If you are Billy Devaney, general manager of the St. Louis Rams, you get to choose between hundreds of the prospects your front office deems draftable. Any player you want is yours. You can have the pick of the litter.
But really, you have no choice at all.
Why choose Bradford over other top rated prospects like Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy or Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh?
Because Bradford is a quarterback, silly.
If your team doesn’t have a quarterback it believes it can win with, and the ratings are close between the top rated quarterback and a player at any other position, your team must take the quarterback. The value of the position offsets the fact that a player at another position might have a slightly higher grade.
“You can justify taking a lower-rated QB because of the importance of the position,” said former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, who chose David Carr first overall in 2002 ahead of Julius Peppers. “If you don’t have a quarterback, you’re not going to win. Now, you have to make sure you are picking the right player and you’re not forcing a guy to fill a need. Teams can fall into the trap of saying, ‘If we don’t get one now, we’ll never get one.’ But if your pick the wrong guy, well, you don’t have one anyway.”
The key is believing in the quarterback. And it’s hard to find someone who does not believe in Bradford.
“You’d be crazy not to pick him first,” one veteran college scouting director said. “It’s been a long time since a kid worked out as well as him. He’s a better athlete than you think. He has a strong arm, he’s accurate and he’s composed. They compare his intangibles to Peyton Manning’s — off the charts.”
If there had been any hesitancy about Bradford, it was because he sat out most of the season with a shoulder injury. But the shoulder has passed all the tests, and there is no reason to think any less of him now than before the injury. If he would have left school early in 2009, he probably would have been the first pick in the draft last year, ahead of Matthew Stafford.
With the Rams, Bradford is expected to be in a situation that will be foreign to him, however. The Rams were the worst team in the NFL last season. Oklahoma has been one of the best teams in the NCAA during his reign as a starter.
Among those who have helped him look good at Oklahoma are offensive tackle Trent Williams and tight end Jermaine Gresham, both of whom are expected to join Bradford as first-round picks, as well as former second-round pick Phil Loadholt, former third-round pick Juaquin Iglesias, former second-round pick Malcolm Kelly and former first-round pick Adrian Peterson.
He will have a heavier burden on his shoulders in St. Louis than he ever did in Norman. The hopes and dreams of an entire franchise will thrive or fade with Bradford.
And really, that’s another reason why the Rams have to take him. The only way to give the limping Rams a shot of adrenaline is to take the quarterback. It’s about perception as well as reality.
How excited could St. Louis get about a defensive tackle? And besides, Bradford probably has more potential for greatness than either Suh or McCoy.
“McCoy and Suh are good players, but I don’t know they are as special as Bradford,” said Casserly, who now works for NFL Network and CBS Sports. “I think Bradford is better at his position than they are at theirs.”
So really, the only question is this: who should be picked second?
Q: What’s going to happen to Jason Campbell?
— Shelia Fox, Alexandria, Va.
A: My educated guess is he’s going to end up competing for a starting job elsewhere, perhaps in Oakland.
The Redskins are trying to trade him. So far, the trade market for him hasn’t offered much. But that could change, either on draft day, or after the draft. It’s also possible the Redskins will keep him as their backup, as coach Mike Shanahan has not dismissed this possibility.
Q: Why would Pete Carroll give Mike Williams a chance with the Seahawks? I know he was great for Pete at USC, but that just seems ridiculous.
— Josh D. Redmond, Wash.
A: Nothing wrong with window shopping — and that’s all Carroll has done up to this point. Williams had enough talent to be the tenth player chosen in the 2005 draft. And he’s only 26 years old.
But there is a reason Williams has been cut by three teams. He has not been able to control his weight or do the little things it takes to be successful in the NFL. Unless he has had an epiphany, Williams won’t make it in Seattle either.
Q: Is Dez Bryant the best receiver available in the draft?
— Chuck, Lawrence, Kan.
A: Yes, and I say that with no reservations. He is the best package of size, speed and athleticism. The only knocks on Bryant have been regarding his personality.
And the latest information I have is many teams think the “character” concerns with Bryant have been overblown. They seem him more as an immature kid who came from a terrible background than as a troublemaker and recalcitrant.
Q: Why can't an onsides kick be fairly caught? In reading the rules, the kicking team is not allowed to interfere with the receiving team's reception, yet onsides kicks look to be a free-for-all. What gives?
— Mike Jackson, Lancaster, Penn.
A: Onside kicks usually are low kicks, or squib kicks. It’s difficult to call for a fair catch on a kick that isn’t high in the air. And onside kicks become free for alls after they bounce off of players on the receiving team.