Revisiting the “Three Rules” of drafting QBs

Okay, let’s say that it is a done deal, the Rams will draft Sam Bradford. Are the Rams actually fully organizationally “ready” to draft a Quarterback? Let’s revisit the three rules of Jason Cole’s Step by Step Guide to drafting a QB, and see what it means for the rest of the Rams’ draft, and free agency period.

If you didn’t see it, at this time last month, we used this article to skewer the Rams and proclaim that there were three reasons the Rams weren’t ready to draft a quarterback. I think the actions of our front office would suggest that they hold a slightly different opinion on their readiness.

Here are the three rules:

Rule 1: Understand the player’s faults

Right now, the biggest question marks surrounding Bradford, that could be called “faults” are: (1) lack of experience under center in a pro style offense; (2) a questionable ability to take hits or throw under pressure; and (3) an average at best deep ball. Of course, if you’re the Rams it’s no good to understand these faults and then take no corrective action.

Point (1) should be addressed by having a very capable starting QB in the fold, who can teach Bradford the system and allow him to hold the clipboard and learn from the sideline for as long as the team’s fans can remain patient.

Grade? I give it a “C”. Feeley has some familiarity with the Andy Reid offense, so hopefully Shurmur’s/Spagnuolo’s blend won’t give him too many more wrinkles. But Feeley is not very good, and won’t keep the wolves in the stands at bay for long. Personally, I would have preferred Pennington, but his contract terms with the Dolphins make it sound as though he won’t be ready to play out of the gate.

Point (2) depends on a combination of team to both provide protection, and player to show some toughness after a hit. As Ottoman89 succinctly put it in Tweet today, this is Bradford’s checklist:

ottoman89 @RamsHerd Show strength and composure, show some emotion and show your not just another spread QB, and also some toughness.
ottoman89 @RamsHerd And also that he’s not damaged goods and injury prone.

From the team-building perspective, Devaney’s past investments in Jacob Bell, Jason Brown, and Jason Smith should pay off. Since he arrived in St Louis, rebuilding the offensive line has been mission #1, and we are seeing improvements — though injuries hamstrung those improvements last season. However, Alex Barron remains a real trouble spot as our “starting left tackle.” For a grade, I give this an “Incomplete,” with the possibility of an “A” depending on how Smith pans out, and the replacement plan for Barron.

As far as Point (3)? Welcome to the new St Louis Rams. Deep balls no longer required. (curses like Yosemite Sam.)

Rule 2: Build Around the Quarterback

The importance of this can’t be overstated. The Rams have serious needs in the passing game, and the last thing the team wants to do is hand Bradford the ball and tell him to go win games on his own. Most importantly, we need a true #1 receiver — and lo and behold, the Rams have three guys on the roster that are capable of hitting their mythical “third year” stride in Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, and (after essentially redshirting him for 2009) Laurent Robinson. However, the ceiling for each player is unknown.

My guess is one of these three (Burton and Robinson relatively easier to part with, but Avery has the most value in trade) could be sacrificed for playing time if the Rams have the chance at drafting a top-flight prospect such as Arrelious Benn or personal favorite Brandon LaFell.

Th3Carter3 @RamsHerd I like Lafell. I’d say Williams, Lafell, Benn, would be my preferred order. We have the speed (Avery/BGib), now we need to go big.

My thinking exactly. The Rams appear to have a lot of players at WR who can be good to very-good in the slot or as a 2nd WR, but they all fit a similar profile. With more differentiation, we open up much more of the field, and a big receiver gives Bradford an inviting target on those critical third downs. Though as commenter CoachConnors reminds us, a top-tier tight end would also fit the bill nicely:

I’ve consistantly said drafting a top flight TE would be a smart move. If Gresham is there at the first pick of the 2nd round, which may be wishful thinking, I think they should take him.

(For a different perspective, check out the latest (3-round) mock draft by TST’s 3k, which has the Rams dipping into the defensive pool in both second and third rounds, after taking Bradford. 3k was well ahead of the curve in predicting the Rams’ move toward Bradford, which gives some credence to these picks.)

Rule 3: Follow a Plan On Offense

This is where the Rams are most vulnerable to falling down, and undercutting their investment in Bradford. There is a myth going around that having a “quarterback of the future” in tow guarantees some sort of job security for his coaches. I call BS on that. Alex Smith played for five offensive coordinators in five years, and Tim Couch played for three head coaches in five seasons in Cleveland before flaming out of the NFL.

Couch’s scenario may be alarmingly close to Bradford’s, as Cleveland’s rebooted 1999 franchise contained a large number of “rookie” coaches and coordinators, headed by rookie HC (and acting OC) Chris Palmer. Their tenure together lasted all of two years and a combined 5 wins.

Is there a danger of the Rams’ coaching succession falling apart? It depends largely on the whims of presumptive new owner Shahid Khan, but without marked improvement I’d say yes. And as we wrote in February, no coach’s seat is hotter than second-year offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s:

I expect Shurmur to get this next season to show considerable improvement, or face the firing line. The new ownership will not be expected to inherit the patience that the team’s old ownership might have extended beyond this season. And if Shurmur does get replaced, does the entire “hybrid run-based West-Coast Offense” popularized by Jim Zorn’s Seahawks and Redskins — both doormats now — go with it? Is there any more fruit under the Andy Reid coaching tree? Or do the Rams face the prospect of hiring an “experienced” OC that will bring with him a new set of ingrained prejudices about they type of quarterback he needs?

How much patience will the Rams have, with Shurmur and with Bradford? How much protection, and how many weapons, will the Rams give to Shurmur and to Bradford? The answers to those questions could go a long way toward meeting the criteria for this third rule.