NFL Draft bringing difficult decisions for Rams, Titans

The stage at the NFL Draft, where wide-eyed college football stars learn their fate in the professional league. (credit: Courtesy of Marques Stewart via Flickr Creative Commons) The stage at the NFL Draft, where wide-eyed college football stars learn their fate in the professional league. (credit: Courtesy of Marques Stewart via Flickr Creative Commons)

As the date of the NFL Draft gets closer and closer, teams are itching to trade draft picks, either to secure higher quality players, or to grab more talent than the standard seven allotted picks. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Rams decided to pay a king's ransom to the Tennessee Titans, trading away this year's first-round pick (No. 15), two second-round selections (Nos. 43 and 45), and third-round pick (No. 76) along with next year's first and third-round picks in exchange for the Titans' first-round pick (No. 1), fourth-round pick (No. 113) and sixth-round pick (No. 177).

Obviously willing to start their first season back in Los Angeles with a bang, the Rams are looking to secure the quarterback position. The last time the Rams selected number one overall, they got quarterback Sam Bradford, who almost led them to a division title in his rookie year before spending the next years plagued by injury. With the Cleveland Browns picking number two overall looking once again for a quarterback to change their fate, the Rams needed to go all the way to number one if they wanted to get the guy they want.

Now, the Rams are focused entirely on two players: North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz and University of California quarterback Jared Goff. With both Los Angeles and Cleveland likely to take both of them of the board, this would mark the second year in a row the top two picks were quarterbacks. Jameis Winston has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers optimistic about the future, and Marcus Mariota has Tennessee convinced enough to not chase after Wentz or Goff.

The decision between Wentz and Goff could be critical to the futures of the Rams and the Browns. In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck first overall, and the Washington Redskins took Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III second overall. Though Luck did not perform well in 2015, his first three years have shown incredible promise, taking the Colts from the worst team in the league in 2011 to competing against the Patriots for the right to play in Super Bowl XLIX. Griffin, meanwhile, had a great rookie campaign before suffering an injury and subsequently fizzling in D.C.

A more stark contrast between the first and second overall quarterbacks can be seen from the 1998 NFL Draft. The Indianapolis Colts took University of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning first overall while the San Diego Chargers selected Washington State University quarterback Ryan Leaf second. Manning would go on to have a legendary career, going out on top with the Denver Broncos. Leaf became the poster child of poor work ethic and drug problems.

Much is at stake for the Rams to get this pick right. The same goes for the Titans to use their picks to build a team around Mariota. It's a complicated balance of surrounding Mariota with talent at skill positions (running backs, wide receivers), protecting him with good offensive linemen, and building a defense that will keep feeding the offense opportunities to score. If they play their cards right, the Titans stand to gain a number of quality players that will help them compete in the AFC South. If not, they may wind up wondering what to do with a high draft pick next year with more questions than answers.