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Sam Bradford: The Next Big Name in the NFL Draft?

Ray TannockSenior Analyst IJuly 19, 2009

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 13:  Sam Bradford of the Oklahoma Sooners talks with the media at a press conference after winning the Heisman Trophy on December 13, 2008 at the Sports Museum of America in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

By now, we have all been formally introduced to Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, and in the not-too-distant future we will inevitably get acquainted with Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez.

Arguably the four best quarterbacks to come out of the draft in half as many years.

But as we wonder about next year’s draft—a draft that will be filled with heavy talent at the QB position—one name is sure to be the newest standout: Sam Bradford.

In a draft that will include, but not limit itself to, pocket passers such as Colt McCoy, Daryll Clark, and Tim Tebow, Bradford will arguably lead the pack as the No. 1 draft pick.

Or will he?

The speculation is Bradford may not leave without a title. Others say this will be the year the rising junior enters the draft. Either way, this year will be huge for Bradford, and it will undoubtedly act as a spectacular way for him to prove to himself and the scouts he is the real deal.

In his career, the defending Heisman Trophy winner has already started 28 games and completed 69 percent of his passes, racking up 86 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions—did I also mention 7,841 yards?

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In 2007, Bradford went 21-of-23 passing for 363 yards and three TDs in just over two quarters en route to a win over North Texas—his first game.

Bradford led all passers in efficiency with a rating of 176.53 and led the Sooners that same year to a 62-21 drubbing of Missouri in the Big 12 Championship game.

In 2008, Bradford captured the No. 1 passer efficiency rating yet again and was No. 1 nationally in TDs with 48, despite ranking No. 8 in attempts.

2008 was also a banner year for Bradford, winning both the Davey O’Brien award and the Heisman.

This year, however, will prove itself to be a bit more challenging for Bradford. Eighty percent of the massively talented O-Line he played behind is gone this year, which will inevitably change the landscape a bit.

Bradford will have less to rely on in protection, making a pocket QB in a spread system more vulnerable to sacks and pressure—something Bradford hasn’t had to worry about in the past two years.

Will his efficiency rating drop? Probable a little.

Will Bradford complete another year of 65 percent or higher? Perhaps.

But that’s the thing; as much as he will have to deal with the ins and outs of a new line—something that always causes trouble for college QBs—he will also have a huge opportunity.

OU runs the spread, which means Bradford is relied on for his arm and his feet. In addition to that, he is also relied on for his quick decision-making and accuracy since the wideouts are spread all over the place; the spread forces you to better yourself at reading defenses.

All of these little things are aspects a scout looks for in a QB at the pro level, so imagine if Bradford could have similar or even the same success without that line.

It would speak volumes of his already awe-inspiring talent.

But not entering the draft would make all of this a moot point.

At the end of this year, you can say there will be at least five teams looking for a new gunslinger—three that are a definite.

The Biggest Suitors

Washington Redskins

The 'Skins are first on the list for many reasons. In his first four years at the helm, current starter Jason Campbell has shown signs of brilliance but continues to lack the leadership qualities in the huddle and the intensity that transforms a mediocre QB into an elite QB.

Vinny Cerrato has already flirted with Sanchez and Cutler in the offseason and declined to extend Campbell’s contract; a clear sign that perhaps the organization doesn’t feel Campbell is the long term solution.

Colt Brennen and Todd Collins are also in the mix, but Collins is getting away from being a franchise QB and approaching a more suitable journeyman role while Brennen has yet to show whether or not he can play at the pro level consistently.

Chase Daniels was also brought in by the Redskins.

The problem is, Daniels is a shotgun QB playing in the all too familiar run and shoot offense. This system was all but eradicated by the NFL, and with a blocking line that employed a “catch and grab” system it is unlikely Daniels will ever be able to truly adjust to the pro level of play.

San Francisco 49ers

The 'Niners come in as an equally strong suitor. Alex Smith was considered the future at the time of his draft but since then, has yet to live up to the hype and even stay healthy.

Smith is signed through the next two years at 6.5 million becoming a FA in 2011. Bringing in a quality rookie like Bradford and having a year or so to watch and learn could be the ideal situation the 49ers have been lacking.

Hill, as mentioned above, is the only other guy on the roster who could put this speculation to rest should he come in and usurp the starting position AND do it consistently; the likelihood is very small even with his impressive 7-3 record in two years. Damon Huard is not an option as he was signed as an insurance policy only.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are the most intriguing name to throw into the pot by far. Last year there was a small gossip bug going around that if Bradford was available in the 2009 draft that the Vikes were gonna go after him.

As quickly as that rumor reared its head so did it make its exodus.

Now, instead of mentioning you-know-who in regard to you-know-what I will just say that there isn’t a single name that is considered a franchise option in Minnesota.

Sage Rosenfels, a career backup, has signed a three year contract with the Vikes, but with Favre looming in the background Rosenfels could be the next Keller Clemens very quickly.

Tarvaris Jackson is incredibly lucky to even still be on this roster, but that should come to an end soon with his inconsistent performance and Childress becoming more and more inpatient. Jackson becomes a FA at the end of the year.

That leaves this team very much in the hunt. Even if Favre signs and plays it will inevitably be for one year. The team has already built on of the best defenses in the league, they have an all-pro back in Peterson who is still very much young, and the team gets better every year at the WR position.

Other Teams To Consider

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders turned everyone’s head when they granted a six-year contract worth $61 million to JaMarcus Russell. But Russell has yet to live up to the hype and the chances of him doing so is bleak at best.

C’mon, you give a guy $61 million before he even plays a down in the NFL and additionally give him escalator clauses that require him to only take 45 percent of the snaps to get paid, and you wonder why his work ethic stinks and he can’t rise above his mediocrity?

The fact is, although Russell will be a huge bust the Raiders will have to find a clever way to bring in another high profile draft pick at QB—a $61 million bench warmer is not exactly what the Raiders had envisioned.

Houston Texans

Houston is also a very interesting team to consider. If you look at the development of the team over the course of the last three years one can see the Texans are about one or two WRs away from being a legitimate threat.

Add in another year or two of defense upgrades and a high profile QB and, all of the sudden, you have a serious contender.

Matt Schaub has all the right stuff to be an elite QB but has been hampered year in and year out with injuries. Additionally, the team will eventually have to think about 2013 and whether or not Schaub will be worth keeping around.

Dan Orlovsky is also talented but is on the brink of being a career backup. If Orlovsky gets a chance however, I expect Texas to perhaps consider keeping the two around for a while. Still, Bradford could be entertained by the club if this year ends up in disaster.

In the end, Bradford will indeed be an NFL QB. He will be more than likely be a No. 1 pick with a huge resume and a lot of talent to offer. As usual, there will be plenty of teams champing at the bit.

This year will probably be more intriguing than next year, both years offering many things for fans and teams to consider.

The first consideration above all else, is just when will Bradford be available.