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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 1, 2010

NFL: Will Sam Bradford be the Rams’ choice in NFL draft?

By Paul Domowitch
Philadelphia Daily News

INDIANAPOLIS — St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney was asked the other day for his reaction to an ESPN report by Adam Schefter that it was a fait accompli his team would be taking Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and his surgically repaired throwing shoulder with the first pick in the April draft.

“That took a lot of pressure off us right away,” Devaney said. “Now that Dr. Schefter has cleared Sam Bradford medically and given him a clean bill of health and guaranteed (him as) our pick, we can move on to the second round.”
Welcome to the journalistic world we live in today; where opinion becomes etch-it-in-stone fact; where being first with the story is much more important than being right.
While it’s certainly possible the Rams will make Bradford the first pick in the draft on April 22, the fact is that decision hasn’t been made yet. They are considering three players with the pick — Bradford and the draft’s top two defensive tackles, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy.
There are a couple of pretty good reasons to think the Rams will use that pick on Bradford. For starters, they need a quarterback. Beaten-up Marc Bulger finished the 2009 season on injured reserve and probably won’t be back. Keith Null had three touchdown passes and nine interceptions in four starts.
Whoever ends up being the No. 1 pick in this draft is going to be getting a contract that’s going to include nearly $40 million in guaranteed money, and history has shown that teams are much more willing to make that kind of investment in a quarterback than an interior defensive lineman. Nine of the last 12 guys taken with the top pick have been quarterbacks. A defensive tackle hasn’t been taken with the first overall selection since 1994, when the Cincinnati Bengals took Ohio State’s Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson.
But the Rams still have a lot of medical homework to do on Bradford’s shoulder, and still have to see the kid throw, which isn’t going to happen for another month, and still have to be convinced that another career-threatening shoulder separation isn’t a blindside hit away.
They not only have to be convinced that Bradford isn’t a medical risk, but they also have to believe he can have a bigger impact on the Rams’ fortunes in the coming years than Suh or McCoy, both of whom are considered can’t-miss prospects who can be Year 1 starters.
“When you need players that you deem difference-makers, I don’t think it makes any difference what position they play,” Devaney said. “We may be wrong, but we think these two kids that we’re talking about are difference-makers and they impact the game. So them being defensive tackles doesn’t bother us at all. These two guys are unique players.”
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said the high price tag on that top pick or the position he plays can’t be a consideration in whom his team decides to take.
“You take the pick that’s best for your football team,” he said.
If the Rams decide both Suh and McCoy are better options than Bradford, then they have to decide which of the two to take.
“We’re hoping somehow we see some separation (between the two tackles), because right now, in our eyes, there isn’t any,” Devaney said.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock gives a slight nod to McCoy. “Both of them fit best in a 4-3 defense as the three-technique tackle, which is that quick defensive tackle that doesn’t play the nose,” he said. “The reason I would pick McCoy at No. 1, though, is the NFL is a pass-first league. Teams are winning Super Bowls by throwing the football.
“From a defensive perspective, I want the more disruptive guy. McCoy is more disruptive in the pass game. He’s still good against the run. He’s not as stout as Suh, but still good. Suh’s a little different in that he can push the pocket, but isn’t as abrupt a penetrator. Not quite as quick as McCoy. He reminds me a lot of (the Vikings’) Kevin Williams, who’s been a tremendous defensive tackle in this league.”
Suh had more impressive numbers than McCoy last season, collecting twice as many sacks (12 to six) and 8 › more tackles for losses (24 to 15 ›).
“We played in two different defenses,” Suh said when asked why McCoy is considered a more ideal NFL interior pass rusher. “He had the freedom to penetrate. Me, I was more or less in the scheme, reading and playing through my man and then getting to the ball and disengaging.”
—C.J. Spiller, who will be the first running back taken in the draft and could be a top-10 pick, graduated from Clemson in just 3 › years. He got a standing ovation from the board of trustees at the school’s December commencement ceremony.
“(Getting a degree) was my main goal for going back,” said Spiller, who had considered coming out after his junior year. “I wanted to be an example to younger guys and to my younger sisters as well.”
On the standing-O from the board of trustees: “I wasn’t expecting that at all. That’s why people say you never know who’s watching. You have to always know how to carry yourself both on and off the field.”
—Tim Tebow isn’t throwing at the combine because he’s making some changes to his throwing mechanics. Browns president Mike Holmgren doesn’t think that’s going to be as easy to do as it sounds.
“It’s always been my opinion that that’s the most difficult thing to change in any quarterback,” said Holmgren, who coached Brett Favre in Green Bay and Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle. “I’ve read that he has a number of guys coaching him up on that and he’s trying to change it. But it’s really hard to do, I think. Particularly in pressure situations.”
—Until a few years ago, no one knew Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford was part Native-American, one-eighth Cherokee by way of his great-great grandmother. Neither he nor his family were active in Indian affairs or culture. Now? Now, you have a reporter at the combine asking him if he is considering asking the Washington Redskins, who own the fourth pick in the April draft, not to select him, because of their derogatory nickname. For the record, he said he’s not.
Asked if he would have a problem playing for the Redskins because of his one-eighth Native-American heritage, Bradford said, “I’m not going to address that issue. That’s not something I’m going to worry about now. If that’s something I have to face later on down the road, I will. But there’s really no reason to address that now.”
—With 14 teams expected to employ 3-4 defensive schemes this season, nose tackles have become a valuable commodity, both in the draft and free agency. Three of the six teams that used the franchise tag on players this year put it on nose tackles. A fourth, the Steelers, also had put the franchise tag on their nose tackle, Casey Hampton, before signing him to a three-year deal.
“It’s just a tough position to find a player,” Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said. “Not everyone wants to play that position and it’s a very, very difficult position. It takes a very different kind of person and I mean that in a good way. The one difference is that there are different types of 3-4s. Everyone just talks about the 3-4 and the use of a nose. It depends on how you play your 3-4. That has an impact on the type of nose you’re looking for, so it’s an incredibly valuable position.”
—”I’m 6-1 1/2, 217. I’d like to say I was 6-4, but this is what God gave me. I’m going to use it the best I can.” (Texas quarterback Colt McCoy)
—”I want to show people that there is something different about me. Just don’t look at my (small) stature. I don’t care how big or how small you are, I’ll come at you. I’m not afraid of nothing or nobody.” (Mississippi’s 5-8, 165-pound running back/receiver Dexter McCluster)
To the developing bromance between two of the top quarterbacks in the draft, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Texas’ Colt McCoy. Bradford and McCoy have become good friends despite playing for hated college rivals. “Obviously, there’s a huge rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas,” Bradford said. “But me and Colt, we’ve gotten to know each other. We’re good friends. So I think it’s good that you actually have someone that you can talk to about this whole process and go through it together.”
To the latest example of the decline and fall of responsible journalism in the blog-and-twitter age. At the end of Tim Tebow’s interview session with about 100 reporters the other day, the too-good-to-be-true quarterback politely handed back all of the tape recorders that were on the podium, then asked if there was anything he could do. A reporter from an Oklahoma newspaper jokingly handed him his notebook and said, “Yeah, could you take some notes for me?” Tebow played along, grabbed the notebook and scribbled in it. Well, a guy in the back in the room who didn’t hear the exchange, thought the reporter had asked the quarterback for his autograph and wrote it on his blog without checking his facts. Next thing you know, an Associated Press reporter who should know better picked up the blog item and ran with it. Then ESPN.com and NFL.com put it on their Web sites as fact.