The Rams have made their first big splash in Los Angeles and the games haven’t even started. The Rams gave up a slew of draft picks to the Tennessee Titans and moved up from the 15th pick in the draft to the top pick. NFL prognosticators believe they will use their pick to select one of the top QB prospects — Jared Goff, Carson Wentz or Paxton Lynch. Whether or not a rookie QB can lead a team to the playoffs — or in reality whether that QB even starts in the first year — the Rams trade will bring them a player they can build their brand around in L.A..
We don’t need to look far in the past to see what draws in fans in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant showed everyone what L.A. fans enjoy watching. They want big names, star power, and success. The Rams didn’t lack in talented players with Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn, but it’s much easier to market a team around a quarterback than a running back or defensive linemen. The hope is that whoever the Rams select can be the face of the franchise for 10 years or more.
The Rams don’t even necessarily have to start the No. 1 pick right away. They could wait and still have a player that will be extremely marketable. Look at other teams that drafted star QBs and built, not only their team, but their persona and branding around. The list includes Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. It even included Robert Griffin III when he was a rookie in Washington.
If the goal is get fans excited, the Rams are well on their way. The only way to bring people into the stadium and own the city — especially if the Chargers or Raiders move to L.A. after this year — was to develop a winning team quickly with a big name QB. Now the team can corner the market before any competitors move to the City of Angels.
The Rams made this trade to improve their team, but they also made this trade to sell more tickets and jerseys, and to get fans excited about the team’s future in L.A.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.