The Big “What If”: What if the Rams had drafted Suh?

“With the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Saint Louis Rams select… Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska!”

I’m not ashamed to say that I was a member of the “Draft Suh” contingent among Rams fans, as were many of us. In the first rev of our 2010 Mock Draft, back in February of last year, I made Suh the pick, and figured to find another route to a starting quarterback. Perhaps Jimmy Clausen, perhaps Colt McCoy, perhaps (and this was my wish) a trade for Kevin Kolb. However, there’s not a day that goes by since Bradford’s first day of training camp — when I got to see him play for the first time — that I haven’t been grateful that we got our QB when we did, and that Devaney and company made the choice they made.

This morning, I was browsing through some scouts’ draft boards (New Era Scouting, Optimum Scouting, Walter Football), and was reminded of those Rams fans who very vocally argued that none of the 2010 draft class was worth it, that our QB of the future lay in the 2011 draft…. Looking at the draft boards out there right now, especially with Andrew Luck back in school, I think it’s safe to say this wasn’t the case.

@RamsHerd but, but, but… Jake Locker!!

(Heh. I sincerely hope Pete Carroll gives in to hometown sentiment and takes Locker … Oshiomogho Atogwe could probably make the Hall of Fame with two matchups per year against the wild-armed Washington prospect.)

The falling dominos of fate are funny things. If you change out a small one, it changes, however subtly, the way the next ones fall. If you change out one as big as this — the #1 pick, with the future of the franchise in his hands — the complexion of the entire season changes, and maybe the entire franchise.

Here’s my view on what would have been, after the break…

  • Unless Billy Devaney was blowing smoke, the Rams would likely have drafted Jimmy Clausen at #33… and kept Alex Barron. Devaney’s predraft talk had Clausen right there in the conversation with Bradford, Suh and McCoy, and said often that it was difficult to separate any one from the other. Now, there’s a strong chance he was blowing smoke, because that’s what any good poker player does. But nonetheless, few could have predicted how far he and McCoy would fall, and the Rams urgent need at the position couldn’t let them fall far.

    A tackle like Saffold would not have fallen far, and the only remaining true LT prospect — Bruce Campbell — fell all the way to the 4th, and ended up playing only 10 snaps for the Raiders. No way could the Rams have had the luxury of letting a 16-game starter like Barron go, no matter how badly they wanted to.

  • The defense might have been a shade better, but Suh might have gotten too much credit for it. The Lions improved nearly 130 points (494 PA in 2009, to 369 in 2010) with Suh and a rebuilt defensive line. But the Rams also improved hugely (436 PA in 2009, to 328 in 2010), improving by 108 pts without Suh. Slotting James Hall and Chris Long in their natural positions helped, as did the signing and play of Fred Robbins. All that would have been overlooked in the Suh frenzy.

  • No way do the Rams win 7 games. Only three of the Rams’ seven wins came via a dominating defensive performance — Week 4 vs Seattle, Week 8 vs Carolina, and Week 13 in Arizona. Without the quantum leap forward in quarterbacking the Bradford provided, the Rams offense would have been much more dependent on Steven Jackson, and as good as he was, he didn’t have any flat-out dominating games like last year’s Detroit game, where he won the game by himself. Three or four wins, max, would be my guess, and a third consecutive top-5 pick.

  • The Rams don’t sell out many games. Maybe the home opener. Maybe the Isaac Bruce game. That’s it. One player or another doesn’t turn the tide — winning does. Evolution does. Excitement does. As good as Suh is, he couldn’t captain that change the way Bradford did. And if Clausen was the rookie hope at QB, we saw in Carolina how little his presence or performance changed fan sentiment. 

  • Pat Shurmur doesn’t get hired away; in fact, he might have a hard time keeping his job. Without a franchise QB, no doubt the Rams brass would be preaching patience; patience with the coaches, with the slow-and-steady direction of the rebuild. Four wins from one would be celebrated, mildly, but fan discord would continue to rumble, particularly given one of the easiest schedules in the league. Offensive stagnation and another double-digit losing season could have held the Sword of Damacles over Spagnuolo’s head, demanding some sort of symbolic change. And Shurmur’s head would have been the easiest to offer up.

  • Josh McDaniels goes to Seattle? Seattle still wins the division, but still struggles offensively. Josh McDaniels still gets fired for Spygate II and a disappointing season — even a comeback win over the Rams wouldn’t save his job. From all appearances, Jeremy Bates just wasn’t fitting with Pete Carroll’s team, and those calls from McD to Carroll might have turned into something more. Suddenly, the Seahawks become a much more formidable team in the division. And the Rams continue to be the low team on the saddest division totem pole around.