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Rams don’t need to tank for Caleb Williams to find their future franchise quarterback

The Rams don’t need to tank in 2023 to find their future franchise quarterback

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Tulane v USC Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

One of the biggest themes of the Los Angeles Rams offseason to date is whether or not the team should tank or if they are tanking in 2023. It’s a legitimate question given how the offseason has gone up to this point. The team outright cut Leonard Floyd and Bobby Wagner and then traded Jalen Ramsey for pennies on the dollar.

On top of that, they haven’t made any significant improvements. The defense is going to be young and inexperienced outside of Aaron Donald. Meanwhile, the offense ranked near the bottom of the NFL for much of the 2022 season. Much of that had to do with injuries on the offensive line. However, the Rams have made no changes to a group that hampered them so much. In fact, they committed to players like Brian Allen and Joseph Noteboom by restructuring their contracts.

For a team based in Los Angeles, it only makes sense that the #CrumbleForCaleb movement would start so early. Caleb Williams had a fantastic first season at USC and has been the star of Pac-12 football. In all likelihood, he’s going to be the surest thing at quarterback since Trevor Lawrence was drafted in 2021. Those types of quarterbacks don’t come along very often.

We recently ran a poll asking whether or not fans would prefer the Rams to finish 8-9 or 2-15. A heavy majority of 65 percent said that they would rather go 2-15 in 2023. At the end of the day, what’s truly the difference in going 8-9 and missing the playoffs or going 2-15 and missing the playoffs outside of draft position and team morale?

I also ran a poll on Twitter asking if fans would rather tank for Caleb Williams or win seven to ten games next season.

The results were the complete opposite, but the question was also phrased slightly differently. In my poll, 69 percent of the voters were ok with seven to ten wins rather than tanking for Williams.

It’s an interesting proposition for sure and the fanbase seems pretty split. Matthew Stafford is 35 years old and the Rams will need a young quarterback if they want to start a new era of Rams football with Sean McVay at the helm. In the current NFL landscape, having a quarterback on a rookie deal gives team so much more breathing room in terms of allocating the salary cap elsewhere to fill a more complete roster. Still, “tanking” and wasting a year of Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald let alone Stafford seems unlikely.

There’s also the proposition of what exactly the number one overall pick gets you. Yes, that is probably Caleb Williams in 2024. However, the history of success of number one overall picks at the quarterback position isn’t great.

The last number one overall pick at quarterback to win the Super Bowl is Matthew Stafford. That quarterback currently plays for the Rams and Stafford didn’t win the Super Bowl with the team that originally drafted him.

Number one overall picks have had opportunities. Jared Goff obviously led the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018. Joe Burrow and Cam Newton almost won with the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers. However, the last quarterback selected first overall to win the Super Bowl with the team that drafted him was Peyton Manning.

Six of the last ten players selected first overall have been quarterbacks. However, in four of the last five years, the first overall pick has been a quarterback and that will likely be five of six after this year’s draft in April. Those players are:

  • 2021 - Trevor Lawrence
  • 2020 - Joe Burrow
  • 2019 - Kyler Murray
  • 2018 - Baker Mayfield
  • 2016 - Jared Goff
  • 2015 - Jameis Winston

Out of those quarterbacks, only Burrow and maybe Lawrence are two guys that you could confidently say have the ability to lead their teams to championships. Players like Baker Mayfield and Jared Goff have won playoff games, but have shown that they need the situations around them to be ideal in order to succeed.

There’s also this to consider. The year before selecting Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs went 12-4 and lost in the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs with Alex Smith at quarterback. They didn’t tank to get Mahomes and instead traded up to the 10th overall pick to select their guy.

While the Chicago Bears get criticized for taking Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick that year, many analysts preferred Trubisky because he was more “pro ready”. Deshaun Watson was taken with the 12th overall pick that same year.

In 2017, the Buffalo Bills didn’t tank to draft Josh Allen. In fact, the Bills had a winning record and finished 9-7. They traded up from 12 to seven to select their guy.

There’s no better example of this than 2020 when the Miami Dolphins “tanked for Tua Tagovailoa”. While Joe Burrow went first overall, the Dolphins were hellbent on Tua at five and meanwhile Justin Herbert was selected one pick later.

That doesn’t even mention Jalen Hurts who was selected in the second-round. The Philadelphia Eagles were criticized for taking Hurts despite already having Carson Wentz. Hurts is now considered one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

All of that is to say that the first overall pick guarantees you nothing, especially at the quarterback position.

Caleb Williams is a special player at USC. That doesn’t guarantee success at the NFL level.

Tanking isn’t necessary or feasible in the NFL as it is in the NBA. Each NBA draft only has a handful of difference-makers. This is why there’s a lottery and only two rounds. The incoming talent is much more plentiful in the NFL.

The Los Angeles Lakers effectively tanked from 2013-2016. The players they selected included D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Julius Randle. While some of those players were used to trade for Anthony Davis, none of them were on the team or contributed to the 2020 championship. The Lakers didn’t draft those players with the expectation of trading them. In an ideal world, Randle or Ingram would have been good enough so that acquiring a Davis wasn’t necessary.

The infamous tanking example is the Philadelphia 76ers “trusting the process”. While they found Joel Embiid, they have yet to play in a NBA Finals series.

Teams in the NFL go worst to first every season. The league has done a great job to create parity.

The key here for the Rams is to try and compete in 2023, but not trade their 2024 first-round pick. If they end up with the first overall pick, then Caleb Williams will be a silver lining on a bad season. However, the 2024 quarterback class could be a very good one.

Outside of Williams, Drake Maye from North Carolina will be an option for teams. Quinn Ewers from Texas and Jayden Daniels from LSU will be players that pundits will be watching in 2024. Tulane’s Michael Pratt will be a dark horse and Kansas’ Jalon Daniels was on pace for a Heisman season before he got hurt.

Depending on how this next season goes, Williams may not even be the consensus number one overall pick. Every year there also seems to be a guy that significantly improves from one year to the next or comes completely out of nowhere.

If McVay is around for the long haul, then the Rams do need to start thinking about their future franchise quarterback that McVay can build with and develop. However, the solution to that problem doesn’t necessarily mean that the Rams need to tank for Caleb Williams.