Jared Goff Was the Right Choice for the Los Angeles Rams
In his time with the Cal Golden Bears, Jared Goff had the luxury of largely avoiding the spotlight. The team never won more than eight games in a single season, and they only made one bowl game in his three years as a starter.
It's safe to say things will be just a wee bit different this year.
In selecting Goff first overall, the Los Angeles Rams are bringing a fresh signal-caller to their new abode in hopes of righting what was a horrendous passing game their final year in St. Louis. They gave up the farm, but they now have the man who they hope will be the face of the franchise.
The question, though, is did they get the right guy? If history and college statistics are any indication, Goff could be exactly what they wanted and -- more importantly -- needed.
An Impressive Collegiate Resume
The debate has been raging the whole spring about whether Goff or North Dakota State product Carson Wentz was the top prospect on the board. Based on their college stats, Goff runs away with the honor.
Goff led the pack in our ranking of the quarterbacks based on their collegiate numbers with Memphis' Paxton Lynch finishing second. Wentz was a distant third thanks to lower efficiency during his final season with the Bison and fewer games played than Goff and Lynch. This would seem to hint that the Rams made the right selection.
Not only did Goff measure up well relative to his peers, but he also had the statistical resume of a potential quality starter. When we looked back at the numbers of previous first-round picks, many of the most successful assets were on the same level as Goff coming out of school.
The measuring stick for success was numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP), a metric we use to track the efficiency of teams and players with the team totals being adjusted based on strength of schedule.
Here's how NEP works. Prior to every play, there is an expected number of points a team will score on its current drive based on the down and distance, the yardline, and other factors. A positive play -- such as a four-yard completion on 3rd and 3 -- will result in positive NEP. That same four-yard completion wouldn't get the job done on 3rd and 5, though, and that play would likely result in negative NEP. Once you tally up the fluctuations over the course of a season, you should have a good read of whether or not a team or player was operating in a manner conducive to scoring points.
Of the 47 quarterbacks drafted in the first round from 1995 to 2013, 10 of them finished in the top 10 in Total NEP in half of the seasons in which they recorded at least 200 drop backs. These are the guys like Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger who are consistently among the top passers in the league.
The table below shows the median collegiate profiles of those 10 players compared with what Goff did in his final year at Cal. The "Games Played" column indicates the number of games throughout each player's career in which he attempted at least 10 passes, a mark that can often indicate when a player may be a bust. "AY/A" is "Adjusted Yards per Attempt," which factors touchdowns and interceptions into a yard-per-attempt-esque measure to better demonstrate their true efficiency. As you can see, Goff measures up well to past success stories.
|Quarterback||Games Played||Pass Eff. Rat.||AY/A|
While Goff does come up a bit short in each category, the discrepancy isn't overly large. The bigger takeaway here is that he had a clear distance between himself and Wentz.
Some may ding Goff because of what we mentioned earlier -- his teams in college were never overly successful. However, that may actually be an endorsement of his efficiency numbers.
Quarterback efficiency generally declines when a team is trailing and in negative game script as the defense can focus exclusively on stopping the pass with the running game out of the equation. Goff had 283 attempts this year while trailing, and he had an AY/A of 8.2 in those situations. For some context, Lynch's AY/A fell to 7.0 when he trailed, Michigan State's Connor Cook was at 7.6, and Penn State's Christian Hackenberg was 6.9. If head coach Jeff Fisher decides to live a little dangerously and -- gasp -- throw the football while trailing, it seems like he can count on Goff to come through.
With all of this in mind, it certainly seems as if the Rams made the right choice with the first overall pick. And if Goff ends up working out, it'll drastically improve what was a truly vomit-worthy passing attack in 2015.
A Need for a Quarterback
The Rams finished the year ranked last in Adjusted Passing NEP per drop back, our team metric that is adjusted based on the strength of opponent. Their mark of -0.06 was far behind the 31st-ranked Tennessee Titans at -0.03 and one of only three negative totals in the entire league (the Dallas Cowboys had the other).
Because NEP factors in the points lost on sacks, you may want to contend that the offensive line was at least partially to blame. After all, that was a major contributing factor for the Titans' low ranking; could we say the same about the Rams?
They don't get to make that excuse. In fact, they had one of the best pass-blocking lines in the league this year.
Only the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens lost fewer NEP per drop back due to sacks than the Rams did. Part of this is likely due to the threat of Todd Gurley running the ball, but the takeaway here is clear: nothing good happened when the Rams threw the football.
To further illustrate this, let's narrow the scope to just the attempts where the quarterback was able to get the pass off. There were 43 different quarterbacks who had at least 100 drop backs with a single team last year, but not a single one had a worse Passing NEP per drop back than Foles after sacks were taken out of the equation. Keenum did fare a bit better, but even he was only 28th. It's hard to separate quarterbacks from the receiving-game assets, but something had to change here.
Goff wouldn't even need to be some top-shelf option to bring improvements to the Rams' passing game. He would just need to not be the worst passer in the league, so we're setting a high bar here. Goff should make the offense better, which would have a trickle-down effect for Gurley and the rest of the skill-position players. It's just a matter of how drastic that improvement is that will determine whether or not the trade was worth it for the Rams.
You can never say definitively whether or not a prospect will succeed in the NFL, but Goff's performance in college indicates he's more likely than most of his peers to complete the feat.
When compared to this year's crop of quarterbacks, Goff was near the top of the list across the board. He was either tied with or ahead of Lynch in every category except for games played, and both players ran away from Wentz's numbers.
Although Goff's resume wasn't quite at the level of first-round success stories of the past, he is at least close. When you consider that he was playing in negative game script for a majority of his career at Cal, it's possible that he has the arm to vault himself into that upper echelon. When you're the Rams, and you spent the last year toiling with the likes of Foles and Keenum, you'll certainly take that risk.
Yes, the Rams gave up a lot in their trade to acquire the first overall pick, and that does need to be factored into any evaluation of this selection. However, given what the situation was last year, the team had to do something as it transitioned to Los Angeles. Goff may not be the most sure thing on the planet, but he has a chance to be very good. If he is, the Rams could be a fun team to watch moving forward.