The NFL once again emphasized their efforts to grow the league in international markets recently and just in case you forgot, the Los Angeles Rams got China.
Not only that, but the Rams have broadcasting rights in Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand, in addition to China. As the NFL looks to make the team not only more popular in Los Angeles, the second-most populated city in the country with a 1.4 million person lead on third place Chicago, they’re also expanding the Rams in the most populated country in the world (1.4 billion people) and Mexico (129 million people, 10th-most in the world). They even got the continent of Australia.
And it all makes sense when you consider what the NFL and Stan Kroenke’s ownership team paid just to move the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles, not counting the $5-$6 billion stadium meant to be a spectacle that attracts fans from all over the globe.
It was partly that effort to make the L.A. Rams into a global NFL brand that helped motivate the team to make such headline-dominating moves as trading for Matthew Stafford and Von Miller, plus signing Odell Beckham, Jr., in leading up to their 2021 Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that took place at their home in SoFi Stadium.
I’m not going to say it’s a conspiracy. I’m also not going to say it’s a coincidence. The NFL was not mucking with the gears at all to literally get the Rams into the Super Bowl, but I do think that the league was plenty happy to see that their investment in Los Angeles showed an immediate payoff and they would love for something to stick.
When the Raiders moved from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982, they won the Super Bowl in 1983. That seemed to be working out, but 10 years later they were back in Oakland and 15 years after that, the Raiders have landed in Las Vegas. I’m sure that the NFL would like football in Las Vegas to be a success too.
The Rams are firmly situated in Los Angeles, that is guaranteed, and they’re sharing the stadium with a Chargers team that may have a leg up in bringing the next Super Bowl win to the city in large thanks to Justin Herbert’s development at quarterback. But the Chargers are not the Rams—the Chargers are not even mentioned in the league’s international markets strategy—and that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon.
It’s fair to believe that the NFL wants the L.A. Rams to be successful and to be a national and international draw so that hundreds of thousands of fans travel every year to watch football at SoFi Stadium, as well as tens of millions tuning in on television. Stafford was the key to initially drawing attention to a franchise that needed a bigger star at quarterback than Jared Goff.
And Caleb Williams could be the answer to who takes over that role after Stafford.
The NFL may not muck up the gears, but I think they would be elated if somehow the Rams ended up with the number one pick and they don’t technically have to “tank” or have the number one pick to get him.
It's going to be so generous of the 49ers to host the Super Bowl when Caleb Williams and the Rams hoist the Lombardi Trophy in 2026.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) May 23, 2023
This is only anecdotal personal evidence, but I don’t think I’ve had as many offline discussions about a future quarterback prospect in next year’s draft as I’ve had about Williams since Andrew Luck in 2012. All due respect to Trevor Lawrence, I don’t think even he had as many people oohing and awwing and curious about his future as Caleb Williams and that’s probably related to the “Patrick Mahomes” comparisons that he’s been getting in the last six months.
The 2022 Heisman winner had a 21:4 TD:INT ratio as a true freshman at Oklahoma, far outplaying former five-star recruit Spencer Rattler, and then got doubly good after following Lincoln Riley to USC as a sophomore: 42 TD:5 INT and 10 rushing touchdowns.
With Jordan Addison off to the NFL, Williams won’t have his best weapon from last year, but he didn’t have the best supporting cast to begin with (especially compared to someone like C.J. Stroud) and yet he still won the Heisman. We’ve seen quarterbacks in Williams’ position sometimes regress after winning the Heisman, but many of them didn’t come close to the point of losing their status as the number one pick.
That includes Lawrence in 2021 and Bryce Young in 2023.
I have little doubt that Caleb Williams will be the number one pick in 2024, he could sit out the whole year and still be the top pick (similar to the Rams choosing Sam Bradford following injury at Oklahoma), and not even UNC’s Drake Maye is likely to challenge him.
The Rams do not need to draft Williams and they might not even get the chance to do so, but there’s magic and chemistry baked into the fact that he’s already playing in SoCal and doing things in the Pac-12 that so few stars have done in the last few decades. There will be talking of “tanking” for Caleb with several teams, not just the Rams, but let’s not forget that plenty of teams get the number one pick without being the worst team.
Like the St. Louis Rams in 2016. Like the Carolina Panthers in 2023.
The number one pick might not be available, but there are a few teams like the Houston Texans (who traded their 2024 first round pick but still own the Browns first round pick), Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears who might get the first pick and decide that they would rather trade it than keep it because they have a young QB already. Similar to the Bears in 2023, although I think that if Chicago is the worst team in the NFL again they’re probably ready to move on from Justin Fields.
Then there’s the Arizona Cardinals, though we can’t expect them to trade with the Rams.
If L.A. doesn’t get Caleb Williams—and just statistically that is not probable but it is more probable than a large chunk of the league right now—that’s fine. There are other prizes in the 2024 NFL Draft. But if the Rams do get the chance to draft Caleb Williams, I know three parties that will be happy: The L.A. Rams, the NFL, and Caleb Williams.
Well, maybe more than that. We can’t forget China, Mexico, and Australia.