Can Sam Bradford become a viable starting fantasy quarterback?
That is the question many are asking after Bradford was selected first overall by the St. Louis Rams to help turn their franchise around.
To help find the answer to this question, I’ve taken a look back at the 13 quarterbacks taken in the first round since 2005.
Past performance is not indicative of future success, as they say in the financial industry, but taking a look back at the success or failure of recently drafted quarterbacks can set reasonable expectations for Bradford’s career.
Week One Starter
The only quarterback selected in the first round in the last two years who has not opened the season as the starter was Josh Freeman of the Buccaneers. Freeman still started nine games after taking the job at mid-season.
The recent trend has teams willing to have their new franchise quarterback learn on the job.
Head coach Steve Spagnuolo has already named A.J. Feeley the starter for now; however, Sam Bradford could still earn the job before the season.
Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has some history of allowing rookie quarterbacks to learn on the sidelines before getting the starting job. When Shurmur was an assistant coach in Philadelphia, Donovan McNabb sat behind Doug Pederson until November ’99.
While sitting for several games would hurt Bradford’s fantasy value in 2010, it can only help his development for the future.
No. 1 Overall Pick
Sam Bradford is the fourth quarterback selected first overall in the last six years (Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell, and Matthew Stafford).
JaMarcus Russell is widely regarded as one of the biggest busts in NFL Draft history. A large portion of blame can be placed on Russell’s poor work ethic and lack of fundamentals.
Alex Smith was not ready for the NFL as a 20-year-old junior from Utah and is just now beginning to show signs of becoming a viable starting quarterback for the 49ers.
Matthew Stafford started 10 games in 2009. He showed enough potential for the Lions to believe they have found their franchise quarterback. Stafford finished as the 25th best fantasy quarterback despite only 377 passing attempts.
Sam Bradford inherits a situation in St. Louis that is similar to that of Stafford last season. The Rams lack many offensive weapons, and they are currently reshaping their offensive line.
First Round Quarterbacks
There is no exact science to predicting NFL success, and the 13 quarterbacks selected in the past five years have enjoyed success and failure.
The only players that can be considered busts as this point are JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn, both from the 2007 draft class.
Vince Young, Alex Smith, and Matt Leinart are getting a second chance at the starting job for their respective teams after faltering in their first attempt.
Aaron Rodgers endured a long wait on draft day and an even further wait until Brett Favre left the Packers. The wait was worth it, as he inherited a playoff-caliber team and has been the No. 1 fantasy quarterback for the past two seasons.
Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco started as rookies in 2008, and the future looks bright for both.
The jury is still out on 2009 draftees Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman.
Having a talented team helps the fantasy prospects of a first round quarterback, but it is not vital to their success.
The Rams are expected to struggle again in 2010; however, Sam Bradford can offer hope for the future as they continue to rebuild into a playoff contender. Bradford will have plenty of passing attempts as they play from behind often because of the Rams’ weak defense.
Top Fantasy Quarterback
Only twice in the past five years has the first quarterback selected gone on to become the best fantasy quarterback from his class:
2005: Three Quarterbacks Selected; Top Fantasy QB—Aaron Rodgers (second, 24th overall) 20.6 FPT/G
2006: Three Quarterbacks Selected; Top Fantasy QB—Jay Cutler (third, 11th overall) 18.8 FPT/G
2007: Two Quarterbacks Selected; Top Fantasy QB—Brady Quinn (second, 22nd overall) 9.8 FPT/G
2008: Two Quarterbacks Selected; Top Fantasy QB—Matt Ryan (first, third overall) 16.2 FPT/G
2009: Three Quarterbacks Selected; Top Fantasy QB—Matthew Stafford (first, first overall) 16.1 FPT/G
Sam Bradford is a safe bet to become the best fantasy quarterback from the 2010 first round. Tim Tebow will not start right away and could need a full season or more on the bench before starting a game in the NFL.
Recent history indicates that Sam Bradford will be a successful fantasy quarterback.
Bradford has a similar skill set to both Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers with his arm strength, intangibles, accuracy, size, and ability to make plays on the run.
The Rams are committed to rebuilding themselves into a playoff contender, and they will continue to surround Bradford with offensive weapons. The Rams will be forced to throw often for the next several years, and Bradford could eventually find himself as a borderline top-10 option in fantasy leagues.
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