Is Sam Bradford a third-tier quarterback?

Scott Halleran

ESPN's Mike Sando got eight general managers, two former GMs, four pro personnel evaluators, seven coordinators, two head coaches, two position coaches and a top executive to rank every starting QB. The results are telling.

We're in the dead zone right now for football with training camp still more than three weeks away.

Cue rankings content!

ESPN's Mike Sando was able to get some NFL insiders (eight current GMs, two former GMs, four pro personnel evaluators, seven coordinators, two head coaches, two position coaches and a "top" executive specifically) to rank every projected starting QB (behind ESPN's insider paywall - boo).

The QBs ended up being separated into four different tiers, with much of the surprises left in the middle. The top and bottom tier are relatively obvious, but from the sixth spot all the way down to 24, there are a good 10,000 arguments to be had.

Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Eli Manning were all tied for eighth, which alone is enough to support any hours-long bar discussion. The most interesting nugget at this point though was in the notes on the Seahawks' young standout (emphasis mine):

Everyone likes Wilson. But not everyone loves him, especially when it comes to projecting how a 5-foot-10 QB would fare without a dominant defense and running game on his side. Still, Wilson came in ahead of Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, three other young, mobile QBs...

...Evaluators across the board lauded Wilson for his decision-making, both with the football and in avoiding big hits when scrambling.

Still, some said they wanted to see more from Wilson in terms of decision-making and downfield accuracy from within the pocket...

...A head coach said he'd rather have Sam Bradford than Wilson purely from a talent standpoint.

Let that sink in.

Speaking of Sam, he was tied for 21st with Carson Palmer not far behind RGIII:

Just about everyone placed Bradford in the third tier, almost as a hedge. They thought he had the talent to be a solid two, if only he could stay on the field.

The harshest criticism painted Bradford as a player who struggles at handling pressure and throwing accurately on his second or third reads. "There are some guys like Cam Newton where you go, 'Oh boy,'" a defensive coordinator said. "You would never say that going against Bradford. We were just like, 'OK, let's go play football.'"

One of the head coaches thought Bradford had gotten a bad rap. "I don't think offensively they have done a very good job with him," this coach said. "Talentwise, I think Bradford has it all, but I'd have to say he is a three. He can stay in the pocket, he can make all the throws, he can check things."

Natural talent has never been something to knock Sam Bradford for. The problem is that after four seasons, his performance has been inferior to the point that he's ranked in the bottom half of this list...regardless of what that performance costs. There's also something to be said for the collective wisdom of the people inside the bubble. Sure, they know the game itself well, but there's a difference between Ozzie Newsome and Jay Zygmunt. Groupthink is a disease, and rest assured it affects much of NFL front offices. Still, the perch the voters occupy does afford them a status that affords these rankings a level of heft that sits above a similar list that would come from any given corner of the internet.

And so, with less than a month we begin to walk the path of the Rams' 2014 season, today's magnifying lens turns toward Sam Bradford, the epicenter of the narrative and the central hinge upon which the Rams' fate turns.

Yet again.

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