Sam Bradford will lead the St. Louis Rams this weekend, as they try to upset the Philadelphia Eagles and Michael Vick. NFL fans will be watching to see if the Eagles are for real. Rams' fans will be watching to see if their team has taken that next step.
How soon we forget, but Rams' fans will also be watching their quarterback of the future, Bradford, battle their almost quarterback of the future, Vick. That's right, at one point, the Rams were seriously considering Michael Vick as Marc Bulger's eventual replacement.
Imagine what would have happened if the Rams had signed Vick. If we could hop in a time machine and go back, how different would their roster look today? If the Rams had signed Vick, it would have set off a chain reaction that would have literally changed the entire league.
Kevin Kolb would still be in Philly. Maybe Donovan McNabb never gets traded to Washington. Without a quarterback, maybe that means Arizona trades for Kyle Orton. And that means maybe Tim Tebow would be the starter in Denver.
Since we are playing "What If," here is what the Rams roster might look like today had the Rams pulled the trigger on signing Michael Vick.
The Rams sign Vick, and fresh out of prison, he sits the bench that season. The Rams finish 1-15, but they shop the first overall pick, knowing they have their QB of the future with Vick.
Washington, who doesn't have a second or third round pick, can't offer the Rams enough to make the trade. Cleveland swoops in and offers a first, second, and third-round pick (No. 7 overall, No. 59 overall, and No. 85, the Colt McCoy pick) for the right to select Bradford.
The draft goes in the exact same order as before: Bradford (Browns), Suh (Lions), McCoy (Bucs), Williams (Redskins), Berry (Chiefs) and Okung (Seahawks). The Rams then shock everybody by drafting Dez Bryant with the seventh pick. There is no denying that Bryant was the most talented receiver available, and he would have been a top 10 pick if not for character issues.
Well Steve Spagnulo has already thrown out "The Four Pillars" by signing Vick. Why not take a chance on a talent like Bryant?
With the first pick of the second round, the Rams don't change a thing, and take Roger Saffold, the tackle out of Indiana. With their extra second-round pick, the Rams select Vlad Ducasse, the massive offensive lineman, and tell him he will play right guard in the NFL. The Rams now have Saffold, Ducasse, and last year's No. 2 pick Jason Smith on the offensive line, forming one of the most talented young O-Lines in the league.
To start the third round, the Rams consider CB Jerome Murphy out of Florida, but have questions about his durability. Instead, they select DT Geno Atkins out of Georgia to add depth to the D-Line. Then the Rams use the No. 85 pick, acquired from the Browns, and select TE Tony Moeaki, a kid who looks like he has a ton of upside.
In the fourth Round, Billy Devaney thinks the team should take WR Mardy Gilyard out of Cincinnati, but Coach Spags points out "Hey, we took Dez Bryant in the first round, and we already have a star-in-the-making with Donnie Avery. Besides, one day I want to hire an offensive coordinator that uses multiple tight ends." So at the last minute, the Rams decide to draft TE Aaron Hernandez out of Florida.
Meanwhile, in the Pats' draft room, Bill Belichick is cursing under his hoodie.
To kick off the fifth round, Devaney says, "Hey, what do you think about another tight end? How about this Mike Hoomia...noomi..." but before he can pronounce Illinois Mike's name, Spags says "No, his ankles look like they are made of Play Dough. Let's take Dominique Franks. He can return kicks, and he can play corner in case Justin King doesn't pan out."
So the Rams select Fanks, a highly touted CB out of Oklahoma. The Rams close out their draft by taking WR Cooper Riley, TE Fendi Odobun, DE Eugene Sims and DE George Selvie.
Which decision was better for the Rams?
The Rams roster is so weak that all of these rookies make the team. Vick takes over as the starting quarterback, but he can't escape the limitations put on him by Pat Shurmur's dink and dunk offense.
After getting off to a 1-9 start, Rams' fans begin to call for Steve Spagnulo's head. Feeling the heat, Spags tells Shurmer to take the training wheels off of Vick and turn him loose. Vick manages to go 3-3 down the stretch, as the Rams finish the season 4-12. This costs the Rams the chance to have the first overall pick, so they are never tempted to take QB Cam Newton.
All Rams fans agree, this is a good thing.
The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft begins with QB Cam Newton going to the Panthers. The Bills follow by taking DT Marcell Dareus. The Rams take LB Von Miller with the third pick. This gives the Rams a dynamic outside linebacker.
Spags is absolutely giddy, and actually starts inventing new blitz packages for Miller right there in the Rams' War Room. With their second-round pick, the Rams select Jabaal Sheard, a defensive end that can get to the quarterback. This gives Spags another weapon to play with on defense.
The Rams trade their third-round pick (No. 68 overall), along with a sixth-round pick (No. 168 overall) to the Packers for the last pick in the second round (No. 64 overall). The Packers really wanted to select Kentucky WR Randall Cobb, but they already have the best receiving corps in the league.
The Packers make the deal, and the Rams gladly select Cobb.
In the fourth round, Devaney feels the need to add another receiver. Greg Salas is sitting right there for the taking, but the Rams already have Dez Bryant, Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Riley Cooper, Denario Alexander, and they just drafted Randall Cobb. Instead, the Rams select RB Roy Helu out of Nebraska, adding a young, powerful runner to back up Steven Jackson.
In the fifth round, they select Marcus Cannon, a highly touted O-Line prospect that slid down most teams draft boards. They close out the draft by taking QB Greg McIlroy out of Alabama, and immediately announces that they have released AJ Feeley.
The Rams have a very dangerous looking team with Vick, RB Steven Jackson and his backup Roy Helu, the aforementioned receivers, and two dangerous tight ends, Aaron Herndandez and Tony Moeaki. The defense is anchored by Chris Long, James Lauranaitis, rookie Von Miller, and a slew of young talent on the D-Line.
The lockout ends, and for some strange reason, every good free agent wants to play with Vick. The Rams bring in a ton of good free agents to fill roster holes. Rams' fans prayers are answered, as Shurmer is hired to be the head coach in Cleveland. Josh McDaniels, who was fired in Denver, is brought in to run the Rams offense.
The Rams are poised to have a monster season. In Week 1, the Rams square off against the Philadelphia Eagles, led by quarterback Kevin Kolb. The Rams are heavily favored in this game, and they are also the clear choice to win the NFC West.
With Josh McDaniels calling the shots on offense, Spags turning up the heat on defense, and a roster full of young talent on both sides of the ball, the Rams are the "sexy playoff sleeper pick" in the NFL.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to say the Rams would be a better team if Vick had arrived in St. Louis and played at a high level, and Rams GM Billy Devaney didn't make any mistakes in the draft, and the team stayed healthy...
But I think Rams fans will "settle" for having the best young quarterback in the league. Sam Bradford will be an elite quarterback capable of leading this franchise to multiple championships, as long as the Rams can surround him with enough playmakers.
So to wrap this up, I guess you can't second guess the Rams for going with Bradford instead of Vick. But what about all those wide receivers in the middle of the draft? Mardy Gilyard? Are you serious Billy D? Jeeeeeez...