March 22, 2010
Outgoing Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford barely played as a junior thanks to a pair of major injuries to his throwing shoulder, didn't run, jump or throw at last month's combine for top prospects and hasn't thrown for any scouts. Presumably, his game tape from two prolific seasons as the Sooners' starter hasn't changed. But he has definitively overtaken Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh as the unanimous No. 1 pick to the St. Louis Rams on every mock draft issued in the last week. With a couple extra pounds and a nice Wonderlic score at the combine, Bradford sent the ball rolling downhill:
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that [Rams] representatives met with Bradford this week in Pensacola, Fla., where Bradford has been training and rehabbing his throwing shoulder after having surgery in late October.
The Post-Dispatch said GM Billy Devaney and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur sat down with Bradford to discuss football and also met Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery on Bradford and has an orthopedic facility in Pensacola.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported the Rams have scheduled a private workout with Bradford on April 12. (links added to original)
Unless, as ESPN draft guru Todd McShay said on Friday, "something completely unexpected" happens, Bradford's "pro day" workout for scouts next Monday in Norman could seal the deal to the Rams, making him the 10th quarterback to go No. 1 overall in 13 years since the Colts took Peyton Manning with the top pick in 1998. It could also obliterate the conventional wisdom about his return to Oklahoma for his junior season, which held overwhelmingly that he'd blown his best chance to be the top pick by spurning the scouts' love last year for a big farewell season at Oklahoma that never happened. Bradford has as many serious shoulder injuries last fall as touchdown passes, but welcome to 21st century reconstructive surgery, kids: They rebuilt the No. 1 pick, and he's still the No. 1 pick.
In the end, it may be that Bradford's lesson to future prospects isn't "take the money and run," after all, but that the risk of returning for another year in school can be worth the potential obstacles, because even the worst-case scenario -- an entire season lost to repeated injuries to a crucial appendage -- can be overcome.
On the other hand, both of Bradford's most feted peers, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy -- whose teams knocked off Bradford's head-to-head in 2008 -- returned for their senior seasons in some part to improve their draft stock. They made their way back to New York as Heisman finalists, brought their combined records over the last two seasons to 51-3 and are probably looking at second-round prospects, at best. When you've played that much football by the end of your junior year, you are who you are.