Rams can learn from the Raiders

27 02 2010

Ay yi Yi yi Yi…here we go again with another NFL team making a simple decision infinitely more complex and potentially damaging than it needs to be. Reports have been flowing in that the Rams are considering Sam Bradford for the No. 1 pick instead of Nebraska’s Suh or Oklahoma’s McCoy. Oye.

According to John Clayton, the Rams’ logic comes down to this: Given the hefty cost of a No. 1 pick’s contract — roughly $12 million per year by Clayton’s reasoning — the Rams feel their payment would be more justified if it was spent on a quarterback than a defensive tackle, since quarterbacks can have a bigger impact on wins and losses than a defensive tackle. Plus, quarterbacks traditionally make a lot more cash than d-tackles, so the contract would be more justifiable by the Rams’ rationale. How that makes sense to an organization is something I will probably never understand.

If the Rams have any doubt about whether to go with Bradford or one of the defensive tackles, both of whom are considered much more pro-ready than Bradford, all they need to do is to look at their former Los Angeles mates.

The Raiders’ drafting of JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall in 2007 has been an utter disaster — only the Raiders were seemingly the only ones at the time who couldn’t read the writing on the wall. They chose Russell because they didn’t have a competent quarterback, Russell fit the mold of a traditional big-armed, big-body pocket passer, Al Davis thinks chicks dig the long pass and every team knows they need a very good quarterback to reach the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean a team should opt for the quarterback over other players who are clearly better.

My theory of how to build a quality NFL team begins with always drafting the most pro-ready players. Not projects, not guys who look good at the Combine and certainly not guys who seem to fit a “need” position. Just draft the best player available, the guy who looked great in games during college, and move along.

Before the 2007 Draft, I thought the Raiders should have drafted tackle Joe Thomas. He was considered pro-ready and he’s proven that by reaching All-Pro status. He hasn’t had a great effect on the Browns winning games but he’s a huge building block, literally and figuratively. He’s another good player to plug into the roster. That’s what the Raiders lost as they stupidly wasted a pick and tens of millions of dollars on a guy who matched a need position but who possessed qualities that made him a project instead of close to a sure-thing pick.

As the Rams look at Bradford, who is coming off shoulder surgery, they must ask themselves whether it’s worth it to give tens of millions of dollars to a guy who isn’t a clear favorite at his position over any of the guys even projected for the second round. On the other hand, they could have either defensive tackle, who are interchangeable with one another in many expert’s minds as the best or second-best player. To spend lots of dough on a player who has a very good shot at becoming a great player or to spend it on a guy who has spotty grades at a notoriously difficult position. It seems like it should be an easy decision but the Rams look as if they could screw it up.