I have said it before and I will say it again: Jared Goff will be better than Carson Wentz. I am not saying Wentz will be awful, I am just higher on Goff. Ever since I watched the two in their final seasons at California and North Dakota State, respectively, I have preferred the Rams’ quarterback. Just a year ago, I would say this and people would laugh or call me stupid. I even told that to a friend in the summer. who then texted back to me, “Can’t even argue with that” and “It’s just too bad.” After all, Wentz started and won the first three games of the season, throwing five touchdowns and no picks in the process. Where was Goff? Sitting on the bench and watching career backup Case Keenum calling the shots. Now, just days after the former first overall pick torched the 49ers for 292 yards and three touchdowns while accumulating a 145.8 passer rating and a 78.6% completion rating, some people seem to be changing their minds. If anything, I am more convinced than ever that Jared Goff is the real deal.
Despite being the son of former MLB catcher Jerry Goff, Goff grew up as natural quarterback. While he had dabbled in baseball, Goff truly excelled passing the pigskin. He was a stud at Marin Catholic High School in his hometown of California; he tossed 93 touchdowns and 7,687 yards in three seasons as the starter. Goff committed to the University of California where he would become the school’s first true freshman to start a season opener. Despite a subpar 14-23 record and one bowl appearance, which Cal won, Goff holds numerous school records. Those include the school’s all-time and single season records for completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns, all better than some former Cal quarterback named Aaron Rodgers. Goff was taken first in the 2016 NFL Draft after the Los Angeles Rams traded an entire country for him. Unfortunately for Goff, he would wait nine games before finally starting. Needless to say, Goff’s rookie season was dreadful for a first round pick. He threw only five touchdowns to his seven interceptions and finished with a porous completion rating of 54.6%. Pro Football Focus gave Goff a 44.5 rating for the 2016 season, barely beating out Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brock Osweiler for the worst starting quarterback rating in the NFL. Through the first three weeks of the 2017 season, Goff has looked like a completely different player. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 10th best quarterback right now, and that was before his stellar performance on Thursday night. As a person, Goff is actually a pretty humorous guy; just check out ‘Saladgate’. Don’t let that convince you he is not a leader; Goff was a two-time captain at Cal. Despite growing up in a rich area and attending nice schools, Goff has remained humble. He despises cheating and hates losing even more. While he may not have a “winning résumé,” Jared Goff knows how to excel as a player and as a leader.
In college, Goff’s record-breaking stats were arguably inflated by California’s pass-happy Bear Raid offense, despite the lack of talent Goff had to throw to. On the Rams, it is not hard to see why Goff suffered. He had one of the worst coaching staffs in the NFL. Longtime coaching bum Jeff Fisher and his inexperienced coaching staff looked like they had no idea how to coach Goff, hence Fisher’s overdue midseason dismissal. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Wentz was pampered by former quarterbacks and current quarterback gurus Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, and John DeFilippo. Goff’s teammates in 2016 were not what someone would say are, what’s the word, good. The Rams’ starting receivers were Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt, the former who only seemed to be good at running with the football and not catching it. The offensive line was ranked 27th by PFF (The Eagles’ line was 8th.) This was probably why Goff was pressured the third most times of any starting quarterback last season. At least the Rams had rookie sensation and personal favorite Todd Gurley, right? Wrong. Not only did Fisher refuse to allow Goff to use Gurley as an option in the passing game, but Gurley’s on-field motivation deteriorated due to his hatred for playing in Fisher’s offense. Basically this means that Goff had to work with that terrible, and injury-prone, receiving core while constantly trying to fend off oncoming defenders. That is not a great situation for any quarterback, let alone a rookie. Finally, the Rams improved Goff’s surrounding cast this offseason by bringing in receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods and veteran lineman Andrew Whitworth, who was the most efficient pass blocking tackle last year. These additions coupled with Gurley’s return to dominance seem to be paying off, but probably because of new head coach and former Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay. He is only 31, but his football IQ is off the charts. Also, he is the perfect players’ coach with his age and incredible passion and energy. One more thing: if McVay can turn former fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins into a top-15 quarterback, imagine what he can transform Jared Goff into. Goff might not have the best pieces in place to succeed right now, but it is a significant improvement from his rookie season.
The thing that caught my eye when I watched Goff and Wentz throw in college was their ball placement. Both could make tremendous throws, but Wentz tended to hit the players right in their chests. That is not bad at all, but on the other hand Goff would hit the player’s where the ball needed to be. For example, if a receiver ran a curl, Wentz would hit the player in the chest. This could give the defender a better chance to hit the receiver and cause a drop or fumble. It also limits the yards after catch. As for Goff, he would throw a little bit to the right of the receiver, forcing the receiver to pivot his body and snag the ball. Why? To avoid the defender and potentially gain extra yards. I saw this repeatedly at the 2016 NFL Combine, too. There was one throw where the receiver had to run a left out route, but he closed in on the sideline too quickly. Goff saw this and threw the ball to the right of the receiver, causing the receiver to avoid running out of bounds. Instead, the receiver had to reach back and turn his body upfield, which allowed him to take off down the sideline. In other words, Goff is the king of anticipation. Some other traits include a relatively quick release, clean footwork, and a superior football IQ. His knocks might be his thin frame, his sometimes questionable decision-making when faced under pressure (which again, he faced a lot last year), and his average pocket awareness. When the pocket starts to collapse, Goff tends to back up, usually right into the defenders’ arms. There have been concerns about his arm strength, but this beauty to Sammy Watkins on Thursday shows an improvement in that area. Goff seems to be quickly trending upward.
The Fantasy Impact
Goff is not fantasy relevant, yet. In his first two games, he put up 16.4 and 10.9 points, respectively (All fantasy stats are based off of ESPN’s standard scoring rules.) However, he dropped a healthy 23.6 points in the 49ers game. He currently is 8th in passing attempts, but that is before the rest of this week’s games. Gurley’s re-emergence certainly helps, especially with his overdue presence in the passing game. If Watkins can stay healthy, he and Cooper Kupp can be a solid combination for Goff. Unfortunately, there just are not many great, experienced passing options for Goff. Consider Goff a solid streaming option until he and his receivers prove they can be consistent fantasy providers.
I am not saying Goff is better than Wentz after only three games (though he very well could be), but in three to four years it will be clear who is a better quarterback. Goff just has rare traits when passing the ball and has a great franchise-like personality. His surrounding cast has improved which will give him a better chance to improve as a quarterback. I know Goff is far from perfect, that game-ending interception in Washington last week was brutal, but I have confidence he will fix those issues with the help of Sean McVay. Also, do not count Goff out because of one bad rookie year. There was a quarterback taken first in the 1989 draft who threw twice as many picks as he threw touchdowns. His second season was slightly better, but he still only tossed 11 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. That quarterback? Troy Aikman. Peyton Manning threw two more interceptions than touchdowns his rookie year. The point is, these three first-overall picks and lifelong golden boys had to deal with something new early in their careers: they faced adversity. Is he legit? Why hasn’t he blossomed yet? He should be a star already! Like Aikman and Manning, I expect Goff to take this newfound obstacle and find a way to overcome it. All the great quarterbacks have overcome something. Brett Favre was traded as a backup his second year and led the league in picks his third year. Tom Brady was a sixth round pick. Dan Marino fell in his draft. Even John Elway was criticized for threatening a career in baseball. Jared Goff is simply the next quarterback to follow in the strayed footsteps of greatness.