Don’t you hate it when someone finds a better bargain than you? Now you know how Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead and Philadelphia Eagles GM Howie Roseman might feel.
There must be a sense of dread. Nothing hurts quite like overspending for a disappointing item and the nightmare hypothetical is this: What if Dak Prescott is better than fellow rookies Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, the No. 1 and No. 2 overall draft picks respectively?
We’ll find out more this weekend with Prescott starting for the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants and Wentz starting for the Eagles against the visiting Cleveland Browns.
One should always be suspicious of preseason statistics. NFL coaches don’t gameplan for opponents and veteran players often aren’t giving maximum effort. However, the numbers suggest that Prescott, a fourth-round pick, might have a very promising future.
Seven quarterbacks were drafted ahead of Prescott, including three first-rounders (Goff, Wentz and Paxton Lynch). Is it ridiculous to think he might be the best of the bunch?
As everyone predicted Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz starting week 1, Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch on the bench
— Bobby Mirth (@bobbymirth) September 5, 2016
Prescott had the league’s second-highest preseason passer rating (137.8). The Mississippi State product threw five touchdown passes with no interceptions. His completion percentage was fifth-best (78.0).
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah wrote: “I can’t recall ever seeing a rookie signal caller perform better than he did this August. Prescott showed tremendous poise, accuracy, velocity and playmaking skills.”
Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bedard tapped the brakes slightly on the hype. He noted the Prescott has benefitted from playing behind of the NFL’s best offensive line and has been throwing to established wide receivers Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley.
He wrote: “So, basically, Prescott has been given the rare opportunity to drive a luxury car as a mid-round rookie.”
Even if Prescott is mediocre, the Cowboys got value for a fourth-round pick.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Prescott will join Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson (a third-round pick in 2012) as the only quarterbacks drafted outside the first two rounds in the past 10 years to start the season opener. (Of course, the only reason Prescott is starting is due to Tony Romo’s back injury). FiveThirtyEight also pointed out that Prescott will be the first rookie quarterback drafted outside the top 130 picks to start a season opener since 1977 (Randy Hedberg for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
And Dallas didn’t even have to mortgage its future to get him.
That brings us to Goff and Wentz. They better be productive considering what LA and Philadelphia gave up to pick up.
The Rams acquired Tennessee’s No. 1 overall pick and a fourth-round pick and a sixth-rounder. In exchange, the Titans got the Ram’s first-round pick, a pair of second rounders, a third rounder and in 2017 will get L.A.’s first round pick and a third-rounder as well.
Philadelphia acquired Cleveland’s No. 1 pick – No. 2 overall – in exchange for five picks, including a first-round selection and a second-round pick in 2017.
In both trades, that’s a lot to give up for two quarterbacks who were never considered sure things. We’re not talking about Andrew Luck, considered the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. We’re probably not even talking about Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, a pair of Heisman Trophy winners.
We’re talking about Goff and Wentz. We’re talking about trading away valuable draft picks – the building blocks for NFL teams – for the hope that these guys will be NFL stars. No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks already come with built-in expectations. But that is ratcheted up even more when you trade up for quarterbacks.
Perhaps Goff and Wentz will justify the hype.
For right now, Goff is a punchline. He is listed as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart and will be inactive for the Rams’ Monday night season opener at San Francisco.
The No. 1 overall pick from a Power 5 conference school (California) couldn’t beat out the likes of Case Keenum and Sean Mannion. Egads. In the preseason, Goff was 22 of 49 for 232 yards with two TDs, two INTS and three fumbles. He was arguably the worst rookie quarterback in the preseason.
What say you, Jeff Fisher?
“He’s going to be a great player,” the Rams coach told NFL.com. “As we’ve said from day one, we’re not rushing him. We don’t have to rush it. I’m really happy with where he is right now. It’s unfair to compare him to anybody else.”
Meanwhile, Philadelphia is giving Wentz an early shot. His opportunity was created when the Eagles jettisoned Sam Bradford to quarterback-desperate Minnesota. Wentz’s preseason numbers consist of the second-half of one game: 12-of-24 for 89 yards with an interception. He missed the rest of the preseason with a rib fracture.
What say you, Doug Pederson?
“Everybody feels like this kid is ready to go and we drafted him to take on the reins and it’s something now we are prepared to do,” the Eagles coach told NFL.com.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) September 5, 2016
Wentz will make his debut against the team that didn’t want him: Cleveland. Earlier this week, Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta said that Cleveland didn’t believe Wentz would become a top 20 quarterback in the NFL.
To understand the risk of of reaching for a quarterback look no further than across the sidelines at Cleveland’s Robert Griffin III. In 2012, the Washington Redskins traded up with Rams to select RGIII. In return, L.A. received a truckload of picks, which eventually became eight players.
Yes, Griffin was the league’s Rookie of the Year and led Washington to the playoffs. The success was short-lived, however. Due to injury and lack of development, Griffin was supplanted by current Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round selection.
When teams trade up in the first round for quarterbacks, they’re gambling with their future in a league that is becoming younger. According to The Ringer, the average age of the players on the field was 27.2 in 2006. In 2015, it was 26.6. On offense, the average age has dropped from 27.6 in 2006 to 26.8 last year.
Draft picks are an increasingly valuable commodity. While the success rate on first-round picks might only be as high as a coin-flip, it stands to reason that more picks you have, the better your chance of finding quality players.
Of course, there is the possibility that Snead and Roseman are correct. The Rams and Eagles are all in on Goff and Wentz. Good luck because it’s going to be awfully embarrassing if Prescott is better.
There’s a no-return policy on Goff and Wentz.