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Rams need to find their Jordan Love, but this may not be the draft to do it

The Rams need Matthew Stafford’s heir, but that player isn’t in the 2024 draft

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Los Angeles Rams v Green Bay Packers Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

For the first time in the Sean McVay era, the Los Angeles Rams will likely be selecting in the first round of the NFL Draft. While the Rams held the 31st overall pick in 2019, they traded down and ended up not selecting until 61 where they selected safety Taylor Rapp. The Rams are slotted to pick 19th overall and while they could move back, they will very likely be selecting in the first-round.

With the luxury of having a first-round pick, the Rams can approach it one of a few different ways. Do they try to get an immediate high-impact player at a position of need or take a player at a luxury position i.e. wide receiver with Cooper Kupp entering his 30s. Then there’s the third option of taking a player at a value-position, but may not start or have an impact right away. That position of course is quarterback.

Over the past 30 years, the Green Bay Packers have utilized the same approach at quarterback. The Packers acquired Brett Favre via trade in 1992 and then drafted Aaron Rodgers in the first round of the 2005 draft to sit and learn behind one of the franchise’s greatest quarterbacks. Rodgers went on to win NFL MVP four different times.

Green Bay then drafted Jordan Love in the first-round of the 2020 draft to sit and learn behind Rodgers. Love has been one of the better quarterbacks in the second-half of the season and just led the Packers to a playoff win over the Cowboys.

Love certainly looks to be a franchise quarterback for the Packers. That’s a team that has now gone from Favre to Rodgers to Love. Meanwhile, in that same time span, the division rival Chicago Bears have started over 40 different quarterbacks.

It doesn’t just work for the Packers. The Kansas City Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes to sit and learn behind Alex Smith for a season. Every quarterback is different and the sit-and-learn approach doesn’t always work. As with most things, it goes both ways. The Denver Broncos took Brock Osweiler in the second-round to be the heir apparent to Peyton Manning. That earned Osweiler a big contract with the Houston Texans, but he is one of the biggest free agent busts of all-time.

However, with teams that have an aging quarterback, it gives them a semblance of a plan. Selecting in the first-round of the 2023 draft in a good quarterback class, the Rams will have that opportunity to draft a quarterback behind Matthew Stafford who will be 36 next season.

That’s exactly what Dane Brugler did in his latest mock draft. The question here is whether or not a quarterback like JJ McCarthy makes sense for the Rams? Diante Lee and Nate Baumgardner of The Athletic reacted to Brugler’s mock draft.

The Jordan Love mold is where McCarthy fits for the Rams. Said Baumgardner,

“If you’re drafting McCarthy, you need a long-term plan — and maybe a veteran starter already in place. If he comes into training camp and beats that veteran QB, cool, but have a fallback plan. Also: Don’t be so rigid as to not entertain that plan. It’s worked for the Green Bay Packers (again).”

Lee seemed to disagree with Brugler’s placement of McCarthy,

“ I just don’t see McCarthy (No. 19 to the Rams) through the same lens. There’s something to be said for executing an offense as it’s called, but I don’t believe we’ve seen him execute consistently enough against top competition. He needs more time to sit and learn, and less pressure to deliver based on where he’s drafted.”

McCarthy would get the benefit of sitting behind Stafford like Mahomes did with Smith and Love did with Rodgers. With that said, McCarthy is a very different quarterback than those two prospects. He’s nowhere near the same athlete and doesn’t necessarily have the same ceiling. About Jordan Love, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said,

“His size, mobility and arm talent combined with his 2018 flashes could be a winning hand that leads a team into the future or a siren’s song of erratic play and unfulfilled potential.”

Matt Miller who wrote for Bleacher Report at the time added,

“Love is a major boom-bust prospect who could end up being the best quarterback from the class or a journeyman backup.”

Love was seen as a raw quarterback talent with elite traits that needed coaching to fulfill his potential. That’s exactly what he’s gotten in Green Bay with Matt LaFleur. With quarterbacks, situation matters and for Love, Green Bay was the perfect situation given the offensive staff.

Similar stuff was said about Mahomes, Said Zierlein,

“Mahomes is a big, confident quarterback who brings a variety of physical tools to the party, but he’s developed some bad habits...Mahomes will be a work in progress, but he’s a high ceiling, low floor prospect.”

Those are not things that are said about any of the quarterbacks outside of the top-three guys in Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels. Michael Penix has physical tools, but is 25 and not someone a team will want to sit for 2-3 years. McCarthy had limited production with a good offensive staff and coach in Jim Harbaugh. He’s also nowhere near the same athlete that Love and Mahomes were coming out of Utah State and Texas Tech.

Bleacher Report’s Derrick Klassen graded McCarthy as a fourth-round prospect. Said Klassen,

“J.J. McCarthy is a point-and-shoot thrower over the middle with just enough creativity and athleticism to be interesting...However, McCarthy falls short in a lot of other ways from a physical perspective. At 202 pounds, McCarthy is terribly light for the position, which is especially concerning for someone who isn’t a special athlete. McCarthy’s arm is also mildly concerning. He has the velocity to fit those throws moving over the middle, but that’s it. McCarthy is a one-speed thrower who struggles to layer throws in, particularly down the field and outside the numbers. That’s going to severely limit the design of any offense with him at the helm.”

Both Love and Mahomes had traits that were worth betting on. While McCarthy is young and moldable, he lacks the physical traits that make an elite NFL quarterback. It’s true that he’s probably a fit in a Shanahan or McVay-type system, but is he a quarterback that’s going to elevate an offense? McVay traded away a young, moldable quarterback in Jared Goff because he wasn’t someone that was going to elevate an offense. McCarthy is more athletic and better out of structure than Goff was, but he’s not at that next level either.

The fact of the matter is that the Rams do need to have a plan behind Stafford moving forward. That plan needs to be more than just drafting a quarterback on day three. It’s true that they drafted Stetson Bennett a year ago. However, there’s no guarantee that Bennett ever rejoins the team. Additionally, Bennett was never drafted to be the long-term starting quarterback, but rather a spot-starter or long-term backup. The Rams signed Carson Wentz in the middle of the season, but again, he doesn’t give them much of a future at the position and is more of a veteran backup option.

With all of that being said, it’s also important for the Rams not to force a Stafford replacement. Unfortunately, there just may not be a quarterback in this class that fits what they want their next quarterback to look like. Williams, Maye, and Daniels will likely all be gone in the top-10. Penix is older while McCarthy lacks the physical ceiling.

The quarterback that might fit that description of being able to sit and learn while his physical tools are molded is Oregon’s Bo Nix. Said Klassen,

“Nix will ultimately be a dice roll on traits. His athleticism and arm talent can be game-changing if honed correctly. With that said, it’s a little worrisome that Nix is still unrefined in some areas as an older prospect with a ton of games under his belt.”

Nix will be 24 at the draft and while that’s not old, it’s also not necessarily a quarterback that you want to site for a 2-3 years. The same can be said for Jordan Travis and Joe Milton. Love sat for three years and is still just 25 years old.

It will be interesting if quarterback is on the table for the Rams in the first-round. It’s worth noting that the Kansas City Chiefs traded up from 27 up to 10 to take Mahomes and Green Bay moved up seven spots to draft Love. Would the Rams do the same with Daniels? The difference there is that the Chiefs knew what their ceiling was with Smith. At 23, it was a rare opportunity for the Packers to draft someone with elite-level traits. With Stafford, the Rams still have a championship-level ceiling.

While tempting to follow in the Packers’ footsteps, the Rams just may not be in position to do so in April with the right type of prospect not available.