Pocket presence, performance under pressure make Jared Goff fit for Rams

Rams take Goff in NFL Nation mock draft (1:57)

ESPN Rams reporter Nick Wagoner explains why Los Angeles should take quarterback Jared Goff in Thursday's NFL draft. (1:57)

BRISTOL, Conn. -- On Tuesday night, our ESPN NFL Nation reporters participated in the now annual mock draft live on ESPN.

Despite my secret desire to create chaos at the top, I'm sure my selection of Cal quarterback Jared Goff with the first overall pick for the Los Angeles Rams surprised nobody who has been awake or living anywhere above the rocks for the past few weeks. For the record, as I've written, I would take North Dakota State's Carson Wentz in the Rams' position, but I believe they are going to take Goff, hence the pick.

To be sure, the Rams really like both Goff and Wentz. On the day the Rams moved from No. 15 to No. 1 in this year's draft, coach Jeff Fisher told ESPN's Shelley Smith that he believes Wentz will "play in a Super Bowl" before his career is over. Wentz's size, athletic ability and intelligence are hard to ignore. Crazier things than the Rams taking Wentz have happened in the draft.

But ultimately, the Rams look poised to make Goff the second quarterback they have taken with the first pick in the past seven years. In some ways, taking Goff would be a departure from the Rams' recent draft preference of opting for the higher ceiling instead of a higher floor.

"I think that when you go pick someone No. 1, ceiling is important, but when you pick someone No. 1, floor is important too," general manager Les Snead said on the day the trade was made. "There shouldn’t be a low floor. But yes, ceiling, when you pick No. 1, I think philosophically, you are not necessarily picking for what coach Fisher pencils in for opening day. It’s really what he pencils in for the next decade or so."

As Fisher and Snead enter their fifth season in charge, there is no doubt the time is now for them to take the next step beyond the mediocrity of their first four seasons and finish with a winning record and playoff berth. From talking to various scouts around the league and draft analysts, Goff appears to be the more pro-ready of the top two quarterbacks. That's not to say Goff or Wentz isn't ready to be a significant difference-maker in Year 1, but there's little doubt that whoever the Rams pick first will play at some point this season, if not in Week 1.

Though Goff didn't spend any time playing under center at Cal and comes from a spread system, many believe he can play sooner than later based on a few specific skills.

Here's a look at three areas where Goff looks to have an advantage over Wentz:

His feet: One NFC scout told me that Goff's feet and pocket presence are advanced well beyond his years. He doesn't run quite like Wentz, but his feel for pressure allows him to climb the pocket and move laterally to create throwing lanes. And his QBR of 81.6 outside the pocket ranked seventh among qualifying quarterbacks in a Power 5 conference. That ability also helped Goff complete 60 percent of his passes on third- or fourth-and-10 or longer with 40 percent of those going for first downs.

His performance under pressure: The Rams' offensive line is still young and a work in progress, so having a quarterback who can keep his eyes down the field and deliver the ball when pressure closes in remains paramount. Goff was as good as any major college quarterback in this area in 2015. Goff was sacked, under duress or hit 24 percent of the time last season. On those plays where the result wasn't a sack, he completed 45.9 percent of his passes for 7.17 yards per attempt with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Goff was even better when opponents brought the blitz but didn't necessarily create pressure. When defenses sent an extra man after him, Goff threw 20 touchdowns on 131 attempts, a rate of 15.3 percent.

His sample size: Though Wentz brings an impressive resume full of wins, he did it in only a season and a half as the starter. Goff, meanwhile, was a three-year starter who led an abysmal Cal team from one win in his first season as a starter to eight wins in 2015. Yes, Wentz played in a pro-style offense and Goff will have to make that adjustment, but Goff also has played more than twice as many snaps. Those are things that would seem to make Goff more ready to play right away, even if he's got some work to do.

Of course, arguments against Goff and for Wentz could be made as well. But among the factors that could ultimately tip the scales one direction or the other, the signs still point to the Rams calling Goff's name first on Thursday night.