Bob Lutz

Picking QBs first is risky

I'm elated not to be making the first pick in the NFL Draft tonight.

I would freeze. The pressure would be too intense. Instead of choosing Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with the spotlighted first pick, I would flub and pick William Bradford, the English leader of the Separatist settlers of Plymouth Colony (Mass.), who died in 1657.

Not that Bradford (William) wouldn't be as good as some of the quarterbacks taken with the top pick in some past drafts.

That's what makes this so tricky. You just don't know. Even if you think you know, you don't.

Drafting is as much about luck as anything and to prove it, examine these lists:

Five quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall: Jeff George, Tim Couch, David Carr, JaMarcus Russell, Steve Bartkowski.

Five quarterbacks taken after the first round: Joe Montana (3rd round), Tom Brady (6), Johnny Unitas (9), Roger Staubach (14), Bart Starr (17).

See what I mean?

If I were St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney, I'd trade the overall No. 1 pick for a shoeshine and move to Muskogee to avoid the scrutiny.

I'm a chicken, especially when this much is on the line.

Conventional wisdom (as opposed to unconventional wisdom?) has the Rams taking Bradford (Sam). He's a potential franchise quarterback, a player who could transform the Rams.

If there's an NFL team that needs transforming, it's St. Louis, which was 1-15 last season and has been abysmal for a few years now.

Bradford could be the team's savior. Or he could be Terry Baker, the last quarterback the Rams took with the No. 1 overall choice way back in 1963 out of Oregon State.

Baker played three seasons for the Rams, then in Los Angeles. He completed 12 of 21 passes for 154 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions.

In other words, he was slightly better than me.

The Rams' management and coaching staff sound as if they believe Bradford is the player to pull them out of the ditch.

He's a big, strong-armed QB who played at Oklahoma, but he missed most of last season after being knocked silly by a defensive player from BYU and tearing up his shoulder.

Injuries and quarterbacks are a scary proposition. I wouldn't blame the Rams for blinking and not picking Bradford, instead going with Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and plucking the best-available quarterback at the top of Round 2.

Again, though, I'm chicken.

Since 1944, 29 quarterbacks have been chosen with the overall No. 1 pick in the NFL and American Football League drafts.

There are the Hall of Famers: Joe Namath, Jets (AFL), 1965; Terry Bradshaw, Steelers, 1970; John Elway, Colts, 1983; Troy Aikman, Cowboys, 1989.

There is a soon-to-be Hall of Famer: Peyton Manning, Colts, 1998.

There are good quarterbacks: Bill Wade, Rams, 1952; Roman Gabriel, Raiders, 1962; Jim Plunkett, Patriots, 1971; Steve Bartkowski, Falcons, 1975; Vinny Testaverde, Bucs, 1987; Drew Bledsoe, Patriots, 1993, Michael Vick, Falcons, 2001; Carson Palmer, Bengals, 2003; Eli Manning, Chargers, 2004.

There are quarterbacks who were busts: Angelo Bertelli, Boston Yanks, 1944; Frank Dancewicz, Boston Yanks, 1946; Harry Gilmer, Redskins, 1948; Bobby Garrett, Browns, 1954; George Shaw, Colts, 1955; King Hill, Cardinals, 1958; Randy Duncan, Packers, 1959; Terry Baker, Rams, 1963; Jack Concannon, Patriots, 1964; Tim Couch, Browns, 1999; David Carr, Texans, 2002.

There are quarterbacks for whom the jury is out: Alex Smith, 49ers, 2005; JaMarcus Russell, Raiders, 2007; Matthew Stafford, Lions, 2009.

And there's Jeff George (Colts, 1990), who falls into a category all his own.

If you're keeping score, the "busts" category includes 11 of the 29 quarterbacks who were first overall picks.

That must be a scary number for the poor Rams, who have hit the jackpot with their first-round pick only once since 2000, picking running back Steven Jackson in 2004.

When the first pick of the 2010 NFL Draft is announced tonight in the bright lights of New York, there's no going back. The Rams will have their man. I hope they have a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, too.