Scott Kane-US PRESSWIRE
Sam Bradford's stock is pretty low among St. Louis Rams fans, but the San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith is proof draft busts aren't always permanent.
Take heart, St. Louis Rams fans, in the following No. 1 pick transformation. Alex Smith was a bust in 2007, and in 2011, when he finally ousted Troy Brown permanently for the San Francisco 49ers' starting gig, he was upgraded grudgingly to "game manager," which among fans and NFL analysts basically means "a bust who's playing all right." In 2012, with a career-high 7.9 yards-per-attempt and a 24-touchdown pace, Smith has finally become a Good Quarterback, if not the star you'd hope for out of that draft slot. Sam Bradford, chronologically, is still back at 2007.
What changed, then? Well, Ryan Van Bibber at Turf Show Times explains it pretty well: The team surrounding him got much better. The thing about a game manager is that his value is exceptionally dependent on the game he's managing. Vernon Davis and company have given him ample targets, and Frank Gore keeps the target off his back. He's ridden whatever it is he's doing to a finish just outside the Top 10 in DVOA and a solid QBR.
Sam Bradford, for what little it's worth, looks much better through two-and-a-half seasons than Smith did. He looks like a game manager now, despite managing a team of receivers that would have trouble cracking the 49ers rotation. Not everybody can or should travel down the Alex Smith career path, but its existence shows that the end of the road isn't near the Rams' ex-savior yet.