So yeah. I made a comment in one of the threads the other day about how I'm not enamored with Sam Bradford. I didn't say it to stir up a ton of controversy on the blog, but rather just to ask the question, what if the Rams had taken Suh first? How would the rest of the draft gone and where would the team be now? I know that many readers will immediately hate the idea and will chastise me for even thinking about the subject (as I've seen already in some other comment threads), but all I ask is for you to keep an open mind. Besides, the past is the past. Nothing can be done about it now anyway.
So just know, this is not an attack on Sam Bradford. I like Bradford. I think he's going to eventually be a very good quarterback, but I can't be ignorant of the fact that Ndamukong Suh is an elite football player. Sam Bradford, to this point, is not an elite football player. So let's take a look at some actual numbers, then at some *speculative* numbers.
First, on defense. The Rams defense in not near the top of the league this year, nor was it last year. In fact they were average in just about every defensive category (NFL.com as the source). This year's defensive stats are only 3 games old, so I'm going to leave them off due to small sample size and the fact that the Lions and Rams have faced very different teams. I imagine the Rams will regress to about a top 20 defense this season and back into the top 15 next year.
Had the Rams had Suh for last season I would imagine that the defensive performance would have been slightly better, but not by a long shot. Football Outsiders had the Lions defense ranked at 17 in 2010, the Rams at 18. Suh would have been an improvement over Robbins, but as we all know, Robbins had a solid year as well. Suh though had an insane season as a DT. He accumulated 35 QB disruptions in 2010 according to Football Outsiders, 2nd amongst DTs and 3-4 Linemen (Chris Long led the league with 67.5! 12 more than the next 4-3 DE!). Long arguably could have been even better with Suh beside him.
So onto Bradford. We all know what he did last year. Setting records here. Winning some games there. He was good. But without him, who would have been the starting QB? Many assume it would have been AJ Feeley, the Rams backup QB in 2010. I disagree. I portend that the Rams would have selected a QB in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft named Colt McCoy (same round that he was selected by the Browns). Drafting Suh would have allowed Bradford to drop. I imagine, if I recall correctly, that he would last be available at the 4th selection due to the rumors of the Redskins falling madly in love with the young Sooner, leaving Trent Williams on the board to fall to whomever decided to choose him. Trent Williams is an OT, which means that him being available would not have negatively affected the availability of OT Roger Saffold in the 2nd round. The Rams could have selected Colt McCoy in round three instead of Jerome Murphy, and the rest is inconsequential.
Colt McCoy had a 74.5 QB rating in 2010 and has a 78.4 rating in this young season according to ESPN. Bradford was at 76.5 in 2010 and is currently at 73.3 this season. Not any major differences here. But the sticking point comes down to potential. Bradford is obviously widely considered to have much higher potential than Colt. If you buy into the potential, then yeah, obviously Bradford offers higher future returns. I like Bradford's potential to be a top 7-8 QB in any given year, albeit not quite a Manning or a Brady. McCoy's future returns are much foggier. Depending on whether you see him ever cracking the top 10 or being a fringe top 15 guy would dictate whether the kid is worth the trade-off.
My argument: 8/12 teams in 2010 had a top 10 defense (in terms of pts/game). 4/12 in 2009. 7/12 in 2008. 9/12 in 2007. Great defenses are likely to make it to the playoffs. Suh would have greatly increased the Rams chances of being a top-10 defense this season as well as into the future, but at the cost of possibly another year without a QB cornerstone.
So there you go. 700 words to debate. Let's go.