The Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams pulled off a blockbuster trade on Thursday, as the Rams will receive the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft from the Titans in exchange for a cache of early-round draft picks over the next two seasons.
It’s a trade that at first glance looks excellent for the Titans and risky for the Rams. The Titans make out like bandits with a bounty of assets to help their rebuilding process, while the Rams will almost certainly use the first overall selection on a quarterback.
The real loser of the trade, however, could be the San Francisco 49ers.
Before this blockbuster trade went through, the Niners appeared to be in good shape in the upcoming draft with the seventh overall pick. Of the teams ahead of them, only the Browns at no. 2 seemed likely to take a quarterback. And by all accounts, this is a two-quarterback draft: North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz and UC-Berkeley’s Carson Wentz as the definitively best two prospects.
That meant that the Niners would be in a nice position to draft whichever quarterback the Browns did not take. As of our Wednesday mock draft, 11 of 13 draft experts had the Browns taking Wentz, meaning the Niners would likely pick Goff. Fittingly, our mock had 7 of 13 experts pegging Goff to the Niners.
Goff and the Niners would make a nice pair. For one thing, Colin Kaepernick’s agents have openly requested he be traded, and the situation between Kaepernick and the Niners is, at best, extremely dysfunctional. The other quarterback option in San Francisco right now is Blaine Gabbert, who hasn’t started a full season since his rookie year in 2011. Goff, on the other hand, is a Bay Area product who played his college football in nearby Berkeley. He would be a fan favourite, with potential to be the longterm building block for the franchise.
But even if the Browns, drafting at no. 2, had decided that Goff was a safer pick, that still almost assuredly would have landed Wentz in San Francisco for the same reasons as above — they need a quarterback.
The blockbuster trade kills all of this for the Niners. The Rams and Browns will almost definitely take Goff and Wentz in some order, while the Niners now must either trade up, consider drafting a second-tier QB prospect (Memphis’ Paxton Lynch and Michigan State’s Connor Cook), or make due with some combination of Kaepernick and Gabbert.
Too much talent will be left on the board for them to take Lynch or Cook with the seventh pick, meaning that unless they trade up, or sign Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency, the quarterback situation in Northern California is going to be less than ideal.
The good news, if you can call it that, is that the Niners are not a quarterback away from contention. Some analysts have called this draft weak at the quarterback position, so it’s not impossible to imagine the Niners consenting to being awful for another year and hoping for better luck with a quarterback at next year’s draft.
But should Goff or Wentz (or both) turn into good franchise options, the Niners will be pulling their hair out that they were the real losers of the blockbuster trade between the Rams and Titans.