FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Before St. Louis mortgaged its future to move up to the No. 1 spot in the draft, Rams general manger Les Snead tried to rationalize away the need for a franchise quarterback at the NFL scouting combine.
Clearly, something changed over the following weeks.
It was a costly move as the Rams moved further to get to the top than any team in draft history. The Rams sent their No. 15 pick in this year’s draft as well as two second-round picks, a third-round pick and first- and third-round picks next year. They also received the Titans’ fourth- and sixth-round picks this year.
The Rams are targeting North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, according to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.
Currently, the Rams are set to open their offseason workouts with Case Keenum as the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart followed by Nick Foles and Sean Mannion.
The Rams carefully planned this move. Negotiations with the Titans started back at the scouting combine when the two teams had adjoining suites at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Tennessee had the second pick last season and drafted Marcus Mariota. They can use their picks from the Rams to build around their center piece.
“We’re in the NFL, so it seems like whenever you talk about (quarterbacks), that’s the piece,” Snead said. “If I get a little bit of a long answer, I can tell you this. We’ve done a lot of studies, as many as any team, about (quarterbacks) and what makes a quarterback successful.”
During the studies, Snead and Rams coach Jeff Fisher placed a premium winning.
“There’s been 21 (quarterbacks) since 2012 that have started 45 or more games,” Snead said. “So, if their team gives up 25 or more points, there’s only one of those (quarterbacks) who has actually got a winning record, and it’s just over .500.
“If your team gives up 17 or less than 17 points, all 21 of those guys have winning records. Now you get into a couple categories, 21 to 24 points, that you give up, 11 of those quarterbacks have winning records and 10 have losing records. If you give up 17 to 20 points, all but three of the (quarterbacks) have winning records.”
The Rams’ defense has been decent over that period, but they’ve started five different quarterbacks.
“In each of those seasons — four seasons — we’ve had two guys actually start, sometimes three,” Snead said. “So I think getting consistency at that position is one thing. Finding good players is another.”
The Rams liked how Keenum went 3-1 down the stretch last season, but clearly don’t see him as their long-term solution. His best-case scenario is to serve as a bridge-starter until Wentz is ready to play.
Wentz is a fascinating player.
He started high school as a 5-foot-8 freshman. He was a three-sport star at Bismarck Century High in North Dakota, but grew to be 6-5. He didn’t start at quarterback until his senior season.
Wentz didn’t get any major college offers and went to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. He redshirted his first season.
He spent two more seasons as a reserve before winning the starting job as a junior. He led the Bison to two consecutive FCS titles.
Wentz, an academic all-American, dazzled pro scouts at the Senior Bowl and wowed coaches and executives with his football smarts at the scouting combine. But his critics point out that he threw just 612 passes over his career.
“For one, all you can go off of right now is what I’ve done in the past, what’s been put on the tape, so to speak,” Wentz said. “I think that speaks for itself quite a bit. You come into these meetings, you show how much you’re capable of learning, how quick you’re able to adjust and acquire information and spit it back out, that’s really all you can do.”
Former NFL personnel man Gil Brandt, who was with the Dallas Cowboys for 29 years, is a big Wentz fan. He compares him to Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who also came out of a FCS school (Delaware). But it must be noted that Flacco started his college career at Pittsburgh and transferred to Delaware.
“There are a lot of talented individuals at the FCS level that can play,” Wentz said. “Especially a guy like Flacco coming in really right away as a rookie and winning some ballgames. I think that shows that that adjustment can be made by special players for sure.”
California quarterback Jared Goff, who some compare to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan because of his sinewy build, believes he’s the top quarterback in the draft.
“I believe in myself to be a franchise quarterback,” Wentz said.
Apparently, so does Snead, Fisher and the Los Angles Rams.