Sam Bradford was tearing it up on the field to begin this season. He had racked up 1,687 yards, 14 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. His quarterback rating was just under 91, which was the best of his career. He has been mired in talk of this being a make-or-break year with the Rams, but this was shaping up to be the best season of his career for the quarterback in his fourth season out of Oklahoma.
But just as soon as Bradford got rolling, coming off of one of the most efficient games in his young career, a 38-13 rout of the Houston Texans, his season came to a brutal end. Bradford tore the ACL in his left knee in the fourth quarter of a 30-15 loss against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday when he was pushed by Panthers safety Mike Mitchell while running out of bounds.
The injury was an unfortunate one for Bradford and the Rams, as Bradford was the heart and soul of St. Louis's young and optimistically explosive offense. Even as head coach Jeff Fisher openly confirmed that Bradford would be back next season as the starter, the Rams, who have two first-round draft picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, would be foolish to not consider taking a quarterback in that first round. After all, the richness of the quarterback position in the upcoming draft class has been well documented.
Is Bradford the Rams' quarterback of the future? The Rams sure believe so, as months ago, they expressed interest in keeping Bradford beyond his rookie contract. However, when the Rams drafted Bradford in 2010 first overall, they felt like he was the guy that would lead them back to prominence.
If his inconsistent play isn't reason enough for the Rams to draft a quarterback, Bradford's injury history is becoming a serious concern.
Yet, since he was drafted St. Louis has gone 19-35-1, and have seen now two seasons where Bradford was unable to remain healthy throughout the entire season. His numbers have been mediocre, and not those indicative of a first overall draft pick.
The Rams remain steadfast in their support of him. But for how long can they wait around for Bradford, who despite his flashes of success this season, has been a prime example of a mediocre starting quarterback. If his inconsistent play isn't reason enough for the Rams to consider looking at quarterbacks in the upcoming draft, Bradford's injury history is beginning to become a serious concern.
As a junior at Oklahoma, he missed significant time with a shoulder injury. In 2011, Bradford missed six games with a high ankle sprain and could not bounce back from that in a season that ended with a 2-14 record. Now, the ACL injury has hit Bradford and with it being such a serious one, there has to be doubt that he'll ever reach top overall pick status with St. Louis, which should prompt the Rams to look at a possible future without Bradford.
Names such as Bridgewater, Mariota, Boyd, Murray, and Manziel will likely be around during the early- to mid-first round, where the Rams project to draft at this point. Even Washington's pick that they inherited because of the Robert Griffin III trade in 2012 looks to be in the same early-to-mid round range. St. Louis can't afford to pass on another quarterback prospect like they did with Griffin III, opting to stick with Bradford.
One should feel sorry for Bradford. He was thrust into a difficult situation in St. Louis, and was immediately given the keys to that offense. He had success in his rookie season, being named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Yet he hasn't delivered the Rams to the playoffs, and hasn't always lived up to his billing as first overall pick. He was showing major strides this season, and finally has more weapons to work with.
But the injury makes his situation more uncertain than ever. And now, St. Louis is in the precarious position of either trusting Bradford's soon-to-be surgically repaired knee or being safe and taking his possible successor in the upcoming NFL Draft. Either way, Sunday's injury was a turn for the worse.