Bernie Bytes: Comparing Sam to No. 1 overall picks

BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
Thursday, December 30, 2010 1:57 pm

Since this is apparently "Sam Bradford Day" here at STLtoday.com, I thought I'd chip in a contribution.

We've taken a look at how Bradford compares to other prominent rookie quarterbacks through the last 10, 15 years or so.

But I've narrowed it a bit: how does he rate when matched against quarterbacks that were also No. 1 overall picks? In many ways it's a more relevant comparison because of the special prestige that comes with being the first overall choice. It puts a QB in a more dramatic category. More guaranteed money is paid to him. More is expected of him. More pressure is placed on him. It's one thing for a kid QB to go 17th overall, 18th overall or even 5th or 3rd overall. (In other words, I'm talking about Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez and Matt Ryan.)

But when you're No. 1 overall, people assume and hope that you'll be a transforming figure. The football savior. And that added weight has to make the job and the transition even more difficult than it is. Some guys handle it well. Others do not. So much is invested in a No. 1 overall quarterback -- financially and karmically -- and only the special ones can deal with it and prosper.

Is Bradford one of the best No. 1 overall picks?

I'm using this criteria as quick-reference points:

1. Did a guy play right away? Obviously, you make more impact by playing immediately.

2. Was he able to win? (Needs no explanation.)

3. Did he throw more TDs than interceptions?

4. Was he able to cut down on those drive-killing sacks by showing a feel for the game and getting rid of the ball quickly? That can be a real problem for rookies and young QBs.

Bradford has a 7-8 record as a rookie starter, with more TDs than interceptions, and a low sack rate that tells us he has he has that inherent ability to know when it's time to let it go.

Peyton Manning, 1998: Did he start right away? Yes. His rookie record was 3-13. He threw more INTs (28) than TDs (26). His sack rate was lower than Bradford's. Manning set the record for most yards passing by a rookie QB, and he had the big TD total. And a lot of picks. And don't forget that Manning had the luxury of chucking the ball to future Hall of Famers Marvin Harrison and Marshall Faulk. Opinion: Bradford compares very favorably to Manning.

Tim Couch, 1999: Did he start right away for Cleveland? For the most part, yes. His rookie record as a starter was 2-12. He threw a couple of more TDs than picks. His sack rate was very high. Opinion: clear advantage, Bradford.

Michael Vick, 2001: Did he start immediately for Atlanta? No. Only two starts -- and eight games -- as a rookie. Vick's record in his first 15 games as a starter -- 13 of which occured in his second NFL season -- was 8-6-1. He had twice as many TDs as INTs over the first 15 starts, but again, 13 of the starts came in his second season. As a rookie, Vick has 2 TDs and 3 INTs. Vick gained a lot of yards with his running ability, but his sack rate was high. Opinion: it's hard to make a definitive analysis, simply because Vick was phased in. In that context, you'd have to give the edge to Bradford.

David Carr, 2002: Did he start immediately for Houston? Yes. His record through 15 games was 4-11, and he finished 4-12. He threw more INTs than TDs and had an incredibly high sack rate of nearly 19 percent. (Bradford's is around 5.4 percent). Opinion: Bradford without a doubt.

Carson Palmer, 2003: Did he start immediately for Cincinnati? No. He saw no action as a rookie and didn't begin playing until 2004. In 2004 -- after more than a year of getting prepped -- Palmer had a record of 6-7, with the same amount of TDs and INTs and a low sack rate. Opinion: Bradford for obvious reasons.

Eli Manning, 2004: Did he start right away for the NY Giants? No. They phased out Kurt Warner and let Manning take over with seven games to go. He went 1-6 with more INTs than TDs. His sack rate was fine. Just for conversation, Manning's record over his first 15 starts was 7-8. Opinion: Bradford gets the checkmark.

Alex Smith, 2005: Did he start immediately for San Francisco? No. Smith had to work his way in; he started seven games as a rookie and went 2-5 with one TD and 11 INTs and an alarmingly high sack rate. Opinion: Bradford, easily.

JaMarcus Russell, 2007: Did he start from the beginning at Oakland? No, his rookie season was ruined by a holdout. He started one game as a rookie. He didn't play badly over his first 15 NFL starts, with more TDs than picks. But his rookie season was a washout and it established the pattern that led to Russell becoming one of the all-time draft busts. Opinion: Please. Do I have to give a verdict here?

Matthew Stafford, 2008: Did he start right away? Yes, and went 2-8 as a starter before having his rookie year cut short by a shoulder injury. He had more INTs than TDs as a rookie. Sack rate was OK. In his first two seasons Stafford is 3-10 as a starter, with 19 TDs and 21 picks and a slightly higher sack rate than Bradford. Opinion: Bradford takes it.

So far so good; the Rams have no reason to be anything less than thrilled by what they've received from Bradford to this point.

MOVING ON ...

* If the Rams win at Seattle on Sunday, Bradford will be the only No. 1 overall draft pick (QBs) on this list to take his team to the playoffs in his rookie season.

You'd have to go back to John Elway (1983) to find the last time a team made the playoffs after drafting and starting a QB chosen No. 1 overall. But even then, Elway had some help; he started 10 games for Denver, with Steve DeBerg making the other six starts.

* The Seahawks are playing at a historically bad level over the last nine games. They've gone 2-7, but if anything, the performance has been worse than the record. Let's take a look...

Since Oct. 31, Seattle has:

-- Allowed an average of 32.7 points per game, more than any NFL team.

-- Scored 19 points per game, which ranks 24th among 32 teams.

-- Given up an average of 409 yards per game, which ranks 31st.

-- Produced an average of 296 yards per game, which ranks 27th.

-- Given up 36 TDs and scored 16 TDs.

-- Lost 20 turnovers and forced 8 turnovers for a minus 12.

-- Allowed an opponent's passer rating of 107.2, worst in the NFL.

-- Compiled its own passer rating of 68.2, which ranks 30th.

-- Given up 25 TD passes, with only 5 INTs. Seattle QBs have 7 TDs and 14 INTs over the same nine-game stretch.

-- Allowed 154 yards rushing per game, which ranks 32nd.

-- Allowed 4. 7 yards per rush, which ranks 29th.

* For historical perspective, consider this: The 1976 Seahawks were a first-year expansion team. They went 2-12, and lost seven of their final nine games.

During the 2-7 stretch the expansion Seahawks averaged 16 points per game and gave up 31 points per game.

During their 2-7 stretch the 2010 Seahawks are averaging 19 points and giving up 32 points per game.

* Now, I ask you this: is there any reason to justify a Rams loss in this game? OK, what about the Seattle homefield advantage? Well, we covered that earlier in the week. (Short version: visiting teams are 13-10 at Qwest since the start of the 2008 season and have won three of the last four in there this season.) But for all of the talk about how the loud crowd can mess up a visiting-team offense, it hasn't happened much this season. Seattle is allowing 29 points per game at Qwest Field this season. Really, there's nothing to be afraid of.

* The Seahawks on Sam Bradford: "He's a stud, you know? He's not afraid of anything - he'll stand in there with the ball and get hit," said LB Lofa Tatupu, speaking to media in Seattle. "If he gets knocked around - we got some good licks on him (last time) - he gets back up and he'll still throw it in there. He's mobile. Everybody doesn't think he's an athlete, but he can move. He's not just a sitting duck back there. I'm really impressed with the year he's put together. A lot of their success has come from Steven Jackson, but Bradford, he's got a lot to do with it."

That's all for now, and thanks for reading.

-Bernie