The St. Louis Rams had the opportunity to select Johnny Manziel in the draft this year, but opted to pick OT Greg Robinson and DT Aaron Donald to improve on a their original plan — starting with Sam Bradford.
That plan is now five years in the making without a playoff appearance after drafting the former Heisman Trophy winner, and frustration is certainly warranted. But with two years and $32 million left on his contract, as well as a team built around their quarterback, it seems the Rams’ patience is about to pay off.
Certainly, the Rams’ defense is their greatest asset. Head coach Jeff Fisher had certainly brought new life to the defense, but he’s been quietly working on the offense as well, hoping to get the same success he found in Steve McNair with Bradford. But it’s not that Fisher is a QB-whisperer, he’s simply a smart coach that knows how to build a successful team with the pieces he already has, and makes sound picks in the draft.
Of course, if the Rams and Fisher did not trade away the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, they could have landed Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd, and Bradford would have had a new target to find success with. In turn, he hasn’t had too much to work with, and his stats have suffered in part due to this.
In fact, he’s had very little to work with in his whole career. But what trading that pick did was open a new playing field for the entire team, and in lieu, would help out Bradford’s prospects.
That trade helped them form the defense they have today, and after showing how commanding they are on defense last season (and adding Donald to create a new “Fearsome Foursome”) they’ll be creating more opportunity for their offense to hit the field. And finally, Bradford is getting to work with an offense that has tools for him to utilize to full advantage this season.
In the past two seasons, the Rams have added two early-round WRs in Tavon Austin and Brian Quick. They’ve also adopted a two-TE system that utilizes Jared Cook and Lance Kendrick‘s ability to stretch the field. Though those players were in place last season, you can’t disregard that they’ve had more time to gel as a team this season — especially Austin, whom struggled in the first half of the season. Adding Robinson to complement Jake Long at tackle is also a good sign.
Right now, Bradford is being drafted barely within the top 30 QBs, mostly going undrafted. That’s understandable because he only posted 14 touchdowns last season. But few people are remembering that he only played all of seven games last year. He was on pace for 32 TDs. His backup? Eight touchdowns to seven interceptions in 10 games. Bradford has been proving that he’s improving, as is his surrounding team.
Based on averages last season, Bradford had a career season. Of his highest marks, he posted a career-high yards per attempt while throwing a lower percentage of balls 20 yards or deeper. His accuracy and consistent passing to the right man also improved, as he posted a career-high success rate according to AdvancedFootballAnalytics.com.
Knowing that, it’s clear that not only is Bradford improving, but the whole offense is as well. Add on the new threat of a consistent run game that should keep defenses on their toes, and you have player lined up for fantasy success.
Yes, the injuries are a concern, and probably the reason why he’s being drafted so low. But if he stays healthy as he had in 2012, he’s looking at a season near 30 TDs and 3,800 yards, a highly respectable total. Accounting for turnovers and other categories, he should be eyeing a career season with 250 fantasy points.
Depending on his matchup, he’d be a viable option for your starting QB slot. Don’t be afraid of taking him in the last round or before if your backup QB isn’t already in place.