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Spotlight: Sam Bradford

posted by Heath Cummings on Jul 26th


Heath Cummings's thoughts

Sam Bradford is a product of his environment, and that environment in St Louis has been toxic for nearly a decade. The St Louis Rams have not had a winning season since 2003, and they've lost 13 or more games four times in their last five seasons. After ten seasons of Torry Holt leading a prolific receiving corps, the Rams have struggled to put together even mediocre weapons for Bradford. Take a look at the reception, yardage and touchdown numbers for the leading Rams wide receivers the last three seasons:

  • Donnie Avery 47-589-5
  • Danny Amendola 85-689-3
  • Brandon Lloyd 51-683-5

With Brandon Lloyd, Sam Bradford finally had a #1 receiver, of course he's gone. Who fills his shoes? Rookies.

Brian Quick is 6'3", 220 pounds and played his college ball at Appalachian State. The Rams hope he turns into a number one, but for a rookie coming from that level of football, what are the odds of that in year one?

Chris Givens is smaller (6' 0", 198) and comes from a bigger school (Wake Forest) but is raw, and even less likely to find success in his first season than Quick.

The only other sure thing for the Rams wide receiver corps is Amendola, who is a very poor man's Wes Welker. Amendola will do an excellent job getting open underneath but, as evidenced by his career 8.0 yards per reception, he is hardly a threat to make a big play.

As bad as Bradford's weapons are on offense, his protection may be even worse in 2012. The Rams have invested a lot in their offensive line the past few years, but they've often invested in the wrong guys. Even with training camp yet to get started, the Rams look like their trying to piece together a patchwork line decimated by injury. They don't have a true starting left tackle on the roster, they don't know who is going to be playing left guard, and their center has never played a game with his teammates. It's hard to imagine this line being any better than they were in 2011 when they led the league with 55 sacks allowed. Amazingly, Bradford was the sixth most sacked quarterback in the league in 2011 despite playing only ten games.

The one benefit of all this negativity about Stafford's teammates is that if he can stay healthy he should have all kinds of opportunities to throw the ball. The Rams didn't just lose last year, they lost big. Nine of their 14 losses came by 10 points or more including five losses of 20+. You don't get fantasy points for wins, so if Bradford can stay in the game he may rack up a lot of yardage in the 4th quarter against second team defenses. It also helps that he'll have Amendola back from injury as well. Even if the Rams can't pass protect, Amendola can get open underneath quickly, as can Steven Jackson in the flats. It's very easy to envision Bradford nickel and diming his way down the field in the 4th quarter of a 34-13 blowout. While that may not sound exciting to Rams' fans, he'll be racking up fantasy points all the way down the field.

The nice thing about drafting Sam Bradford, if you do, is that you assume virtually no risk in doing so. Bradford is currently the 29th quarterback coming off the board, behind the likes of Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel, Jake Locker, and Matt Flynn. Bradford has more talent than several of the quarterbacks being taken above him and if one of his rookie receivers turns into a stud, he could make you look really smart for snagging him late as a third quarterback. Admittedly that is unlikely, but what are you looking for out of your third quarterback if not untapped potential?

Positives

  • Bradford is still just 3 years removed from being the #1 overall pick. He has the talent to succeed if the Rams ever surround him with playmakers
  • The Rams are a terrible team and Bradford, if he stays healthy may have a lot of opportunities to pick up points in garbage time
  • His value, for the talent, is outstanding. As the 29th quarterback coming off the board, you can draft him very late and any production you get is gravy

Negatives

  • His weapons outside of Steven Jackson are either completely unproven or lack the explosiveness needed to take advantage of his skills
  • Despite the Rams 2-14 finish in 2011, Bradford's schedule is not particularly easy, and his opening schedule is downright treacherous
  • It's hard to bank on Stafford staying healthy given his history and the offensive line that will be charged with protecting him

Final thoughts

It's tough to count on much success from Bradford even as a QB2 unless you're playing in an extremely deep fantasy football league. He has perhaps the worst offensive line in the league paired with ridiculously few options to throw the ball to.

The one place I would consider taking Bradford higher would be in a dynasty league. Because of all the reasons stated above, we still have no idea what kind of quarterback Bradford can be in the NFL and if he ever lands in a different situation his career may take off.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

TheDirtyWord said:

In Bradford's rookie year, it felt like he got a lot of accolades and a lot of people providing the proverbial 'once he gets the hang of this NFL thing...watch out' treatment. Sure his WR's stunk and for a franchise that had won a combined 6 games the previous 3 seasons, playing for a playoff berth in the final game of the season was noteworthy. But his YPA was an anemic 5.95. In two seasons encompassing 947 passing attempts, Bradford has completed but 25 passes that have travelled 20+ yards in the air. Cam Newton by comparison has already completed 29 in 430 fewer pass attempts.

I get that Bradford was hurt last season. I get that Newton had Steve Smith and that Bradford did not when doing a side by side comparison - although the Rams did get him one. But Bradford has to prove that he can threaten a defense. In 2010 he did a decent job in taking what the defense was giving him. But as you get closer to the end zone, there's less for the defense to give. And as such, even in Bradford's good year, the Rams scored more points than only 5 other teams.

While you could have provided logic that the Rams should have traded Bradford instead of the rights to RGIII, I suspect that Bradford's pre CBA deal would have been an extraordinary detriment and what the Rams could have gotten back would have been minimal. In fact, Bradford's legacy may be the anchor he was around the Rams options this off-season, even if he is able to become productive. But with the Rams counting on Brian Quick to almost come in and be their #1 WR off the bat...straight from Appalachian State, this could take a while (quick -when was the last time the Rams had a WR eclipse 800 yards receiving in a season? 2007 - Torry Holt - 1189). Fact is this is the WR corps of the Rams:

Steve Smith
Greg Salas
Brian Quick
Austin Pettis
Brandon Gibson
Danario Alexander
Danny Amendola
Dominique Curry

Lance Kendricks showed potential at TE, but there simply isn't a lot here to work with. Now potentially the stage is set for teams to take this part of the Rams franchise so lightly that the Rams overachieve and surprise teams who lack focus during the match-up. But this group is raw...the two most accomplished WR's above play the slot (Amendola/Smith). And with Jeff Fisher, a coach who has built his offensive reputation on the legs of Eddie George, Chris Johnson, Lendale White and even a tough mobile QB in Steve McNair...I don't see the Rams making much headway in the passing game from an FF perspective. Bradford will continue to develop, but won't be seen as a QB perhaps even in the Top 2/3's of signal callers in the NFL by seasons end. I suspect his attempts will be dramatically reduced on a per game basis - think from a career average of 36.4 down to the 30-31 range with an emphasis placed on game management. The Rams simply don't have the playmakers to be prolific and so Bradford's charge will be to keep the TO's down and leverage Steven Jackson and Isaiah Pead in an RBBC situation that could exceed 425 carries.


Sam Bradford projections

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Heath Cummings28653732501512351
Message board consensus28848731801710450