Oct 20, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) reacts in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

RP’s Quarterback Rankings: No. 26

No. 26. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (-4)

For a former first overall pick, Sam Bradford has been a disappointment in his first four years in the NFL. Of course, it doesn’t help when an illegal hit causes a torn ACL – and all of us are praying that Bradford has a speedy recovery – but he was struggling in 2013 before that, and his rookie season was really his only average or better season. Having said this, Bradford is significantly better than the two quarterbacks ranked behind him – Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel, both rookies last year. But needless to say, Bradford must play much better to even prove himself as a starter, much less prove his worth as a franchise quarterback.

Accuracy & anticipation

When under pressure, it actually looked like Bradford’s accuracy improved, as crazy as it sounds. He threw the ball with good anticipation and accuracy when the rush was in his face, but otherwise, he was inconsistent. He wasn’t able to squeeze the ball into tight windows and his ball placement is just average. The Rams haven’t exactly surrounded Bradford with the weapons he needs to succeed, but Bradford himself has failed to hit open targets on multiple occasions last year. His accuracy doesn’t suffer as a result of mechanics; he’s simply inaccurate too often. He does have good anticipation at times, however, and does a good job of allowing his receivers to get yards after the catch. 21/30.

Arm talent

Bradford doesn’t have a cannon for an arm. He can’t chuck the ball up as far as someone like Aaron Rodgers can. At times, it may be difficult for him to get enough velocity on the ball to hit those deep comebacks and outs. While Bradford doesn’t have the strongest arm, he does in fact have the ability to make most of the throws in the Rams’ offense, and his arm strength, although average, is satisfactory. His good mechanics make up for a lot. 11/15.

Mechanics

Bradford’s dropback is as clean as they come. He’s very efficient and quick from taking the snap up until he starts to throw the pass. He has a relatively slow throwing motion, but he keeps the ball high and tight most of the time. His compact throwing motion makes him efficient in tight pockets and helps him get the ball out in a hurry, even though the motion may take longer than a coach would want. Bradford’s footwork is efficient, quick, and clean. 16/20.

Decision making

Early in Bradford’s career, he had a little of what coaches call “cabin fever”, meaning he was reluctant to throw passes that he could make. Last year, some of that cabin fever returned. Bradford wasn’t contempt with throwing to his open first read and often went to the checkdown immediately. Before his injury, he looked more comfortable in the pocket, but at times, he still went straight to his checkdown after his first read was taken away, even when faced with little pressure. But before Zac Stacy somehow fixed the Rams’ running game, defenses wouldn’t put seven or even eight in the box, which meant that there were no places for Bradford to go, which may explain why he checked the ball down a lot. Still, there were many questionable throws that he shouldn’t have made, and there were other throws that, after I watched the tape, made me think, “Why didn’t he throw that?” This actually led to taking sacks rather than either making a great throw and getting a first down, or making a bad pass and throwing a pick. 15/20.

Intangibles & mental make-up

The biggest mental challenge may also be the biggest physical challenge: coming back healthy from a torn ACL. Bradford has plenty of room for improvement outside of that, however. He must take some more control at the line of scrimmage and make the in-play adjustments that younger players such as Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck do – not necessarily scramble more, but find guys open that a lot of other quarterbacks don’t. In other words, he must see the whole field – easier said than done. If Bradford is to be the Rams’ franchise quarterback, it starts with mental preparation. 7/10.

Mobility

While Bradford isn’t the fastest runner, he has enough pocket mobility to escape pass rushers. He isn’t the type of quarterback to scramble and pick up a first down very often – and I’m sure that he won’t be as comfortable running after what happened the last time he tried to run for a first down. 3/5

Overall

I still haven’t lost confidence in Bradford as a franchise guy, despite pointing out a ton of his faults above. He has all the physical tools to become the guy that St. Louis fans want (provided that he comes back from a torn ACL successfully). To be that quarterback, he must significantly improve. Total: 73/100

Tags: 2014 Quarterback Rankings NFL Qb Rankings Quarterback Rankings Sam Bradford St. Louis Rams

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