There’s one nearly absolute certainty about this year’s draft, which is that the Colts will select Andrew Luck with their first overall pick. Now it’s just a matter of whether or not Luck will start right away, or wait a year and learn behind Peyton Manning. The former seems far more likely than the latter, and we’ll have our answer by March 8.
The certainty of the Colts’ position shifts the focus to the Rams and their No. 2 pick. For obvious reasons, the team with the top pick often controls the dial on the draft day trade hot stove, becoming the pretty blonde at the bar fighting off multiple Jersey Shore caricatures.
With Indy nearly married to Luck already, St. Louis is now the supermodel, and we can only hope that new head coach Jeff Fisher doesn’t wear any of the outfits Kate Upton has used to break the Internet recently. The QB pool beyond Luck is thin, and general managers looking to secure Robert Griffin III are already jostling for the Rams’ pick. It’ll primarily be the Browns, Redskins, and Dolphins in pursuit, and with their two first-round picks Cleveland has the most leverage.
But there’s one move that St. Louis won’t be making. They’re not trading Sam Bradford.
During his Scouting Combine press conference earlier this morning Fisher quickly dismissed the notion of trading Bradford. His rapid response wasn’t remotely surprising after the Rams made Bradford the highest-paid rookie in NFL history with a six-year, $78 million contract in the summer of 2010, and $50 million of that is guaranteed.
But Fisher’s dismissal of that blockbuster trade eliminates one possible but unlikely draft day move, while almost committing the Rams to another deal.
Bradford missed six games this year while struggling with injuries, and when healthy he was mediocre at best in his follow-up campaign after he was named the offensive rookie of the year in 2010. He completed just 53.5 percent of his passes for 216.4 yards per game, and a passer rating of 70.5. Throw in Bradford’s 6.1 yards per pass attempt, and those are all substandard numbers for a first overall pick just two years ago.
But they’re numbers that can be excused by both Bradford’s injuries, and the rash of crippling breaks and bruises that spread throughout his receiving core. It’s a combination of that poor luck, the financial commitment, and the need to minimize sweeping change under a new coaching regime that’s prompted St. Louis to stick with Bradford, even though they could easily trade the former Sooner on draft day and take RG3.
So let’s connect a few dots then. Bradford’s staying, and he needs a receiver since Brandon Lloyd is likely leaving as a free agent. Justin Blackmon is the draft’s highest-rated wideout, and he’s a beast who will immediately give St. Louis a dynamic young receiver-quarterback duo.
There’s likely a puddle of drool forming at Leslie Frazier’s feet in Minnesota over the thought of having a similar young duo between Blackmon and Christian Ponder. But the problem with having an elite young wideout is that your quarterback can’t throw a forward pass from his backside. There are rules against that, and the Vikings gave up 49 sacks last year (fifth worst in the league). With Percy Harvin already in place, fortification on the offensive line is a far greater need for the Vikings, and they’ll likely call Matt Kalil’s name.
That leaves the Rams to still take Blackmon once they trade with Cleveland and move down to No. 4, a swap that could also net them the Browns’ 22nd overall pick.
Annnd boom goes the dynamite.