret losing a chance at Goff or Wentz, and could they take Lynch?