The Los Angeles Rams chose quarterback Jared Goff of California with the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the latest move by a team trying to re-establish itself in Southern California after two decades in St. Louis.
Eager to make a splash in their new home and revive their fading fortunes, the Rams traded a passel of draft picks to acquire the top overall selection from the Tennessee Titans. Without a strong quarterback on their roster, the Rams opted for Goff, widely considered one of the top prospects at that position in the draft.
The Rams have not had a winning season since 2003, and they are eager to begin their second tenure in Southern California, where they played from 1946 to 1994, by becoming competitive in the NFC West, one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.
The Rams are betting that Goff, one of 96 underclassmen to enter the draft this year, can make the jump to the NFL. He threw for 4,719 yards, 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last year in the competitive Pacific-12 Conference. His strong arm and quick release should help him reach the Rams’ collection of middling receivers.
Goff’s selection continues a trend toward teams focusing more on their passing game with their top picks. He was the 14th quarterback chosen first overall in the past 19 years. Goff was also the latest underclassman to be chosen first overall, following the likes of Matthew Stafford (2009), Sam Bradford (2010), Andrew Luck (2012) and Jadeveon Clowney (2014).
Last season, quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were chosen first and second overall in the draft.
In some ways the Rams mortgaged the future for Goff, who will begin his career playing in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for three seasons until owner E. Stanley Kroenke completes a nearly $3 billion stadium and retail complex in nearby Inglewood.
The Titans sent their picks from the first, fourth and sixth rounds this year to the Rams. In return, they received the Rams’ first-round pick, their two second-round picks and a third-round pick this year, and their first- and third-round picks next year.
By selecting Goff, the Rams cleared the way for the Philadelphia Eagles, who engineered their own blockbuster trade, to pick a top quarterback of their own.
Last week, the Eagles acquired the second overall pick from the Cleveland Browns, as well as the Browns’ fourth-round pick next year, in exchange for their picks in the first, third and fourth rounds this year, their first-round pick next year and their second-round pick in 2018.
The Eagles selected Carson Wentz, who led North Dakota State to a championship in the Football Championship Subdivision of the NCAA. Big and quick, Wentz played a pro-style offense in college, and Philadelphia is betting that he can make the jump from FCS football to the NFL.
Despite the selection of Wentz, the Eagles said Sam Bradford would remain the team’s starting quarterback and would not be traded. Last month, Bradford signed a two-year contract worth $36 million, $22 million of which is guaranteed.
The San Diego Chargers picked third and took Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, the highly-rated defensive end from Ohio State, to improve a team that had among the fewest sacks last season. Bosa’s college teammate, running back Ezekiel Elliott, was taken next by the Dallas Cowboys. The Jacksonville Jaguars, which had the 29th-ranked pass defense last season, then took Jaylen Ramsey, a defensive back from Florida State.
Teams continued to plug holes. The Baltimore Ravens took offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley to help protect quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Tennessee Titans acquired the eighth pick in a trade with the Cleveland Browns and took Jack Conklin, an offensive tackle from Michigan State. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers then traded the ninth pick to the hometown Chicago Bears, who chose linebacker Leonard Floyd of Georgia.
The New York Giants, who have not made the playoffs since 2011, chose defensive back Eli Apple, the third Ohio State player chosen in the top 10. Tampa then took Vernon Hargreaves, a cornerback from Florida.
This year’s event lacked some of the buzz of past years, like in 2012, when Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck were taken, but minutes before the start of the draft a bizarre video was posted on Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil’s verified Twitter account minutes showing a person smoking from a mask equipped with a bong. The approximately 30-second video was posted to the account before being deleted. The entire account was deactivated about 30 minutes later.
After plummeting, Tunsil, the top-rated offensive tackle in the draft, was selected 13th by the Miami Dolphins. Tunsil said at the draft that the account was hacked. He added that all of his drug tests came back negative in college.
Another big story was what did not happen: The New England Patriots did not select a player in the first round.
The Patriots lost that pick and a fourth-round pick next year after the league determined that quarterback Tom Brady was “generally aware” of a plot to deflate balls used in the AFC Championship game in 2015.
The penalties led to a very public fight between the Patriots, Brady and the league. As the draft began Thursday, the Patriots posted a photo of Tom Brady on their Instagram account.
The Patriots, though, have 11 picks in the remaining six rounds of the draft, which finishes Saturday. Considering that players drafted early do not always provide the most value per dollar, stockpiling picks in the later rounds could be prudent. Brady, after all, was chosen in the sixth round.
Kansas City Chiefs fans might take notice. The team lost its third-round draft pick this year and its sixth-round choice next year for violating the league’s tampering policy. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was loudly jeered by the crowd in Chicago, rejected the team’s appeal of the penalties.