Rams general manager Billy Devaney admittedly spent more than a few sleepless nights trying to decide whether Sam Bradford or Ndamukong Suh was best-suited to fill the bill as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
"They were both great players," Devaney said. "But the more time we spent with Sam, the more convinced we became that he could be a really special quarterback."
Special enough, it turns out, to be selected this year's Pro Football Weekly/PFWA Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Devaney first had an inkling that Bradford could be really special after the QB's pro-day workout at Oklahoma at the end of March, when he completed 49-of-50 passes and his arm appeared to get stronger as the workout wore on — five months after the AC joint on his throwing shoulder had been surgically repaired.
"Proving that he still had his fastball answered a lot of questions in people's minds," Devaney said.
The former Heisman Trophy winner offered further proof after taking every snap for the Rams in '10, setting NFL rookie records for completions (354) and attempts (590). He also threw for 3,512 yards (the second-most among rookies in league history behind Peyton Manning) and 18 touchdowns (tied for fifth-most among rookies in NFL history). Bradford also set a league rookie record with 174 consecutive attempts without an interception.
As good a read as Devaney thought he had on Bradford, the GM kept being pleasantly surprised by the total package the Rams' top pick ended up providing.
"Early on, I didn't give him enough credit for his athleticism, the way he threw on the run and kept escaping trouble," Devaney said. "I really underestimated that.
"And what we kind of expected because of his demeanor — but you never really know — was how well he handled the rigors of playing in the NFL, especially as a rookie. It's not so much the physical part, but the mental fatigue that sets in, too, the preparation he had to go through in a season that was so much longer than what he had to deal with at the college level.
"We were very pleased."
Devaney was asked if he could point to a favorite moment from Bradford, the new undisputed face of a franchise that made an impressive return to respectability after managing only one victory in 2009, in great part due to the efforts of its top pick this season.
"It might have been his first TD pass," Devaney said. "It was just a one-yard pass (to WR Laurent Robinson in Week One), but it was just a great throw that he stuck right in there in a real tight spot.
"He's always got things so under control, but after that pass, he pumped his arms and really showed some emotion."
Suffice it to say, the Rams couldn't be more pumped as they prepare to enter Bradford's second season in St. Louis.
Pro Football Weekly's annual awards issue (dated Jan. 23) is on sale now, featuring All-NFL, All-Conference and All-Rookie teams, MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Executive of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year — all selected by PFW editors and contributors along with members of the Professional Football Writers of America — as well as a Golden Toe Award selected by PFW editors only. The print edition also contains a preview of the draft outlook for the first four teams to make selections in April, as well as previews of the two conference championship games. The print edition is available at retail outlets around the country and also online at PFWstore.com , where you can purchase a print copy or an electronic (PDF) version.