When news broke Thursday morning that the Los Angeles Rams had made a trade for the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, the ripples could be felt all the way to the Bay Area.
The Rams, in need of a franchise quarterback on the field and for their new/old fans in Southern California, are likely to select one of the top two QB prospects in North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or Cal’s Jared Goff. The Cleveland Browns, who hold the No. 2 overall pick, also are projected to take a quarterback.
That means the 49ers, who appear to be in the market for a young passer, would be off the quarterback market at the top of the first round with their No. 7 pick. It also probably erases the possibility they can trade up in the first round to go after either Goff or Wentz.
The other top-rated QBs, Paxton Lynch of Memphis and Connor Cook of Michigan State, are projected to be low first-round or second-round selections.
On the other hand, the Rams’ bold move could actually benefit the 49ers.
The move up to No. 1 cost the Rams dearly, and the 49ers would also have had to pay a high price to move higher. The Rams gave up two second-round picks this year, a third-rounder this year and their first- and third-round choices in 2017. The 49ers, with so many holes all over the roster, need young, gifted players to climb back out of the NFC West basement, and a move up to get Wentz or Goff may have been exciting but costly – especially if the QB proved to be a flop.
Now, however, the 49ers can take the best player available at No. 7 and then go after a second-tier quarterback in the second or third round, perhaps one they are reported to like anyway, such as Cook or Dak Prescott of Mississippi State. And, as NFL history has shown, quarterbacks taken after the first round often have become stars.
As David Fucillo of SB Nation wrote Thursday morning, that means the 49ers could wind up getting one of these high-impact defensive players: defensive end Joey Bosa of Ohio State, linebacker Myles Jack of UCLA, defensive back Jalen Ramsey of Florida State or defensive lineman DeForest Buckner of Oregon. Or, an offensive player such as tackle Laremy Tunsil of Mississippi or running back Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State could fall to the Niners.
Landing a solid player at No. 7, then getting a quarterback in the second or third round – while retaining all dozen draft picks – might actually be the smartest move the 49ers could make in the upcoming draft.