CHICAGO: The Los Angeles Rams chose Jared Goff as the number one pick in the NFL draft on Thursday (Friday in Manila), handing the young quarterback from California the task of leading the ambitious franchise into their new era.
Goff, from the University of California Berkeley, had faced a nervous wait to learn where he will begin his National Football League career.
The Rams had stunned the NFL after securing the number one pick from the Tennessee Titans in a blockbuster deal this month.
The move was widely seen as a statement of intent by the Rams, who are determined to rapidly establish themselves as a force after returning to Los Angeles from St Louis during the close season.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the Rams selection in front of a packed house at the Auditorium Theatre of Chicago’s Roosevelt University.
“We had a little bit of an idea (I would go number one), but nothing set in stone yet,” Goff told the NFL Network after his selection. “I’m ready to go, I’m ready to make a difference.”
“It’s an unbelievable moment, a once in a lifetime experience. I can’t really put it into words right now, I’m very happy and very excited to move on with my professional career,” Goff said.
Goff said he had struck up an instant rapport with Rams officials after he was scouted at the NFL Combine earlier this year.
“I felt very comfortable with their whole staff and had an immediate connection with them.”
Goff posed for photographs holding a Rams jersey and wearing a team cap after the announcement, which was watched by a crowd of fans on giant screens gathered in downtown Los Angeles.
The 21-year-old 6-foot-4-inch (1.93 meter) quarterback is the first quarterback from California to be picked in the first round since Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers was chosen in 2005.
Goff’s quick release and footwork impressed his many admirers during a college career which saw him pass for 12,200 yards and 96 touchdowns in three seasons as a starter.
However his critics have pointed to the fact that his 14-23 record is the worst by a number one pick entering the NFL since the start of the modern draft era in 1967.
Goff is expected to be pitched into the fray immediately for the Rams, who open their 2016 season against the quarterback’s boyhood team the San Francisco 49ers.
With Goff chosen by the Rams, North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, the other prime quarterback in the draft, was snapped up by the Philadelphia Eagles as second outright pick.
It is only the seventh time in NFL history that the top two picks in the draft are quarterbacks.
“It’s an exciting time. Real exciting, and happy to be an Eagle,” Wentz told the NFL Network.
“I’m bringing it. They’re getting a passionate player themselves, so it’s going to be fun. The chips fell where they may tonight, and I’m pumped and ready to get to work.”
Questions about Wentz’s pedigree having played college football at a second tier school have been offset by his 20-3 record and impressive showing at the Senior Bowl in January.
Pot video trips up Tunsil
Not all the draft picks were celebrating on Thursday as University of Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil tumbled to the 13th overall pick.
The Miami Dolphins chose Tunsil despite a video that appeared on his Twitter account just minutes before the start of Thursday’s draft appearing to show him smoking marijuana through a bong while wearing a gas mask.
Tunsil, who was once considered a potential number one pick, said his Twitter account had been hacked. The video was quickly deleted and Tunsil later suspended his account.
But the damage was already done as a number of teams selecting in the top 10 passed on Tunsil.
“I made a mistake,” Tunsil said, “a huge mistake.”
Tunsil was slapped with a seven game ban by NCAA last season for taking improper benefits.