St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford or Andrew Luck? Why the Rams Should Keep Bradford.

David Heeb@@DavidHeebCorrespondent INovember 4, 2011

St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford or Andrew Luck? Why the Rams Should Keep Bradford.

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    Andrew Luck is the best quarterback prospect to come along since Peyton Manning, or maybe since John Elway.  Andrew Luck is the best quarterback prospect EVER! 

    To listen to the experts talk, one might think Andrew Luck could go to Green Bay, walk into the huddle, and say to Aaron Rodgers, "Watch out, dude.  I've got this."

    I'm not here to hammer Andrew Luck.  I have watched him play several times, and I think he is going to be a great NFL quarterback.  My point is, he hasn't thrown a pass in the NFL. 

    So let's not get ahead of ourselves, okay?

    One of the teams with a strong chance to land the No. 1 overall pick is the St. Louis Rams.  So far, the Rams only have one win this season.  Their secondary has been decimated by injuries, they have struggled to score all season long, and their starting QB has spent some time on the sidelines nursing an ankle injury. 

    So the Rams have to be asking themselves, "what will we do if we have the No. 1 pick?"

    Because the Rams already have a quarterback, a damn good one, in Sam Bradford.  Personally, I'd love to see the Rams stick with Bradford given a choice between the two QB's.  Some people might call me crazy for saying that, but I've been saying it for months now...

    The Rams should build their future around Sam Bradford.

Reason Number 1: There Is No Such Thing as a Sure Thing

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    As good as Andrew Luck is going to be, we've seen him before.  His name back then was "can't miss prospect" or "franchise quarterback of the future." 

    Imagine if there had been 24 hours sports coverage back when John Elway came out of college. What if Twitter existed when Peyton Manning was the hot topic of the draft?  Again, I'm not trying to discredit Luck, because he is going to be great.

    I'm just saying, this whole "Suck4Luck" phenomenon is a sign of the times.

    It's amazing how two quarterbacks can look so equal as prospects, but be miles apart as professionals.  Take a look at these quotes from respected NFL coaches about quarterback prospects.

    "This young man has all the tools to be not only a starting quarterback but a very good starting quarterback. However, he has to display the maturity a quarterback needs.... He also throws every ball like he's going to kill somebody."—Mike Holmgren

    That report was delivered to Packers GM Ron Wolf by Mike Holmgren.  Both of those men know a thing or two about quarterbacks.  The guy he was scouting, of course, was Brett Favre.

    Here are some quotes about a very similar rocket armed QB.

    "I really believe he is a talented guy."—Ron Wolf.

    "Off what I've seen… The guy can throw every pass."  Joel Buchsbaum, draft analyst and associate editor of Pro Football Weekly.

    This same QB was described as “a fine natural athlete, high-jumping 6'9" the very first day he went out for (his high school) track team. He long-jumped 24 feet and had a 38-inch vertical leap that got him scholarship offers to play basketball at Stanford and Pitt, while Kansas and Ball State wanted him to play both football and basketball.”

    The QB being discussed here?  David Klingler, who never panned out in the NFL.

    Here is another prospect that got a glowing review from Bill Walsh, who was one of the great offensive minds in the history of football. 

    "The great ones have spontaneity, intuitiveness, inventiveness," says Walsh. "They're intelligent. They know they need to know everything. (He) could be that player. He's further along than any college quarterback I've seen in years. Maybe ever."—Bill Walsh.

    The QB he is describing?  Peyton Manning.

    Peter King of Sports Illustrated, along with everybody else, saw a lot of potential in this young QB:

    “There is a huge upside… and it is conceivable that he could be one of the best young QB’s in the game in 2-3 years.”—Peter King.

    The QB in question?  Ryan Leaf, who needs no introduction.

    So how do we know if Andrew Luck is Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf?  How can we tell if he is Brett Favre or David Klingler? 

    Of all the research I did, this quote sums it up the best.

    “The point is, the more things change, the more they stay the same. We're all still looking for quarterbacks. Everyone wants to apply science to this, but it's more seat-of-the-pants than science. I don't care how sophisticated it gets. It's still humans scouting humans.”Ron Wolf.

Reason Number 2: Bradford Is Going to Be a Stud

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    There are five truly elite quarterbacks in the NFL right now:

    1. Aaron Rodgers—The best football player alive.
    2. Tom Brady—At 34 years old, he is still a close second.
    3. Drew Brees—As good as he is, he still doesn't get enough credit.
    4. Ben Roethlisberger—He is only 29 years old, and already has two Super Bowl rings.
    5. Peyton Manning—Let's be honest, without the neck problems, he is probably top three.

    The difference between "really good" and "elite," or the difference between Eli and Peyton, is a line that is rarely crossed in the NFL.  Sure, guys improve.  They get better with experience. 

    The bottom line is, you either have it or you don't.

    Sam Bradford has it, and he could be mentioned in that "elite group" one day.

    If you don't believe me, just turn on a Rams' game.  Every weekend, the announcers talk about how the whole industry believes this kid is going to be a star. 

    When ranking QB's during the offseason, ESPN's John Clayton wrote this about Bradford:

    Analysis: Were he not a rookie, I would immediately make him an elite quarterback as quickly as I did Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Only three quarterbacks have thrown for more than 3,000 yards as rookies, and Bradford was one of them.
    Chance of being elite: 99 percent.

    So if Bradford has shown this type of potential at the pro level, why trade him for any college prospect?  We're not talking about passing on Luck to keep a good quarterback.  We're talking about passing on Luck to keep a potential MVP quarterback.

Reason Number 3: Bradford Needs Better Weapons

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    Matthew Stafford has Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew.  Mark Sanchez has Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards.  Joe Flacco has Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin and Todd Heap.  Josh Freeman has Arrelious Benn, Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow.  Matt Ryan has Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzales.

    Sam Bradford has...

    Yeah, Bradford has had nobody to throw the ball to as the Rams' starting quarterback.  His best wide receiver is a guy named Danny Amendola.  The Rams picked Amendola up as an undrafted free agent from Philly's practice squad. 

    I'm not even joking.

    Amendola would be most teams' third or fourth option.  He is Bradford's first, second, and third option, or he was, before he went down for the year with a nasty elbow injury against Philly in Week 1.  So now Bradford doesn't even have his "best receiver."

    Bradford's number two receiver is Brandon Gibson, another undrafted free agent the Rams "stole" from Philly's practice squad.  The Rams' most explosive receiver, Danario Alexander, is also an undrafted free agent out of the University of Missouri.  Alexander has a lot of talent, but he has a very uncooperative knee that is about as durable as a wet spaghetti noodle. 

    Alexander can't stay healthy enough to keep himself on the active roster.  The same thing can be said for Bradford's favorite target, Mark Clayton, who missed almost the entire season last year after his patella tendon exploded. 

    I'm not making this stuff up people.

    The Rams' best player, running back Steven Jackson, played last season after having back surgery.  Jackson played through the pain, and even played for a while with a broken finger last season.  Then, he spent almost all of the first three games this year on the DL with a strained quad.

    Sam Bradford probably had more talent around him at the University of Oklahoma!

    Give Sam Bradford half the talent these other young QB's have around them, and the Rams would have made the playoffs last season.  The Rams just traded for Brandon Lloyd, a 2010 Pro Bowl receiver with the Broncos.  Rams' fans, including yours' truly, were very excited about Lloyd's arrival, and had "Bradford-to-Lloyd" dreams dancing in our heads.

    When Lloyd arrived in St. Louis, Bradford was in a walking boot with a high ankle sprain.  Lloyd has now played two games for the Rams, catching passes from A.J. Feeley.  So even when help arrives for Bradford, he isn't in the lineup to play with his new toy.

    Of course, Bradford is used to being sore, because he plays behind a terrible offensive line.

Reason Number 4: Bradford Needs Better Protection

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    I was watching the Rams on FOX one Sunday when I heard broadcaster Chris Myers throw out this stat:

    Sam Bradford is the most abused QB in the NFL this season.

    Okay, Myers didn't say it exactly like that.  He said Bradford had been hit, hurried, knocked down, or sacked on over 28 percent of his throws this season and that was before Green Bay put Bradford in a walking boot.

    The Rams' O Line has been an embarrassment so far this season.  Rams' management and ownership has invested heavily in this offensive line, both in terms of dollars and draft picks, with very little results to show for it.

    Unfortunately for Sam Bradford, he is surrounded by a bunch of underachievers.

    Roger Saffold (LT) was the No. 33 overall pick (first pick, second round) of the 2010 NFL Draft.  Jacob Bell (LG), Jason Brown (C), Harvey Dahl (RG) were all free agent pickups that cost a pretty penny.  Jason Smith (RT) was the No. 2 overall pick (second pick, first round) of the 2009 NFL Draft. 

    Despite such a heavy investment in the offensive line, Sam Bradford is still getting killed.  Don't forget, Bradford was the last No. 1 overall pick to sign before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, meaning he signed the richest rookie contract in NFL history.

    So despite Bradford being the Rams' most precious commodity, literally and figuratively, they haven't protected him at all!

    Part of the problem is that Rams' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' offense relies on receivers getting open, and the routes take longer to develop.  Since, as we mentioned, the receivers can't get open, this leads to Bradford holding the ball for a long time.

    This compounds the biggest problem the Rams have:

    Their offensive line is horrible.  I don't care who you are—ask Tom Brady about his Super Bowl game against the Giants' D Line—no quarterback, no matter how talented he is, can reach his potential if he doesn't have time to throw the ball.

    For every Peyton Manning, there are 10 David Carr's that never had a chance to develop because they got beat to a pulp.  The biggest reason Bradford isn't being mentioned as elite right now is he plays behind a terrible offensive line.

Reason Number 5: Bradford Needs More Time

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    Sam Bradford played his rookie season running the West Coast offense under Rams' offensive coordinator Pat Schurmur.  Rams' fans, including yours' truly, hated Schurmur's offense.  Everything was short, quick passes, and there were a lot of three-and-outs.

    The Rams didn't score very much, but then again, Bradford didn't take as many hits.

    Schurmur took the head coaching job in Cleveland, and in came Josh McDaniels, who was fired in Denver.  Before being the head coach in Denver, McDaniels was the architect of the Tom Brady led New England Patriots.  Those teams put up video game numbers.  Rams' fans, including yours' truly, were very excited about Bradford getting to work with McDaniels.

    Except they didn't get to work together.

    The NFL Lockout hurt young players a lot more than it hurt veterans.  You see, those veterans got what they needed (rest), while the young players didn't get what they needed (reps) because of the lockout.  The Rams have a lot of rookie receivers (Greg Salas, Austin Pettis, tight end Lance Kendricks) and second or third year players (Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander, Danny Amendola—all undrafted free agents) that needed  those reps.

    If the Rams will give Bradford time to learn this offense and not change coordinators again (i.e. don't fire head coach Steve Spagnulo and bring in a new staff), I really think the Rams do have a few talented guys to build around. 

    Brandon Lloyd will surely resign with the Rams, giving Bradford one good target.  Kendricks has a ton of talent, and will find his groove.  Salas has played better with each passing game, and looks like a very solid player.

    More importantly, the Rams are going to have a premium draft pick this April!  If they do land the No. 1 overall pick, the demand for Luck is going to be sky high.  Because of the new CBA, Luck's contract will be very affordable.  Unlike years past, teams will pay a high ransom for the chance to land that No. 1 pick. 

    The Rams could trade the No. 1 pick, get back a ton of picks in return and then surround Bradford with the same kind of talent that other young QB's have (Alshon Jeffrey, please).  If the Rams follow this plan, then I believe they will win a lot of games with Bradford.

    That's what I would do.  Maybe the Rams will choose Luck instead.  I don't think the Rams could go wrong with either QB, because I think both are going to be great players in the NFL.

    So for a team that does a lot of losing, for once, the Rams are in a no lose situation.