If the Rams were playing this upcoming NFL season in St. Louis and not Los Angeles, the blockbuster trade they made with the Tennessee Titans would not have happened. The move up to get the overall pick in the draft is as much about 2019 as 2016.
The Rams are moving into a new stadium in Inglewood in 2019 and will need to have a winning and exciting team to get Los Angeles fans to fork over money for personal seat licenses and season tickets. The PSLs won't be cheap (some PSLs for the Giants, Cowboys and 49ers ranged from $20,000 to $150,000). Having a star quarterback — the Rams will use the No. 1 pick on a quarterback, either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff — is vital.
This season, the Rams games at the L.A. Coliseum will sell out, simply because it's novel to have pro football back in the city for the first time since 1994. But a boring, mediocre team led by a no-name QB would do nothing to generate widespread fan interest, which will be needed to fill what will be very expensive seats in Inglewood. People won't pony up for a nondescript team.
I have lived in L.A. for 35 years and was a sports editor for 12, and know how this town thrives on star power for its sports teams (see Kobe, Shaq, Magic, Marcus Allen, Fernandomania, Kershaw, Gretzky etc.). I also remember many days when there were seas of empty seats for the Rams and Raiders near the end of disappointing seasons with teams led by Dieter Brock and Marc Wilson. So many Angelenos are transplants and carry their hometown NFL allegiances with them, that any L.A. team needs to work harder to capture and keep new fans.
The Rams are aware of what the L.A. market demands. "A day after Kobe's retirement game, I think we're all reminded that this is a star-driven market," Kevin Demoff, the Rams' executive vice president of football operations and chief operating officer, told the L.A. Times. "As an organization, we have to be cognizant of that."
You don't compete in the NFL without a star quarterback. In the last 12 seasons, there has been only one time when the Super Bowl did not have at least one quarterback taken in the first round (2014, Russell Wilson vs. Tom Brady). This past season, both Peyton Manning and Cam Newton were the first overall pick in their respective drafts. The Rams know this and must believe they have identified their man to make such a huge trade.
The Rams better know what they're doing, though. Neither Goff nor Wentz is a consensus can't-miss player (SB Nation's Dan Kadar has a good rundown on both), so General Manager Les Snead and Coach Jeff Fisher are risking their jobs on making the right choice.
As Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times notes, "the last time an L.A. team had the No. 1 overall pick was 1963, when the Rams selected Oregon State quarterback Terry Baker." Baker played three seasons for the Rams and finished his career in the CFL. The Rams had better hope they make a better choice in two weeks or else once the novelty wears off, the Coliseum will be more like a mausoleum.