When quarterback Sam Bradford decided to return to Oklahoma for the 2009 college football season instead of throwing his name into the NFL Draft, the Lions’ decision to take Georgia quarterback
The Lions could have ultimately decided to take Stafford No. 1 even with Bradford in the draft, but evaluating two quarterbacks would have obviously made for a more interesting situation.
Bradford was selected No. 1 overall the following year by the Rams.
“I went back to school just because I felt I wasn’t ready for the NFL at that point,” Bradford said in a conference call with the Detroit media Wednesday when asked if he went back to school to avoid being drafted by the Lions.
“I had only played two seasons. I think I was still, what, 21 years old? I just felt like I could really use another year in school to mature both physically and mentally.
“Even though I came back and got hurt, I still feel like that year really helped me develop as a person.”
Bradford missed most of the next season at Oklahoma with a shoulder injury.
Stafford and Bradford are the last of the big-dollar No. 1 picks. Stafford signed a rookie deal worth $41.7 million in guaranteed money in 2009, while Bradford signed on the dotted line of $50 million in guarantees the following year.
Because they’re the last of their kind – the NFL implemented a rookie wage scale in 2011 – and because they have the same agent (Tom Condon) and are separated by just one draft – the two are likely to always be compared to one another.
“I followed him. We had the same agent and I watched him when he was at Oklahoma,” said Stafford, who will face Bradford and the Rams Sunday at Ford Field. “He’s a talented player and he’s got a lot of skill.”
“Kind of had a tough end last year just because of injuries. He had that high ankle that was bothering him all year you could tell.”
Bradford missed six games last season with that high ankle sprain and threw just six touchdowns with six interceptions as the Rams floundered to a 2-14 record.
Stafford, on the other hand, flourished in his third season with the Lions, throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year after suffering through his own injury problems in year two.
“Yeah, I mean obviously last year he had a great year,” Bradford said of Stafford. “You know, I think any quarterback would love to have that year and throw for over 5,000 yards, but I try not to compare myself to him. We’re in different situations, we’re asked to do different things.
“You know, it would be really nice for me to have a breakout year, but most importantly I’m just worried about helping this team win football games this year.”
Fans in St. Louis are hoping Bradford can have the same impact Stafford did last year, taking a losing franchise and turning it into a winner in year three.
Stafford isn’t the only Lions star Bradford is linked to. Defensive tackle
Bradford and Suh were named the offensive and defensive rookies of the year, respectively, in 2010. Suh was also named to the All Pro and Pro Bowl teams as a rookie.
Coincidentally, neither lived up to their rookie seasons last year.
“We’ve both been in the league going on our third year and it’ll be exciting to see how much he’s grown these last three years,” Suh said of Bradford.