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Because of Jalen Ramsey trade, Rams have no incentive to do anything but win

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If all goes wrong, there won’t be a draft reward at the end

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The LA Rams went 11-5, 13-3, and 9-7 over the last three seasons, respectively. They enter the next season with Super Bowl hopes and a roster with quite a few players who participated in their NFC Championship two years ago, but national expectations seem to range from “fine” to “flop.”

In May, ESPN predicted an 8-8 finish.

Bleacher Report went with 6-10.

USA Today also said 6-10.

Vegas had the over/under set at 8.5 wins.

NBC Sports went a step lower than them all, predicting the Rams to finish 5-11 and in last place in the NFC West. But Patrik Walker of CBS Sports went through every game for LA and ultimately had them at 9-7.

A difference of 9-7 and 5-11 could come down to four field goals or four turnovers that didn’t go your way that season, so perhaps it’s not as big as it seems from a “quality of team” perspective. But in another way, the difference of 5-11 and 9-7 could be 10 or more draft slots. And the difference between 5-11 and 3-13 could mean the difference of picking first or picking fifth.

An issue that only matters to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jaguars could be in an interesting position in 2021 if all goes wrong in both Jacksonville and Los Angeles. It seems as though the sentiment is growing stronger by the day that the Jags are viewed as the worst team in the NFL. CBS Sports did the week-to-week on their schedule and came out with 2-14. Their 4.5 over/under win total is the lowest in the league by a full win.

If Jacksonville does go 2-14, it’s hard to imagine they’d be confident in the season had by Gardner Minshew and it seems probable that they’d take Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or whoever the best quarterback prospect is to them. How that will change if there is no college football season, nobody knows.

But in addition to that, the Jaguars may be hoping that the Rams find that their trade for Jalen Ramsey didn’t pan out as well as they’d hoped. If NBC Sports is right about them going 5-11 or even worse, then Jacksonville may wind up with two top-five picks. This year, the Jags had two top-20 picks because of the Ramsey deal, selecting C.J. Henderson and K’Lavon Chaisson.

Getting another pick around 20 from the Los Angeles is also possible. If not lower.

For the Rams, the goal is still to win the NFC West and return to the Super Bowl. They’ve got the game’s best player in Aaron Donald, an elite cornerback in Jalen Ramsey, and many offensive pieces that were around two years ago when they were about as dominant on that side of the ball as the Kansas City Chiefs. Perhaps they have every reason to believe they’ll go 13-3 and it wouldn’t be a huge shock to me if that happened.

However, it seems many are viewing the Rams as a team that has issues on the offensive line, a quarterback who they aren’t super confident can overcome personnel deficiencies around him, and little known about its linebackers or edge rushers. Which is contributing to predictions that have them going anywhere from last place to somewhere in the middle.

If not for the Ramsey trade, perhaps we could discuss the merits of being in position to draft Lawrence versus not having a terrible season and keeping a solid foundation into 2021. LA won’t have a first round pick next year unless they trade for one and all a bad season would do is move them up higher in the later rounds.

There’s certainly no reason for the Rams to give into any idea of a bad season or tanking if things start ugly. It’s something-or-nothing next season.