First off, my condolences to the town of St. Louis. The above headline may or may not be what you want to see, but here we are. The (once again) LA Rams are now in a great position to make waves in the NFL next year, getting what every bottom dwelling team in the NFL dreams of — a reset button in the form of relocation!
Many teams have benefitted from what I like to refer to as the ‘relocation bump’. Everything is new, and everyone is excited. The fans, the players, the coaches, the media — everyone gets that fresh feeling, kind of like you just bought your first car. Teams that either A) relocate, B) change their uniforms, C) get a new stadium, or D) all of the above, usually experience some sort of post-change bump.
The Patriots and Bucs are examples of two teams that traditionally sucked, but upon changing their uniforms magically became winners. Perhaps it is symbolic, or a change of mindset? Whatever the case, changing the uniforms signaled a turning point.
Still not convinced? The Oilers sucked for years before ditching oil town for Nashvegas. There was some good drafting, for sure, but their first year in Memphis wasn’t great. Then, they came to town, with fire in their hearts. New uniforms, new stadium, new city — that year was magical, just ask any fan in Tennessee. It seemed like destiny until they lost the Super Bowl by a yard. Nonetheless, they saw a dramatic upswing that year.
And now, the Rams are next on the queue. What better city to change the mindset of the team than LA? It is a perfect fit because they already were there before! They have a great coach in Jeff Fisher, ahem, and the mirror of Eric Dickerson in Todd Gurley. Their Defense is dynamic. What is holding them back? Being in the toughest division in pro-football? Possibly, but I digress!
In 2016, the Rams seem to be on the verge of something big. I almost envy those LA fans who are about to get a football team pre-packaged to win. In 2015 they had a record of 7-9, despite ranking dead last (32nd) in three important categories: points per game, yards per game, and passing yards per game. Despite this, they played some tough opponents very close. They barely lost to Minnesota and Pittsburgh, two eventual playoff teams. Some other teams finished worse, but with better offensive stats than the Rams did.
Obviously, their defense kept them in a lot of big games, but their biggest and most glaring weakness, pointed out above, is the passing game. The Rams have not found their franchise QB in Nick Foles. Their top receiver, Tavon Austin, had a few big games, but he is not a true game breaker for them. For the Rams to move forward, they are going to have to solve this problem.
Starting with QB in the first round may not be an option. The Rams are currently projected to pick at the #15 slot. Some mock drafts have Payton Lynch (QB, Memphis) still available at this position. While possible, this is hardly likely. The Cleveland Browns are already projected to get Jared Goff (QB, California) at the #2 slot. The Chargers, Cowboys, 49rs, Giants, Saints, and Eagles all theoretically need a QB (upgrade or plan for future) and all of them are picking before the Rams. At this point it looks increasingly likely they will be unable to secure one of the top two QBs without some sort of deal to trade up. Trading or releasing Foles is also an unlikely option.
In this case, what are they to do? The highest projected wide receiver, Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss) is projected 7th, meanwhile, the 2nd highest projected WR is projected 23rd (Michael Thomas, Ohio State). It might be better for them to try and trade down to grab either Michael Thomas, or even the 3rd highest projected QB, Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State. In this scenario, the Rams could possibly pick up an extra 2nd or 3rd round pick.
The best part of the draft is that the Rams are slated to have two second round picks. They could use them to either A) trade up as mentioned above, or B) grab some nice players in the 2nd round to boost their offense (potentially even more players if they trade down). They are currently slated for the 43rd and 45th picks. Josh Doctson (WR, TCU) would be a steal at that position, additionally, Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame) and Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh) are projected around that range.
Imagine that the Rams could possibly get a new rookie hotshot QB, two fast, athletic WRs to go along with their new stadium, new uniforms, new city — that should make the city of LA very excited (in the background, the sound of cash registers exploding can be heard). I can only see up arrows trending at this point.
A new chapter is about to begin for a franchise that has not been back to the ‘big dance’ since winning the Super Bowl in the year 2000 with ‘the greatest show on turf’. In fact, they have not even made the postseason in 11 straight times. To get back to the postseason, they are going to have to go big or go home in this 2016 NFL draft.