Scouting the Rams: “It’s going to be a huge struggle early”

Scouting report: Sam Bradford’s pre-game laser-beam gaze turns falling rain into steam.

Former NFL scout Dave Razzano has spent a lot of time in the NFC West, 22 years in all. He scouted for the 49ers in their heyday, for the Cardinals as of late, and spent the crucial 1996-2006 years working for the Rams during their rise and fall. In fact, Razzano got in the news cycles a couple months ago for airing a heated dispute in the Rams’ war room regarding QB Alex Smith’s draft grade.

Never shy with his opinion, Razzano has now provided a thorough scouting report on the Rams’ fortunes for 2010, via the Playmaker Mobile blog.

On Sam Bradford’s ability to make an immediate impact on the team’s fortunes:

From what I’ve seen this preseason it’s going to be a huge struggle early for Bradford. The offensive line is a huge question mark. They got eaten alive by the Vikings earlier this week. They’ve got a #2 pick [Jason Smith] who struggles even at right tackle. Bradford got hit like seven times the other night. It’s going to be a huge struggle plus they have no receivers, no proven guys.

Granted, the Rams were playing three guys out of position in the interior of their line against a well-schooled pass rush. But I think the critique is valid. Bell and Brown are veteran players that were brought in to essentially maintain their established talent level, and they’ve both struggled a bit to do that. Saffold looks like the real deal, but Smith is the big question mark. Can he establish himself this season? If so, Bradford’s time in the pocket gets a lot more comfortable, and the receivers have that much more time to get open.

I think Bradford will be a Pro Bowl QB in time. They just need to build the O-line and receivers.

An interesting counterpoint to this is Razzano’s take on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan pretty much set the mold for landing on a rebuilding team with little more than moxie, maturity and accuracy in his arsenal, and somehow led the Falcons to an eleven-win season… a staggering seven-win improvement from the season before.

Ryan is a very good leader but I don’t think he’s a top tier-one QB…. That first year, with Ryan, like they say, you don’t want to be too good too soon. You need to manage expectations. When you come out and win 11 games, the expectations get so high.

It’s hard to pin any expectation on Bradford, except to be “better” than what the Rams had at quarterback over the last few years. I don’t think that’s setting the bar too high at all….

On the Rams’ recent defensive draft picks:

Obviously they hit on James Laurinaitis, this middle backer has been very productive and will be an anchor to their defense for several years. He’s a highly productive guy. High motor, high energy. He’ll have a lot of tackles….

Chris Long, up front, that’s another guy who was overdrafted. He’s an overachieving guy as opposed to a true pass rusher. He’ll beat you with second and third effort so you’ve got to surround him with talent. With more talent he’ll be good….

They’ve got two guys on defense and will also have another high draft pick this year.

Long still has to shake this perception, and this year will be critical to doing that. He looks to be in tremendous football shape, and isn’t shying away from anyone or anything in camp this season. The fact that he consistently gives second and third effort, to my mind, raises his ceiling a little higher. A good portion of Razzano’s critique, from a scouting perspective, is balled up with where Long was drafted. This can’t be a concern for the Rams any more. Now they simply have to help him unleash his top talent potential.

For an interesting counterpoint, read what Razzano has to say about the opposite type of DE, new Chicago Bear Julius Peppers:

I’ve always thought Peppers was overrated. There is more hype than ability. He’s got all of the physical abilities and talents, but he does not play every down. He is not one of those competitive guys. At the end of the year he’ll have double-digit sacks because he’s a good player, but he is not a top talent.

I think Long can get to double-digit sacks this year as well, and if so, the Rams have a much better building block player in him than the Bears do in Peppers. If not, though, we may have to admit that Long’s ceiling is more limited that I’d like to believe.

On other players to watch from the Rams’ 2010 draft class

The tight end from Illinois (Mike Hoomanawanui) will be a good pick for them. He’s an athlete. Then there is George Selvie, the pass rusher from South Florida…. That’s a good seventh round pick for a guy with some pass rush skill. Other than that it’s a bunch of guys with potential.

Hoomanawanui has been a pleasant surprise to me. I wasn’t very high on the pick on draft day, but he’s shown pillow-soft hands in the passing game, and rock-hard everything else in blocking assignments. I still like Fendi Onobun a lot out of this group, but can’t argue that he belongs in the category of “guys with potential.”

Razzano’s full take on the Rams: St Louis Rams 2010-2011 Scouting Report

Razzano’s take on the Seattle Seahawks: “I have them ranked as the second-worst team in the NFL.”

Razzano’s take on the Arizona Cardinals: “Even if Leinart struggles, they still have enough talent to win the division.”

Razzano’s take on the 49ers: “Swinging and missing on their high picks.”.