On April 14, 2016, the Los Angeles Rams traded pick 15, two second rounders, two third rounders and their 2017 first rounder to the Tennessee Titans for the first overall pick, plus a fourth and a sixth. The details do not matter though — not for today’s purposes — other than knowing that the Rams wanted a quarterback to build their franchise around before it moved to Los Angeles and the Titans had no use for a quarterback since they were on the road to championships with Marcus Mariota.
The debate then focused on whether or not the Rams would select Cal’s Jared Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. A little less than a week later, the Philadelphia Eagles sent pick eight, a second, a third, a fourth and their 2017 first rounder to the Cleveland Browns — who were apparently content with Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown — in order to select the best available quarterback left on the board.
Who would they be? Did the draft simply offer two choices that could not go wrong?
It can always go wrong.
One of the best pro days I've ever witnessed. Wentz reminds me of Joe Flacco. He had 2 55-yard passes that were as pretty as I've seen.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 24, 2016
A lot of people asking what the best QB pro day I have ever seen. It was Sam Bradford's. Best I had seen since @TroyAikman's.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 24, 2016
The O.C. Register had this to say in mocking Wentz to the Rams:
Tough choice between quarterbacks, but ultimately, the Rams gamble on upside and pro-style experience, instead of the safer, high-floor option in Jared Goff.
But NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah reported that the Eagles were always working under the assumption that the Rams would select Goff and that they’d be getting Wentz. At the time, it was impossible to tell if either team was making the right decision, but one NFL scout had been comparing Wentz to Ben Roethlisberger ... and Blake Bortles. Who at the time was only two years removed from being the third overall pick and was coming off of a 35-touchdown season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports had this to say of either QB:
“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.”
Well, it’s been almost five full seasons since the Rams picked Goff and the Eagles chose Wentz and not only have they led their teams to the playoffs (the caveat for Wentz being that he has all of four career postseason pass attempts despite Philadelphia making three playoff trips since 2017) and it may be time to ask Rang if he still believes that.
Was it “well worth it”?
On Tuesday, the news came out that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has benched Wentz in favor of second round rookie Jalen Hurts. There is talk of trading Wentz in the 2021 offseason, when they’ll be two years removed from the four-year, $128 million contract extension that Philadelphia gave to him.
The Los Angeles Rams know the feeling, although they also know that Jared Goff is nowhere near as bad as Carson Wentz and the idea of trading Goff next year seems outlandish unless something unexpected happens in the coming weeks. After all, the Rams are in first place in the division and despite fair critiques of his performance in year five, there’s no need to rock the boat for a quarterback whose biggest issue is being merely average with a well above-average salary.
Wentz is benched having completed 57.4% of his passes for 2,620 yards, 16 touchdowns, an NFL-worst 15 interceptions, 6.0 yards per attempt, a 72.8 rating and an NFL-high 50 sacks taken for 326 yards loss and 10 fumbles.
With an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries, consistently bypassing better wide receiver talent in the draft than what general manager Howie Roseman ultimately ends up with and the Eagles playing much of this season without their best offensive player in tight end Zach Ertz, I am not of the mind that Philadelphia will trade Wentz unless Hurts forces them to consider him as their franchise QB. Even in that case, it will be hard to evaluate any rookie over a four-game span unless he plays like Patrick Mahomes, and we know that the Eagles didn’t choose Nick Foles over Wentz when they had the chance.
Nor should they have.
I believe Wentz will return as starter in 2021 but for now we’re left with the second overall pick in the 2016 draft as not only being unable to free himself from ever being called a “bust,” but also being just good enough to also be in danger of the “overpaid” label following him forever.
All of which leads me to this question: Isn’t it “insanity” that people continue to overrate high draft picks — especially highly drafted quarterbacks?
Amid another “Tank for (this player)” season, with a 2021 draft class that is expected to land as many as five or six quarterbacks in the first round, how can we not be reminded of how often they bust when not only Wentz gets benched but look at all the other names I’ve mentioned in this article already without even necessarily trying to make a point about quarterback busts:
- Marcus Mariota only went number two in the draft because Jameis Winston went first.
- Gil Brandt’s favorite pro day was Sam Bradford.
- Robert Griffin III only went second because Andrew Luck went first and even if you believe that RGIII’s career was tainted because of injury (his problems stem from so much more than his knees) and that Luck “would have been elite if only,” these are two QBs who did not last long.
- Blake Bortles went third.
- Mitchell Trubisky went second and is the most recent top-six QB to make a Pro Bowl.
- Sam Darnold went third.
- Daniel Jones went sixth.
The only QBs drafted in the top-six in the 2010s who I did not mention there are:
- Cam Newton, one of the worst passers in the NFL today and even if you think my football opinions are disqualified for my Newton beliefs, you have to admit that teams rarely draft quarterbacks that high with the idea in mind that they’ll only be with the franchise until they’re 29.
- Baker Mayfield.
- Kyler Murray.
Excluding the 2020 draft class until they get more time to play and prove themselves, the cream of the crop of the top-six of the draft at quarterback over the last decade is Cam, Goff and Mayfield. And aren’t we still holding our breath on Baker?
I’m not excluding Luck anymore than he excluded himself from the league — which I support as his right to protect his health but he’s another player who didn’t make it to 30.
I’m also not saying that Jones or Darnold can’t get better. Or that Trevor Lawrence can’t become the next Peyton Manning, in which case he would make his first all-pro roster and win his first playoff game in year six.
It’s interesting to see that people have dedicated their football “tweeting careers” to focusing on why running back is a bad position to draft early because of injury, shortcomings, or failing to produce at the NFL as compared to some of their later-drafted counterparts.
If only there wasn’t a longer list of QB injuries than: Bradford, Cam, RGIII, Luck, Wentz, Darnold, Jones, Tua and Burrow. Apparently that’s not enough.
Whether it’s because of injuries or incompetence, many of these names have fallen short of expectations. I’m not blaming the quarterbacks for that though. I’m blaming the expectations.
There was much debate about Wentz or Goff, just as there was about Mariota or Winston, Luck or RGIII, and to a slightly lesser degree, Baker or Darnold, Trubisky or Mahomes or Watson, Tua or Herbert. All this debate, so few stars.
The Eagles have decided for now that even if they lost the debate, at least they won a Super Bowl. The Rams still have a chance to do that this season with the player they chose instead.