Not 48 hours ago the St. Louis Rams, and every other team in the NFL for that matter, took a what fans and the front office hope is a great leap forward. Opinions of the Rams draft run the gamut. My feelings about it have evolved over the course of the weekend, and I wanted to share my own thoughts about how the Rams 2010 draft grades out, realizing that the Monday after is still a bit soon to make a comprehensive judgement. Bottom line: I'm encouraged, even a bit excited about the results. Like baseball's meaningless spring training, I think you're supposed to be excited about it at this point in time.
3k posted his round-by-round grades and Tackle Box posted a look at the roster implications yesterday. I encourage you to read both posts. I'm not going to duplicate them here, and want to think about "draft grades" in a little different manner over the course of two posts, starting with this one.
Let's start with the Sam Bradford pick. The Rams draft this year will be judged on the career of Sam Bradford. Face it, the draft picks in rounds 2-7 could all turn into Jay Zygmunt specials or, the flip side of that, they could all turn into quality starters, but the Rams 2010 draft will be graded based purely on what happens with their top pick. No pressure kid.
Since March, it's been assured that the Rams would draft Sam Bradford with their first overall pick. Though Billy Devaney and other teams jockeying for a trade tried to muddy the waters on that, it was never really in doubt, especially after his scripted pro day workout that finally put to rest concerns about his shoulder.
People will cite Bradford's medical issues coming into the draft - he did miss most of the 2009 season with OU - as a reasonable doubt for the $50 million worth of guaranteed money he'll likely receive. It's worth reminding everyone there that the Rams, and other teams, thoroughly investigated the quarterback's shoulder with physician analysis and ad naseum consultation with Bradford's doctor, the legendary Dr. James Andrews. They must have confident in the results because the Rams nixed an additional private medical exam in the weeks before the draft.
It is perfectly normal to be concerned about Bradford's shoulder. However, the "i's" have been dotted and the "t's" have been crossed on his shoulder, and he really shouldn't be considered at a greater risk for injury than any other player who comes to Rams Park...which does seem to be slightly more hazardous than other facilities.
We won't know for some time whether or not the Rams really hit on this pick. Development, especially for QBs, takes time and the team around him is still finding its legs too. Bradford owns the tools to be successful in the NFL, from his guided missile accuracy to the all-important character and mental makeup that goes just as far in determining whether or not QBs and any other players succeed.
The question with the Bradford pick for lots of Rams fans centers on the opportunity cost. For example, could the Rams have traded (they didn't get an offer to their liking) the pick or grabbed Ndamukong Suh and then drafted Colt McCoy. The Texas QB, ultimately picked in the third round, might well have a bright NFL future.
Bradford was the best QB prospect coming into the draft with the highest ceiling. The Rams were not in a situation where they can do anything but the best QB available to them. The franchise has been on the skids for years now and in the process of turning it around they needed to acquire the best cornerstone possible; that was Bradford. The thought of going bust on a $50 million investment makes everyone timid, but if he proves to be the franchise QB the Rams need, then his salary will nothing more than an afterthought, money well spent. It's just the kind of risk you have to take when you're in the kind of position the Rams are.
Results on the field also translate to results in the team's bottom line, something that has also struggled in recent seasons, as empty seats and local blackouts remind us. Not too long before the Rams were put on the market, Forbes valued the team at upwards of $900 million. Reality had a little different take on the franchise's net worth, and it went to market at approximately $750 million. An investment that will cost upwards of $70 million for Sam Braford could be well worth it if it brings back fans, ups the profit margin and helps the team get a new stadium, be it in the St. Louis or Los Angeles metro areas.
Any system that makes first overall picks the highest paid players in the league, automatically makes those investments extremely risky. It's a risk the St. Louis Rams had to take, but an inspired risk.
For now, the Rams get an A for their first overall pick in the draft.