For the St. Louis Rams, the 2013 season was one of tremendous ups and downs, ending the year with plenty to be excited about in the future, but also with some massive questions still left unanswered. None of those question marks are bigger than the “future” of former No.1 overall pick, Sam Bradford. Bradford started the season on track to set career-highs in every measurable category, ranking Top 10 in touchdowns and passing yards through the opening six games of the season, while ranking in the Bottom 5 in interceptions. More impressively, those were all accumulated during the Rams philosophical “searching” phase, before Jeff Fisher finally unveiled Zac Stacy at the one-quarter mark of the regular season. In that 2.5 game span, Bradford managed an impressively-high 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception differential, with that one turnover coming on a tipped ball at the start of the Carolina game. However, that throw would not be the worst happening of the day, as Bradford would later tear his ACL to a freak misstep while running out-of-bounds. That injury would not only the end of the season for the young quarterback, but cement the question mark at the quarterback position for, at least, another year in Rams Park.
Fast forward to the 2014 NFL Draft, where there is a quarterbacking pool deep with competent NFL talent. This class brings an odd mix of Top 10 signal callers, one-time Day 1 prospects whose stock dropped due to injury, and a myriad of Day 2 and Day 3 draftees with the potential to eventually sneak their way into a starting role or as a long-time backup at the NFL level.
The St. Louis Rams are reportedly in the market for the latter two of that grouping, expected to take a ‘groom-able,’ backup quarterback at some point in the 2014 NFL Draft. So, who might the Rams have their eye on?
Tom Savage, Pitt (Projected: 5th)
Multiple sources have already linked the ACC senior to the St. Louis Rams this offseason. With prototypical size and a cannon for an arm, Savage has drawn some comparisons to players like Jay Cutler and Joe Flacco, both of which have had unarguable success throwing the football at the NFL level. In fact, the biggest knock against Savage might be that massive arm, which far-too-often led to bad decisions on throws that were forced into smaller windows. He has also been slapped with the ‘inexperienced’ tag, with a limited body of work after transferring multiple times during his college career. As a potential 5th-rounder, Savage might be best suited in a situation like the St. Louis Rams. With no expectation to start as a rookie and plenty of talent in the receiving corps to expedite developement, the Pittsburgh signal caller could certainly take the reins from Shaun Hill as the backup at the end of the season, and eventually could emerge as a ‘starting’ talent in the NFL.
Connor Shaw, South Carolina (Projected: 6th-7th)
Shaw might be one of the more underrated prospects in the Draft class, being marred by a simplified offensive system and a handful of nagging injuries that plagued him throughout his collegiate career. The undersized signal caller has been labeled as a ‘game manager’ by some scouts, executing the Gamecock’s offense to near perfection, controlling the tempo and not turning over the football, but never truly taking over a game with his arm. Shaw has ‘coach-caliber’ football intelligence, unparalleled work ethic, and has the ‘winner’ mentality that has proved to be an important intangible trait at the next level. That has translated on the field, with a 27-5 career record while playing in the SEC, including a remarkable 24-to-1 touchdown-to-interception differential in his senior season. Shaw throws a tight, highly-accurate ball and is capable to extending plays and make big plays down the field with his legs. In the right system with enough supporting talent, there is no doubt that Shaw could win games at the NFL level. For the time being, he could serve well as a player-coach on the St. Louis Rams sideline, play an important role as a ‘mobile’ scout team quarterback, and could eventually take a long-term role as a backup, or even starter, for the franchise.
Aaron Murray, Georgia (Projected: 4th-5th)
Much like Connor Shaw, Murray lacks the ideal size of a prototypical quarterback, and fell prey to the injury bug, which ended a promising senior season for the Bulldogs’ signal caller. That injury has sent Murray tumbling down Big Boards, from a one-time Day 2 prospect to a likely Day 3 draftee with plenty of upside. He possesses the all-around arm talent, pocket awareness, and football intelligence to be an instant start in the NFL on the right team. In a pro-style offense at Georgia, Murray threw for over 13,000 yards, including 121 touchdowns to only 41 interceptions, all while competing in the SEC. If drafted into a situation where he can take time to fully recover from the ACL tear and develop behind matured quarterback talents, Murray could end up being the ‘steal’ of the quarterback class. Unlike the other two prospects, the long-time Georgia Bulldog has a chance to be a starter in the NFL for a long time, and could serve as either the heir to the Sam Bradford throne or as potential trade bait for the St. Louis Rams in the future.
Tags: St. Louis Rams