Bearish on Bradford?

At least one national writer still is, despite the wave of positive stories coming out of minicamps and OTAs:

SI_JayClemons @RamsHerd — I’m not saying he’s “doomed” as a starter … I just think he’ll be David Carr/David Garrard-unremarkable in 5 years …

This was just a part of an extended Twitter conversation I had with Clemons this week. The full “twinterview” (apologies to the English language) is after the break.

photo from StLouisRams.com

The conversation started as a response to his tweet implying that the Rams were looking for trouble and potentially a long holdout from their top pick.

SI_JayClemons Here it is, June 16 … and Sam Bradford doesn’t have a signed contract …

RamsHerd: Is this a cause for concern? Or is it too early?

espn_nfcwest @RamsHerd No early draft picks have contracts at this stage. Plenty of time on that front.
SI_JayClemons @RamsHerd — It’s not a concern if you’re the No. 4 overall pick … but it’s a MAJOR problem if you’re No. 1 … and a QB — sux 4 U

Looking back at the signing dates of the top-picked quarterbacks of the last few years, Clemons may have a point.

2009
Matt Stafford (1st overall) — signed April 25th, before the draft.
Mark Sanchez (4th overall) — signed June 11th by the Jets

2008
Matt Ryan (3rd overall) — signed May 20th by the Falcons
Joe Flacco (18th overall) — signed July 16th by the Ravens

2007
Jamarcus Russell (1st overall) — not signed until September 11 by the Raiders (a date befitting the tragedy of Russell’s career).

Obviously, the Rams and Bradford would prefer to not be associated — even tangentially — with the worst draft pick in the history of the NFL. But is that enough reason to push the panic button now, only halfway through June?

RamsHerd: considering Bradford is already attending OTAs, and Kevin Demoff has a very good track record, I don’t hear alarm bells.

SI_JayClemons @RamsHerd — Rooks are SUPPOSED to be at OTAs and minicamps … they have insurance waivers … training camp is when the sh*t hits the fan

Bradford broached the subject of a potential Training Camp holdout, and just as quickly dismissed it, however.

“I’m not concerned about it,” Bradford said. “That’s why I hired an agent [Tom Condon]. He’s very good at what he does and I’m sure him and the Rams will come to an agreement before training camp and I expect to be here on time.” — from PFT: “Bradford ‘Very Comfortable’ with Rams Playbook

RamsHerd: honestly, it’s a bigger problem for the #2, #3 picks – setting the pay scale – than for the Rams/Bradford. He’ll get his $$$

SI_JayClemons @RamsHerd — No argument there … but it’s a big problem for all involved (including Bradford) …
SI_JayClemons @RamsHerd — But then again, I think the Rams would be wise to just save their $$$ and not sign him at all :)

And here is where the conversation took an unexpected turn. Wait, what? The Rams should punt on Bradford? Crazy talk.

SI_JayClemons @RamsHerd — Sorry! But I think you know my feelings on Sammy …

It’s true, his position on Bradford is nothing new, as Clemons wasn’t shy in his opinion during the run-up to the draft that Bradford was essentially unremarkable, and not worth top dollar as the #1 overall pick. We had a few exchanges on Twitter on the topic, back before I had reached the “acceptance” stage that Bradford would be the pick.

RamsHerd: Do you fear the bust factor with Bradford that much? I know you don’t like him as a “value pick” at #1 overall … that’s different from saying he’s doomed as a starter.

SI_JayClemons @RamsHerd — I’m not saying he’s “doomed” as a starter … I just think he’ll be David Carr/David Garrard-unremarkable in 5 years …
SI_JayClemons @RamsHerd — When Tim Couch threw a Hail Mary TD to beat the Saints for the Browns, I doubt anyone thought he’d be “doomed” as a starter

Ouch! A Tim Couch comparison. That’s below the belt, isn’t it? Apparently not, as Clemons sticks to a point he made in his April 14th “Fantasy Clicks” article, published on the eve of the draft (emphasis mine).

**Of the top seven quarterbacks from the last 24 months — Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco (2008), Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman (2009), Bradford and Jimmy Clausen (2010) — Bradford would probably rank: 7th in arm strength, 3rd in mobility, 7th in familiarity with a pro-style offense, 6th in hair-trigger release, 4th in field vision, 7th in making downfield throws against a heavy pass rush and 1st in accuracy. But then again, it’s hard NOT to enjoy pinpoint control when throwing to running backs in the flat or receiver-bubble screens at Oklahoma … so take the accuracy rating for what it’s worth.

**My expectations for all NFL rookie QBs — dating back to John Elway — are minimal, at best; so it’s not like Bradford would be under immediate pressure to reverse the Rams’ fortunes. However, I sincerely doubt Bradford will possess the innate knack to carry a bad team to improbable victory in 2010, similar to what Stafford did against Cleveland in Week 11 (422 passing yards, 5 TDs, game-winning two-point conversion with separated left shoulder) or what Josh Freeman accomplished against Green Bay in Week 9 (three fourth-quarter TDs). On the plus side, St. Louis already has a solid offensive line in place to protect Bradford.

**This bears repeating: When comparing Bradford’s collegiate mechanics to other QBs of the last 15 years, and how his game likely translates to the pro level, the obvious link begins and ends with Tim Couch, the No. 1 overall pick in 1999. In fact, please check out this Couch highlight package before looking at Bradford’s — prior to sending hate mail my way. On the bright side … at least I didn’t liken Bradford to Akili Smith.

— SI.com, Fantasy Clicks, April 14

Personally, I like the fact that he’s already getting worked into the first team on offense (as is Keith Null, so take that for what it’s worth), and I really like the professional way that he has comported himself during the draft and during his time with the Rams so far, leaving his ego at the door and being ready to work — even without a contract in place.

Remember, the Rams and Bradford’s camp met extensively prior to making this pick, and I’m sure assurances were made that Bradford would get his money — which in all likelihood will be a deal larger than Matt Stafford’s guaranteed $41 million payday last year. And unlike Al Davis, the Rams owners — current and future — are looking to get in good with the league. They won’t instigate a holdout just to grind an axe.

And finally, prior to last season’s negotiation with Jason Smith, Kevin Demoff had never had a draft pick miss a day of Training Camp. Smith? Missed one day, then signed and came in. So while his record is no longer spotless, it’s still pretty damn good. And I’ll hang my hat on that.

As to Bradford’s worth to the Rams? We’ll just have to wait and see. Let it be known that Bradford still has significant doubters, and we’ll see if he has that chip on his shoulder to prove them wrong.

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