Why The Rams Should Draft Sam Bradford

I understand the “take best player available” theory, I really do. It’s just that I disagree with it in St. Louis’ case this year. Now, before I continue, my argument assumes Bradford’s shoulder has been fully cleared by Dr. James Andrews and will soon be 100 percent. But if so, I really don’t see an argument the other way here. I mean, it’s simple: quarterback is the single most important position in all of sports. And it’s not even close.

Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy certainly look like sure things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. I mean, McCoy only put up 225 lbs 23 times! And the leaning opinion right now has him slightly above Suh, who had more than a third of his sacks last year come in one game. But in all seriousness, I’m not here to criticize either defensive tackle. Each look nearly certain to have bright careers in the pros. But so what? Let’s say one becomes the greatest DT in the history of the NFL – I’d still rather a top-12 current QB in the league than that. There’s a reason the franchise tag for defensive tackles right now is $7,003,000 (only tight end, safety and kickers are lower) compared to quarterbacks’ $16,405,000. I guess ideally St. Louis would be drafting third this year, so they would spend a little less and wouldn’t be worried about being criticized for “reaching,” but is that any better than making a player yet to take a snap in the league the highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL?

I actually don’t watch much college football and have no opinion of Bradford. I’m totally agnostic. However, if there’s a chance he can truly be a franchise quarterback, which clearly seems to be the case (since this is such a crapshoot, the end result is actually beside the point I’m trying to make), then the Rams’ decision is easy. After all, either defensive tackle could be a bust too, or even if they turn out to be a very solid, maybe even Pro Bowl caliber talent, that still doesn’t change the fact St. Louis will be a below average football team until the QB position is upgraded by a wide margin. Maybe that’s possible through free agency (pretty rare), but this is a team that hasn’t drafted a QB in round one since 1967 – and it shows, as there might not be a franchise with a worse outlook at the NFL’s most important position.

The Rams should draft Bradford and not even think twice about it.


By: Chris Liss
On: 3/1/2010 8:55:00 PM
I don't know. Matt Schaub was pretty easy to acquire, so were Kurt Warner and Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers stepped right in and became a star in no time. Same with Tony Romo. Good QBs are super important, but they're a dime a dozen these days - Stafford, Cutler, Ryan, Flacco, Sanchez aren't stars yet, but could be soon. Roethlisberger, Brady, Manning, Brees, Rivers, Eli, McNabb - the league is awash with star QBs. If you can't find a potential star QB within 2-3 years, your franchise is doing something wrong, and that's even if you don't have a top-5 pick. So I don't think the Rams should feel like they have to take a QB or be doomed to play without a good one. There are lots of places to find and develop QBs.
By: Mark Stopa
On: 3/1/2010 9:03:00 PM
I find it hard to ignore the argument that Suh isn't better than the NFL's best DT, but that's what he'd be paid as the top overall pick. If I'm the Rams, and I want Suh, I convince him to take far less than the top overall pick on the basis that he'd still be a highly paid DT. Tell him if he doesn't want to do it then they'll take someone else.
By: Dalton Del Don
On: 3/1/2010 9:29:00 PM
Liss - Rodgers was a first round pick (and the 49ers STRONGLY considered him at #1 that year and obviously should have taken the local boy instead of Alex Smith), while Warner and Romo are two of the craziest out-of-nowhere stories in the history of professional sports! And a Favre type (special case) isn't going to the Rams. But if you can find a Schaub type through free agency (say trade for Kevin Kolb), I'm all for it. But the QB position MUST be addressed. The fact there are more and more stars at QB in the NFL right now just means it's more important than ever for the Rams to get one themselves.
By: Dalton Del Don
On: 3/1/2010 9:30:00 PM
Stopa - Would never happen, but I like your reasoning.
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 3/1/2010 9:32:00 PM
Almost all of the quarterbacks Chris mentioned were first round picks (and Brees missed by one pick). Later finds like Brady (pick 199) and Montana (third round) are extremely rare. Quarterback is a position where pedigree matters.

Maybe it's a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way, but you have less of a chance of getting a superstar QB late than you do at getting a star at any other position.
By: million_dollar_sleeper
On: 3/1/2010 9:41:00 PM
trade down, acquire more picks
By: Dalton Del Don
On: 3/1/2010 9:42:00 PM
Pianow - Totally agree.
By: Dalton Del Don
On: 3/1/2010 9:44:00 PM
MDS - Love the plan, but it's extremely hard to execute. Few teams want to pay the price for the #1 overall pick (or even one in the top-3). And I mean monetary more than players/picks.
By: Chris Liss
On: 3/1/2010 11:28:00 PM
I think it is a self-fulfilling prophecy - those guys get endless chances, and teams take QBs in the first round pretty often relative to the number of guys you need to have at the position, i.e., one. You need a few WRs for example, but really only one QB at a given time, so there are a lot of QBs taken early relative to the open slots. And late-round QBs rarely get extended chances. But Schaub, Favre, Warner and Brees aren't even on their original teams, and Romo and Brady were either undrafted or late. So 6 out of maybe 15 top QBs were acquired rather than drafted or drafted late. Most come in the first round, but when you factor in the bias, I don't think you have to feel forced to take a QB with that pick. I agree the position must be addressed, but Bradford would probably take 2-3 years, and even then it's no sure thing, and you lose out on a star defensive player. I think a good case can be made for taking a stud DT and addressing the position within 2-3 years with a Kolb or a later round pick. That a good QB is the easiest way to get your franchise on track does not mean that you need to use a top-5 pick on whoever the best QB is that year no matter what.
By: Chris Liss
On: 3/1/2010 11:30:00 PM
Also the Bucs won a SB with Brad Johnson, the Ravens with Trent Dilfer, the Pats with the 2001 Tom Brady. That's the exception, but getting a Ray Lewis or Derrick Brooks level defender is also worth it.
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 3/1/2010 11:46:00 PM
It's harder to win a Super Bowl playing "hide the quarterback" today than it was 5-10 years ago, given that the league keeps doing all it can to make passing easier. (I know, the Jets went deep hiding Sanchez, it's not impossible, but it's still harder. And his fine play had a lot to do with their playoff victories.)
By: Chris Liss
On: 3/2/2010 12:23:00 AM
yeah, but almost no one hides the QB these days anyway. Almost half the league had a 7.7 YPA or better, and that doesn't include Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer or Matt Hasselbeck - guys they're not hiding. Even guys like Kyle Orton and Joe Flacco and Chad Henne aren't really being hidden. Almost anyone decent these days can get to 7.5 YPA in the right circumstances and move the team. The Trent Dilfer days are gone, but defense-heavy teams with decent QBs could still contend.
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 3/2/2010 12:44:00 AM
Right, just about no one hides the QB, agreed. It's too important to throw the ball. That's why the Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson examples are no longer relevant.
By: tumanic
On: 3/2/2010 8:40:00 AM
Being a cap free year next season I think you may see some more 1st round trades than normal. The right move for both the Rams and Lions is to both trade down. Bad teams need quantity and good teams need quality. The Rams could really use about 12 picks this draft....If they hold the pick....I would haggle with Suh, McCoy and Bradford. If they don't get anywhere...I would probably go with Bradford. The best move they can do though is call the Raiders and work a deal.....the Raider's proficiency for being the tards of the NFL is second to none!
By: Dave Regan
On: 3/2/2010 9:25:00 AM
As a card-carrying, not-so-long-suffering Rams fan, this is the most interesting draft for me in a while. Ok, so I'm used to having a top-two pick, but this is finally the year I get to see Marc Bulger depart. As others have said, I'd low-ball Suh, as there's no way I'm paying a DT Sam Matthew Stafford+10% type money. That's a ridiculous $45 million, and for a DT? Please.

Assuming Suh turns down $30 million, go with Bradford #1 overall if you can't trade down. Maybe Dan Snyder pulls a Ditka and becomes so enamored with Bradford that he offers something ridiculous to move up from #4.
By: puig
On: 3/2/2010 9:47:00 AM
LOL, good QBs are not a dime a dozen. Getting a good QB is immensely hard.

The issue is whether the odds are finding one are sufficiently higher in top 5/10 picks than in later options to justify the investment that early when it's probably easier to find guys of more immediate impact (specifically blockers and pass-rushers) at the spot instead.

People are losing sight of the fact that Bradford is *not* a prospect on the level of guys like Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Donovan McNabb, Matt Ryan, or even Aaron Rodgers.

If they're hell-bent on taking one of the top QBs, then they will need to take him there, but only because the demand for QBs is so hysterical at the top of the draft.

I still think history clearly proves the superior value of blocking and pass-rush over any other part of the game, however, and I think all teams at the top of the draft would serve themselves better to turn those parts of their teams into strengths so, like the Jets of last year and the Ravens of 2000, they can compete with the "good QB" teams at a fraction of the cost.
By: puig
On: 3/2/2010 9:49:00 AM
Nothing is set in stone with that first pick, btw.
By: million_dollar_sleeper
On: 3/2/2010 10:54:00 AM
DDD: i hear ya, no reason to pay any rookie big money like that. the #1 pick is more of a curse than a blessing. good luck st louis
By: Chris Liss
On: 3/2/2010 11:29:00 AM
I disagree Scott that the Johnson and Dilfer examples aren't relevant - they're even more relevant - if teams could win with nothing at QB (though Johnson wasn't that bad), then teams can certainly win with something modest at QB like Orton or Flacco if the defense is good enough. The Jets made it to the AFC title game without a pass rusher and with a rookie QB. I think chasing whatever QB is ranked highest is a desperation move. I'd only take the QB if I thought he was a great prospect likely to be a star. If he's just going to be pretty good, those guys really are a dime a dozen these days.
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 3/2/2010 12:22:00 PM
I'm not specifically saying that the Rams have to take a QB with the first pick, but most important step in any rebuilding effort is finding a long-term answer at quarterback, that's the first player piece in having a long run of success (look at every team that had extended success in the last 10 years, or any team that won multiple titles, and a stud QB was a major part of it). Maybe the Rams can get lucky with a Brees type of pick, maybe Clausen is there at 33. Bottom line, it's the most important position by far, and the first question you have to at least ask is - how are we going to get ourselves ahead of the curve at that spot?

Just because you can buck the system and occasionally win with a hide-the-QB doesn't mean it's a good idea. I've seen people occasionally win 5x5 roto leagues punting a category, but that doesn't justify the strategy in a vacuum. And by the way, all the "hide the QB" teams had one thing in common - a defense that was *far and away* the best in the league at the time. So maybe one or two teams get to try that strategy because they're sitting on a monster defense. What should the other 30 teams do?

Chris, say you get hired to run the Rams and they say to you, "now go get us a franchise QB or build us the best defense in football and we'll hide the QB." What's your path?
By: Chris Liss
On: 3/2/2010 12:44:00 PM
But Scott, that's a false choice. I would try to build an excellent defense AND get a franchise QB. The question is what you do with this particular first round pick. You're assuming if I don't use it on a QB, that I've conceded ever having a franchise one. I don't think that's the case.

The blog argues that you MUST take a QB because it's the most important position. I would argue that it depends. A top-5 defensive player (Revis, Jared Allen, Asomugha, Haynesworth when he's healthy and motivated, etc.) makes a massive difference. If I knew one of those guys was available, I'd take him unless I thought I had a no-brainer franchise QB. QB is the most important position, but it does not follow from that that you must take whichever guy you think is the best QB in this draft class with the first pick. It follows that you must figure out the QB situation somehow - whether later in the draft or through free agency/trade.

Maybe this year is the time to build the defense and next year is where you go for the QB. Also, Brady I and Roethlisberger I were hardly franchise QBs at that point. Roethlisberger had a great YPA on hitter's counts in few attempts, and Pittsburgh was a running a defensive team. Also, the Bears team with Rex Grossman that lost to the Colts would have had a shot had Tommie Harris (their best player and the DPOY if he stayed healthy) wasn't out for the second half AND they had the current incarnation of Orton rather than Grossman in the SB. Also the G-Men won with Eli of the 6.8 YPA, too.

QB is the most important position, no doubt, but we shouldn't exaggerate, and we should also realize how important the system and the defense/running game is in terms of putting these guys in a position to succeed.
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 3/2/2010 12:55:00 PM
My bottom line is that getting a franchise QB, somehow, trumps everything, it has to be your biggest goal. Maybe that means taking someone in the first round. Maybe it means trading for a Cutler type and taking your best shot at fixing him. Maybe you get insanely lucky with the once-in-a-blue-moon guys like Brady, or Warner, or Romo. Maybe you like the depth of the QB pool this year and feel you could get someone in the second round, or trade for a late-first round pick and get your guy there.

If I were a GM, I would not sleep until this was addressed. If you want to be continually good in the NFL, the easiest path is through offensive continuity, and that all starts with a QB. It's a lot harder to do it the other way.

And to be very clear, I have no strong opinion on Sam Bradford, I haven't seen him enough, haven't studied him enough. But if I were the Rams, I'd be sure to know him better than his parents do.
By: Chris Liss
On: 3/2/2010 1:07:00 PM
It's important, no doubt, but I don't think it trumps everything. Philip Rivers is pretty good, but having Norv Turner as the coach is a major problem. The Jim Caldwell-Sean Payton mismatch didn't do Peyton Manning any favors in the SB, either. Brady's pretty good, but losing Welker and having a hobbled Moss and a mediocre defense was a problem, too. And also having a top defense makes your QB better because it gives him hitter's counts and keeps him healthy. And winning gives your guy time to develop before the vultures circle, whoever he is. Build a good defense and run well, and your QB's job is easier, he's more likely to succeed, be in a positive environment and reach his potential, too.
By: million_dollar_sleeper
On: 3/2/2010 2:03:00 PM
best chance to win games starts with a strong dline, oline and a qb who doesnt make mistakes. i remember dilfer had like over 200 attempts w/o a pick. you dont need a sexy qb to win, just a smart one who can get the job done.
By: Dalton Del Don
On: 3/2/2010 7:23:00 PM
Chris - Thing is, even Suh and McCoy are risks. I'm not saying I'd rather Bradford than Revis, Allen, Asomugha, etc (who all play more important positions than defensive tackle, by the way. Even Haynesworth's shelf life has been pretty short). I'd also argue it's easier to address defense through free agency than QB. J. Allen, Peppers, Haynesworth and soon even maybe Asomugha are all recent examples of true stars changing teams in their primes.
By: Chris Liss
On: 3/2/2010 10:33:00 PM
Everyone's a risk - my point is I don't believe in the cult of the quarterback - that it's a one-man team. And I think it's never been easier to be a good quarterback in the NFL. One might argue it's all relative, but it's not. Because if the best QB has a 9.0 YPA and you have 7.8, it's not the same as the best being 8.0 and you having 6.8. Why? Because the rule is still 4 downs to get 10 yards to move the sticks. The further up you go, the less the difference makes. (20 YPA and 21.2 make zero difference except the latter scores is slightly fewer plays every time). So these days it's fairly easy to find a guy who can move the chains decently. Look at what Bruce Gradkowski did when he got a couple games under his belt. Vince Young back from the dead. Chad Henne was okay when pressed into action. Who knows, maybe Josh Freeman and Alex Smith will turn the corner next year. If you see a Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers, obviously you take him without thinking twice. But barring that, I'd go with who I think is the best player available most likely to pan out whether that's a DT, CB, WR, whatever.
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 3/2/2010 10:46:00 PM
Interesting viewpoint, Chris. Let me ask you this: say the NFL decided to start over with the teams, throw all the current players into a pool and just draft from scratch. What would the first five or ten picks look like? What would your Top 5 or 10 look like?

As for some of the names you mentioned last post, it comes down to pedigree again. Vince Young was the third overall pick in his class, Josh Freeman was a first round pick, Chad Henne a second-round pick and a four-year starter in the Big 10.

By: Chris Liss
On: 3/2/2010 11:17:00 PM
Right, but 80 percent of the teams in the league have either a first-round pick or a star QB. The Raiders, 49ers and Bengals have No. 1 overall picks. The Giants have two No. 1s overall. To say that Henne or Freeman has a good pedigree really doesn't mean much. Almost every QB that gets a shot has a good pedigree. Both the good ones and the bad ones. The rare exceptions (Brady, Warner) only got their shots due to major injuries to the starters.

Yes, I'd probably take fully formed NFL star QBs with the top 5, but there's a lot more that separates a top college QB from a fully formed NFL star than a top defensive player from a fully formed NFL star. The chances that Bradford is a top-five NFL QB are very slim, but the chances that Suh is a Pro Bowl DT are fairly high.

I also think the last few years have seen some historically great QBs (Manning, Brady, Favre, etc.) and that's rare. Pretty much Matt Schaub, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Donovan McNabb is what you're looking for with your first round pick, and there are a lot of those (or potentially those) to go around. So the idea that if you have Brady or Manning you're set - okay fine. If you had Lawrence Taylor or Ray Lewis, you were set, too - but you're talking about historical greats, and it skews one's perception of the actual value of the position. Yes, Schaub over Bulger is massive, but just because you have Schaub or Romo or even Warner or McNabb, you're not all set.
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On: 3/11/2010 8:00:00 PM
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By: taborp
On: 3/16/2010 11:39:00 PM
No blog talk on free agent signings? C'mon guys, the other leagues aren't that interesting! :)

I was hoping to revive the debate about how New Orleans views Pierre Thomas. ...only a second round tender...I think that's a clear signal that Payton never really saw the talent in Thomas.

Looking forward to more NFL notes when you come up for air.

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