The Rams are now on the clock after pulling off a reverse-RG3 trade and sending to a handy gift basket of draft picks to the Titans for the No. 1 overall pick.
As a result, the folks who were hoping the 49ers would turn a middle finger toward history, and end up with the latest first-round talent from Cal as their future quarterback, might as well shove that dream into the dustbin. That dream will join others, such as the hope that Jim Harbaugh, Jed York, Trent Baalke and Paraag Marathe would figure out a way to put aside their differences, or Jim Tomsula would be the “teacher” the 49ers needed, or Patrick Willis would come out of retirement, and so on.
St. Louis … wait, Los Angeles (no joke, that’s going to take some getting used to, even though I still remember the Jim Everett/Henry Ellard/Eric Dickerson days) will draft one of the consensus top-two quarterbacks. And if the Browns’ preferred quarterback is selected and they don’t like the other guy, they can trade down with a team that wants a quarterback. And if that doesn’t happen, the frenzy surrounding the the top two quarterbacks might convince the Cowboys to draft Tony Romo’s successor. Whatever transpires, there are far too many teams and scenarios blocking the 49ers’ path to Goff or Wentz, if they even wanted to drive down that highway.
It was already a longshot that either Wentz or Goff would last all the way to No. 7, and the Rams just came pretty close to guaranteeing they won’t. However, this probably doesn’t change the 49ers’ plans at all. In fact, they’re probably happy.
The Rams will no longer be so desperate for a quarterback, which means the 49ers can safely release Colin Kaepernick into the wild if he becomes too much of a locker room distraction. That’s if they don’t figure out a way to make a deal happen with Denver, which is being rather obstinate in its insistence that Kaepernick is only worth $7 million per year (if we can believe the reports, which is always risky until dotted lines are signed).
But this is Trent Baalke we’re talking about, anyway. Unless his stripes have suddenly changed, he’d much rather select an instant starter on defense like Myles Jack, DeForest Buckner or Joey Bosa, or perhaps even a bookend offensive tackle. Or, if the top defensive guys are off the board, he could trade down for even more picks, and select someone like Shaq Lawson, a pass rusher with run-stopping ability, later in the first round. All of these options seem more Baalke-like than drafting Wentz or Goff (or trading up). Baalke is a run-first guy on both sides of the ball, and it’ll be Chip Kelly’s job to make it work with Kaepernick (good luck), Blaine Gabbert, and/or a guy like Connor Cook, Dak Prescott, Vernon Adams, Kevin Hogan, or one of many other quarterbacks the experts think will be drafted after the first round.
The question that will never be answered is this: What would the 49ers have done if no trades were made, the Browns took Wentz, and Goff was available at No. 7? I assumed they’d pass on Goff and select a defensive player or trade down all along, but now it looks like we’ll never get to find out.