Tuesday, 19 April 2016

All Quiet On The Western Front!

Article by Rob Newell

Not anymore but until recently the NFC West has stoically remained out of the news headlines, following the Rams return to the City of Angels the most controversial thing coming out of the NFC West was Seattle QB Russell Wilson and his engagement, no 49ers drinking and driving, no domestic violence reported, but then the NFL decided to release the 2016 schedule and the proverbial damn was broken.

Last year the Rams front office duo of Jeff Fisher and Les Snead were adamant all the way up to and through the combine that Sam Bradford was their man no matter what, only to trade him to Philadelphia for Nick Foles.  So when they tried the same tactic this year singing the apparent many virtues of Case Keenum, not many of us were buying.  Having said that, and with the knowledge that the Rams needed a Quarterback, something that the move to Los Angeles only highlights, to trade up from number 15 to number 1 was a surprise.

Tennessee Titans GM Jon Robinson made sure that everyone knew the possibility of a trade was on the table, but with the cost of moving up just a few spaces in the draft order (measured ironically enough by what the Rams received from Washington for Robert Griffin III) seemingly so high, no one was really looking much below Dallas Cowboys or at a push the Philadelphia Eagles as the lowest lying trade partners.  That is now blown out of the water with the Rams passing over in total two first round, two second rounds and two third rounds over the next few seasons for this year’s first pick and a couple of lower round selections.  You would be forgiven for thinking there was some sort of cosmic balancing act at work for the Rams to be the one who gave up the picks for this deal.

The reason everyone was considering a deal with the Titans was of course to get above Cleveland whom everyone believed was odds on to take a QB at number two, however they have picked up Griffin III of all QB’s which in some ways closes some of these draft loops in the narrative, and now the Browns may not be going the QB route.  Everyone assumed correctly as it seems that the Titans with Marcus Mariota were set at that position, and if GM’s around the league are going to overpay, it will be for a perceived franchise QB.

Laremy Tunsil - Ole Miss

The Rams are of course now in full spin mode, saying that there are many players they are considering with their newly acquired number one pick, but once again, pay little credence to this storyline. The Rams haven’t moved up from Number 15 to take a Left Tackle no matter how good a player Laremy Tunsil may be, the simple truth is that either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff are moving to Hollywood and all the pressure the LA spotlight brings will be on them.  They will be backed up by a premier running game spearheaded of course by Todd Gurley and a top level defence featuring Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn.

Whichever one it is, will struggle with the passing game though.  The Rams air attack woes were not all on the QB last year, it is not the most inspiring group of receivers outside Tavon Austin whom they are still identifying how to use, and with so many picks gone in acquiring the QB there is not much help coming on the Receiver front anytime soon, unless they have a deal in the offing for a current star.  No doubt you will have seen the rumors that Wentz is the man the Rams are leaning towards, and this seems to be more smoke and mirrors to me.  My belief is that in the year Pro Football returns to Los Angeles it will be the local boy, college star Goff who the Rams select.  It would be a media dream and a story that sells, box office in the most commercial city in the world.

So what does this mean for the draft now?  The acknowledged number one contenders Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey are all moving down the order with the first QB off the board at number one.  The other QB should now be selected at number two I would wager, but not guaranteed to be the Browns anymore.  All those teams that wanted a QB and thought they might have had a chance in the initial order, Dallas, San Francisco and Philadelphia will now have their resolve tested. How highly do they rate the other QB deemed to be a first round talent are they willing to trade with Cleveland to get him?  That will be a steep price too as the Browns could quite conceivably be happy to take him themselves if nobody bites.

The rest of the top 7 picking teams are all very happy in the sense that Tunsil, Ramsey, Myles Jack, DeForest Buckner and Ezekiel Elliott are all going to be there and if your picking 3 to 7 you are guaranteed one of these unless someone jumps up again.  The Titans and maybe the Browns are going to be sitting on a lot of picks and I expect them to move further in the draft and look to package something to get back in the first round for more first round players.

The other player all this could impact in the West of course is 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick.  After one of the more protracted and tedious will he won’t he games in history this saga must surely draw to a close soon.  As the first round QB talents go off the board the availability of Kaepernick will once again seem attractive to some teams and the 49ers who so far have been resolute about the need for a third round pick in return, may also be willing to budge,  There is a chance of a pre-draft deal with the Jets for Kaepernick and Mo Wilkerson to swap coasts, but come the start of 2016 I think Kaepernick will finally be on the bench for another team whilst Blaine Gabbert starts in San Francisco backed up by a mid-round draft selection, one of the many picks the 49ers have this year.

Meanwhile up in the North West the original Legion of Boom has been reunited as Brandon Browner has returned to Seattle.  Based on the last few seasons expect a barrage of yellow flags to accompany him as he may just be one of the first to test the referee’s under the new personal conduct policy.

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