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One of the 20th century’s brightest minds once remarked, “the only source of knowledge is experience.”

Well, Einstein, how then do you explain Sam Bradford(notes)?

Acquiring chops is normally a brutal process for green quarterbacks at the NFL level, but through four weeks the game has come easy for the St. Louis sensation. Last April’s No. 1 overall pick has already exceeded expectation, defying the stereotype rookie passers are useless, avoidable fantasy commodities. Averaging over 18 points per week, he currently ranks No. 15 at the position, ahead of such notables as Donovan McNabb(notes), Joe Flacco(notes) and Eli Manning(notes). With the Rams impossibly atop the NFC West, it’s no small wonder why management shelled out the equivalent of Liechtenstein’s GDP this past summer to lock up his services. The kid has the tools of a megastar – accurate arm, even-temperament, supreme intelligence, Alfred E. Newman smile (see right).

Despite losing top weapon Donnie Avery(notes) during the preseason, Bradford has taken the pressures of being a franchise quarterback in stride. Though he’s occasionally reminded fans of his tender age – Earl Thomas’(notes) pick in the end-zone Sunday instantly comes to mind – he’s routinely exhibited the leadership qualities indicative of a seasoned vet. He’s executed the Rams offense brilliantly, transforming fellow OU alumnus, Mark Clayton(notes), from afterthought to legitimate high-end WR2. As a result, opposing coaches have showered him with praise. Pete Carroll, whose ‘Hawks were burned for 289 yards and two scores by the junior passer in Week 4 (Watch highlights here), is just the latest admirer who believes Bradford is destined to become a “big-timer.”

Looking at the early returns, the accolades may soon roll in.

Below is a snapshot of where the $78 million man stands compared to the game’s greatest rookie QBs through their first four starts:

Dan Marino (1983); 62.6 cmp%, 245.6 ypg, 10:3 td:int, 21.5 fppg
Bradford (2010): 58.2 cmp%, 236 ypg, 6:6 td:int, 18.1 fppg
Ben Roethlisberger(notes) (2004): 70.9 cmp%, 190.3 ypg, 5:2 td:int, 14.1 fppg
Peyton Manning(notes) (1998): 55.5 cmp%, 248 ypg, 3:11 td:int, 12.7 fppg
Matt Ryan(notes) (2008): 52.3 cmp%, 167.3 ypg, 2:2 td:int, 9.9 fppg

Although it’s highly doubtful Bradford or any future quarterback will replicate Marino’s statistical splash in ’83, the golden product is quickly developing into a dependable weekly starter in deeper formats. On pace to erase Peyton’s rookie records for pass attempts (P: 632) and yards (3,776), he’s in a position to post one of the most memorable inaugural seasons in league, and virtual pigskin, history. Suffice it to say, the former Heisman winner is the anti-Leinart.

The Rams’ remaining schedule sets up nicely for the youngster. Save for one or two unsavory matchups (e.g. Week 6 vs. San Diego), it appears lackluster performances will be few and far between. Take a look:

Because of the Rams’ rocky offensive line and Bradford’s injury-plagued college career, concerns over durability are warranted. He’s already been sacked 10 times this season. His unappealing 6.0 yards per attempt average, the second-lowest mark among signal callers with at least 100 attempts, is also worrisome. However, as the season progresses, Steve Spagnuolo will likely loosen the manacles. The YPA tally Bradford notched against Seattle (7.0) will be common by midseason. A spectacular performance or three is definitely possible, especially this week at Detroit. The Hello Kitties have allowed 259.5 yards and two touchdowns per game to passers.

Due to his quick trigger, plus weapons outside Clayton (e.g. Steven Jackson and emerging slot machine Danny Amendola(notes)), St. Louis’ ongoing defensive deficiencies and favorable slate, the 68-percent available “Beaver” (again see above right) is a woodland creature that will consistently gnaw on the competition. It’s not lunacy to project a top-12 finish. Fanatics in moderately shallow leagues should lure him with tree shavings.

Ignore conventional wisdom. For owners needing stability at quarterback, the inexperienced Bradford is smart money.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season, 12 G): 249.2 yards per game, 19 passing touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 32 rushing yards


Image courtesy of US Presswire

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