The 2015 St. Louis Rams limped out of the regular season with a fourth consecutive losing season under Head Coach Jeff Fisher. After bumbling out to a 4-8 record, the Rams hit a three-game winning streak behind QB Case Keenum to put some lipstick on the pig punctuated by the league's worst offense in yardage.
Motivated to pull of a sea change, the Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans to acquire the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and take Cal QB Jared Goff. Four of the Rams five other draft picks went toward options to support Goff in the Rams passing game.
None of that is news to Rams fans.
The question is how immediate of an effect it will have on the offense and the team as a whole. In the modern media environment, there's no better gauge of how the national punditry is sensing the answer to that question than power rankings.
When we closed the book on the 2015 season and sent Peyton Manning off into the heavily-sponsored sunset, ESPN had the Rams coming in at #25. At the time, the big concern, understandably, was the QB depth chart:
The Rams haven't finished inside the top 20 in offensive DVOA since 2006, an incredible run of offensive incompetence that won't change in 2016 unless the team finds something new at quarterback, where Case Keenum will likely be back but needs competition. The Rams will be able to draft a QB at No. 15, but could also look at the likes of, yes, RG III. There is some all-world talent on the roster, but the QB question clouds everything, even in sunny L.A.
And now having wrapped up the draft and a free agency period that was focused more on retaining talent than acquiring it, where does ESPN have the Rams?
One spot lower at 26th.
One of the stories of this offseason is Rams owner Stan Kroenke rolling out of St. Louis, Jed Clampett-style, in that two-decker convertible jalopy with Granny up on that big chair in the back, looking around. Swimmin' pools, movie stars. But still not really anyone to catch the ball from No. 1 pick Jared Goff.
Yes. Poor Stan Kroenke and his jalopy and all that. It's a weak way to describe the first professional sports relocation in the modern social media-driven era, but that shouldn't be the gripe here. More of the concern is that the Rams made the most fundamental move they could to address the key issue holding the team back and that dropped them a spot.
Power rankings and logic have long been at odds, and it seems that great war isn't ending anytime soon.
And it's worth noting here ESPN isn't necessarily alone in keeping the Rams in the deep end of the NFL pool as Brandon Bate touched on his power rankings recap late last week. Of the four he covered, none had the Rams higher than CBS Sports' Pete Prisco who had them at #22 while NFL.com's Elliott Harrison had them in the same slot as ESPN.
if the 2016 Los Angeles Rams will ultimately be defined by how they usher in Jared Goff's NFL career, they're not starting off from a wellspring of confidence from outside observers.
Perhaps the question is how much immediate success really matters to the franchise's most important player since Sam Bradford.