EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The short period of the offseason in which NFL teams are between the end of organized team activities and the beginning of training camp leaves a little bit of a void for league-related content. It's a time when lists and rankings become commonplace. And during that time when I was away on vacation, there was at least one list that was really well done by our own Mike Sando.
Sando spent a good chunk of time talking to NFL coaches and executives in an effort to get a closer look at how all 32 NFL starting quarterbacks are viewed by those making the decisions. For those of you with ESPN Insider who might have missed it, you can read Sando's quarterback tiers story here.
For the project, Sando talked to 26 league insiders about the various signal-callers. The idea was to put the players into a one through 32 ranking but also to get a feel for how big the gap is between the guys who might be close to 32 and those who might be near the top. The "tiering" system made clear, for instance, that superstars like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are not only a certain amount of spots ahead of guys like Cam Newton but NFL types actually view them a full two tiers above him. When finished, the quarterbacks were ranked from 1 to 32 with five tiers in place.
It should come as no surprise that St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford didn't place among the top tier or even the second after four mostly unremarkable years, but it's also clear that there are some in the league who still believe in Bradford's potential.
Bradford ended up in a tie with Arizona's Carson Palmer as the No. 21 quarterback in the league, which was still good enough for a soft landing in tier 3. Of the 26 votes cast, Bradford received 20 tier 3 votes, two tier 2 votes, three tier 4 votes and one tier 5 vote.
It's hard to argue with the results given that even four years into his career, nobody really knows who Bradford is as a player. Some of the comments from the part about Bradford made that much clear.
An excerpt from Sando:
"Just about everyone placed Bradford in the third tier, almost as a hedge. They thought he had the talent to be a solid two, if only he could stay on the field."
The last part has obviously been perhaps the biggest reason that Bradford remains a mystery to league personnel. He missed six games in 2011 because of a high ankle sprain, an injury that hampered him for most of that season even when he did play. And Bradford missed nine more games in 2013 because of a torn ACL.
Adding to that, Bradford has also worked with a questionable receiving corps, a sometimes shaky and banged-up offensive line and had three different coordinators in as many seasons to start his career. That's not to say he hasn't had his own struggles in those four years, just that those are some of the reasons given as to why Bradford is a bit of an enigma to league personnel.
Those are also some of the same reasons touched on by Ron Jaworski, who recently revealed his annual quarterback rankings and placed Bradford a few spots below the league executives. Jaworski has Bradford at No. 24 in his rankings with this as part of the explanation:
"Bradford has always been an enigma to me. I loved him coming out of Oklahoma, but he's always been injured. With a big arm, he can make every throw even though he lacks mobility; he just hasn't developed the consistency needed from an elite quarterback, and he doesn't excel when the pocket isn't clean."
If the Rams gain nothing else from the 2014 season, it's time to finally turn the many questions into answers when it comes to Bradford.