All signs point to Rams taking OU's Bradford

Monday, April 19, 2010
While the Rams have not revealed their intentions about what they will do with their first overall pick in Thursday's first round of the NFL draft, most indicators point to them drafting Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. (Associated Press file)

The former Heisman winner could belong to St. Louis in three days

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney would love to keep 'em guessing until the draft day clock forces the team to reveal its No. 1 pick.

Good luck with that strategy.

It goes without saying that the Rams need multiple upgrades after going 1-15 last season with puny lineups on both side of the ball and rankings near the bottom of the NFL on offense and defense. They earned their spot at the top of the first prime-time draft Thursday night in what they hope is the end of a 6-42 free fall since 2007.

"We'll do whatever we have to do to upgrade the team," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said.

They really, really need help at quarterback.

Releasing Marc Bulger earlier this month all but cinches it that St. Louis will take a quarterback if it keeps the first pick, and it'll be a huge surprise if it isn't Oklahoma's Sam Bradford.

Devaney's disclaimers to the contrary have seemed too pat, too rehearsed. At least twice on the same day he used the line that choosing between Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and even the second and third quarterback options, Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy, was like a "beauty contest" where one simply could not go wrong.

Devaney insisted more than once that all the candidates' workout days left the Rams gushing, "Oh my gosh!" And he maintained the Rams would be just fine if they had to open next season with one of their trio of no-name quarterbacks running the show.

A.J. Feeley, who signed a free agent deal in the offseason, has 15 career starts in 10 seasons. Rookie Keith Null threw three touchdown passes with nine interceptions in a late-season stint as starter after Bulger was sidelined by a leg injury. Kyle Boller was ineffective as the stand-in and signed with the Raiders on Thursday.

Mike Reilly, a late-season pickup, has no NFL experience.

"We have a ton of confidence in A.J. Feeley to operate this offense," Devaney said. "When we signed him we said we weren't sure what his role was going to be. Whatever it is, that's part of the appeal, that we would feel good about him in any capacity."

The Cleveland Browns, who have the seventh pick, have approached the Rams about the possibility of trading up. Devaney wouldn't be surprised if the first pick of the second round attracts lots of offers.

"Chances are nothing will happen," Devaney said. "The second round is really deep and teams may say 'Why give up a pick? We'll just stay where we're at."'

Bradford's workout day convinced observers there'll be a complete recovery from shoulder surgery last October. Unlike some quarterbacks who go early and then get beat up, Bradford has a good shot at staying healthy because of the attention the Rams have paid to their offensive line.

Steven Jackson was a Pro Bowl running back last year, finishing second in the NFL in rushing, and is the team's unquestioned star, but can't do it alone. Tackle Jason Smith was the second overall pick last year and center Jason Brown was a free-agent pickup who contributed to stability in 2009.

At his pro day, Bradford, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, seemed happy about the prospect of playing for St. Louis.

"I'm just looking forward to the opportunity to play in the NFL, whether it's with the Rams or another team," he said. "I can control how I work from here on out to get myself ready for the draft.

"If it happens, it happens. If not, I'm going to be excited wherever I go."

Another benefit of being so bad for so long: St. Louis has addressed defense with a top of the draft pick, too. End Chris Long was the second overall pick in 2008 and appears to be emerging.

The last time the Rams had the first pick, in 1963, they took a quarterback. Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker of Oregon State was a bust, converted to halfback and out of the league in three seasons.

Beyond that ancient history, Devaney has personal experience of the perils of taking a quarterback early. He was in the Chargers' front office when they took quarterback Ryan Leaf, perhaps the biggest modern-day bust, with the second pick of the 1998 draft.

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