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Pro football bust possibilities: Sam Bradford and Wes Welker

by Berry Tramel Published: August 31, 2014

The NFL’s opening week has arrived. Wes Welker’s status is uncertain for the Broncos’ opener. Sam Bradford’s status for the Rams’ season is not.

Bradford has been decked by another major knee injury. Meanwhile, Welker suffered another concussion to go with the two he had last season and who knows how many others, dating back to Heritage Hall. It’s a fair question to ask about the bust status of these two Oklahoma icons.

As in, will Bradford be a bust and will Welker get a bust, in the Hall of Fame?

Bradford’s blessing is his curse. He was the last of the bonus babies, the overall No. 1 draft picks who got ridiculous money without spending a minute in an NFL huddle or meeting room or pocket. The league now saves its big money for guys that have proven themselves, but Bradford got an $18 million signing bonus, a $78 million contract and $50 million guaranteed.

For that money, the Rams have gotten 49 games and an 18-30-1 record. They are not likely to pick up the final year of his contract.

If Bradford had been a late-round pick, or even a late first-round pick, bust would not be in the discussion. But overall No. 1’s carry a burden into their pro careers.

Of the 20 quarterbacks drafted first overall in the Super Bowl era, you could label three sure-first busts: JaMarcus Russell, David Carr and Tim Couch. Couch, who went 22-37 in five Cleveland seasons, is actually a strikingly similar comparison to Bradford.

Others proved to be journeymen. Jeff George, Alex Smith, Vinny Testaverde. Michael Vick for non-football reasons.

Others were just solid. Carson Palmer, Drew Bledsoe, Steve Bartkowski.

And stars, of course. Terry Bradshaw. John Elway. Peyton Manning. Eli Manning.

But maybe Bradford’s shining hope is Jim Plunkett, who was taken overall No. 1 in 1971 and spent five fruitless years with the Patriots, where he went 25-38 as the starter and was traded, as a bust to the 49ers.

Two years later, Plunkett landed in Oakland at age 32 and became the star everyone thought he would years earlier. Plunkett quarterbacked the Raiders to two Super Bowl titles.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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