The in-transit Los Angeles Rams sent six high picks in upcoming drafts to the Tennessee Titans in return for:
Non-stop debate on sports television and radio.
A flashy name to put in lights on the marquee.
Yes, they also get the No. 1 pick in this draft, a rookie quarterback who might not be ready to do anything but take a beating for a while.
So the actual on-field impact probably won’t be immediately evident. But that’s only a part of what the Rams did this week, when the practical intent was about the splash.
The real message of this trade was they’re coming back to L.A., and they know they’ve got to bring the tinsel.
They’re smart enough to know that the Southern California fan base worships celebrity and tolerates only winners.
It’s likely that two NFL teams will soon occupy that Xanadu stadium, and the Rams have the advantage of getting in there first. That gives them a huge head start in developing the connection to a generation of uncommitted fans.
The Rams have been built by being bad. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2004-05, when they last had a .500 season.
And they’re familiar with the way in which the game of quarterback roulette works.
And doesn’t work.
By going 1-15 in 2009, they were able to use the first pick of the draft for presumptive franchise quarterback Sam Bradford. Ankle, knee and shoulder injuries eroded his effectiveness, and he was eventually shipped to Philadelphia.
Their 2-14 season in 2011 once again put them in prime draft position, at No. 2.
Stanford’s Andrew Luck went to Indianapolis at No. 1, while the quarterback-hungry Washington Redskins sent a heavy ration of draft picks to St. Louis to move up to get Baylor’s Robert Griffin III.
The Rams came away winners in that deal, building a powerful defense while the Redskins got a strong rookie season followed by three seasons of precipitously declining production out of Griffin before he was cut this offseason.
Is there a lesson in the Bradford and Griffin experiences for the Rams?
Mostly, it’s that sometimes you miss when you draft the guy you wanted, and sometimes you can trade away the guy somebody else wants, and you still don’t turn into a winning team.
Taking quarterbacks in the NFL draft is one of the all-time riskiest wagers that can be made. The list of flops is frightening.
So, do you want to bet on the guys this year? Most consider California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz to be the top two quarterbacks in this draft.
Are either of these guys worth what the Rams forked over — two first-rounders, two second-rounders and two third-rounders over the next two seasons — for the No. 1 pick, plus a fourth-rounder and a sixth-rounder in this draft?
I haven’t heard anybody mentioning Goff or Wentz in the category of sure things.
With the quality of the Rams’ defense and a running game featuring Todd Gurley, the new quarterback might not need to be a star from the start.
But is that the kind of player who is worth that ransom of draft picks? Maybe in the long run. But for now? This year?
Well, yes, because it shows the picky sports consumers of Southern California that the Rams’ ownership is willing to make the flashy moves to try to build the best team as quickly as they can.
Fans understand landing top draft picks more than they want to spend time thinking about the quality of the Rams’ defense and special teams.
Remember, the Rams went 4-2 in the NFC West last season, which was as good as division champ Arizona and better than Seattle (3-3), a team the Rams swept.
It creates the possibility that if the Rams manage to get lucky, and the guy they draft with the No. 1 pick is actually up to speed and competent fairly quickly, it could be a scary team.