Taking a quarterback with the first overall pick in the draft is always a game of hit or miss. Sure, there are a few quarterbacks that simply must be taken at the top of the draft, but those prospects are few and far between. Although there are no safe picks in the draft, there are certainly safer picks to be had, and taking a quarterback with a coveted draft pick is similar to going all-in during a game of Texas Holdem.
The St. Louis Rams may not be drafting at the absolute top end of the draft, but with the second overall selection, they’ll have access to the best talent the draft has to offer. Sam Bradford may have just finished his fourth year in the league, but the jury is still out on whether he can actually lead the Rams to a championship or not.
We can’t put all the blame for the Rams’ problems on Bradford either. He’s played under two different head coaches, and the players around him have never exactly been the crème de la crème of the league. Still, he’s been an integral part of pushing the Rams to seven win seasons in three of his four years.
Injuries have held Bradford back during alternating season in his still young career. In his rookie year, he played in all 16 games. In 2011, he played in 10 games, he played in all 16 in 2012, and injury kept him sidelined in all but seven games this season. Because he’s been unable to stay healthy for consecutive seasons, it’s difficult to judge just how much he’s been able to progress, but there are some breadcrumbs that lead us to believe he may be getting better and better.
The easiest way to derail a team’s chances of winning any individual game is to turn the ball over, and that’s something Bradford doesn’t do often. In his career, he’s thrown only 38 interceptions to 59 touchdowns. Sure, those aren’t massive numbers, but in his seven games this season, he only threw four picks while tossing 14 touchdowns. Seven games is a small sample size, but at least in regard to previous years, he was doing a better job protecting the ball.
He also topped a 60% completion percentage for the first time since his rookie season with the Rams. That may not seem like a big deal, but completing a high percentage of passes is essential for the Rams, or any team for that matter, to stay out of third and long scenarios that more often than not result in a punt or worse.
No, Bradford didn’t play out of this world football in his seven games in 2013, but he at least played well enough to get a vote of confidence from Rams GM Les Snead. Because the Rams are committed to Bradford for at least another season, it allows them to shop the second overall pick, which could give them plenty of ammunition to continue building up the team around Bradford.
This isn’t the move of a desperate team that’s trying to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2004. This is the move of a front office that understands quarterbacks don’t win games by themselves. Bradford may never turn into the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but he could still become the next Eli Manning or Joe Flacco, both of which have experienced great success when surrounded by a solid team. That’s the bet the Rams are making on Bradford, and while it may not pay off instantly, it’s probably the type of patient, calculated decision that can help a team climb out of the basement of the league.