ST. LOUIS (AP) — The one-win St. Louis Rams earned the right to take Sam Bradford with the first pick in the NFL draft. The offense was puny, the defense a pushover.
The Oklahoma quarterback found plenty to like, though, even before getting the call from general manager Billy Devaney on Thursday night. He left a pre-draft visit to Rams Park with positive vibes beyond pondering the massive payday that accompanies becoming a No. 1 pick.
"I love the coaching staff, I love the attitude they have," Bradford said in a conference call with St. Louis media. "They want to win, and hopefully I can come in and help them do that."
The Rams pinned their hopes on the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, convinced he's recovered from shoulder surgery in October and ready to help revive a franchise that has bottomed out with a 6-42 record the last three seasons. Devaney persuaded coach Steve Spagnuolo, who has a defensive mindset, that taking the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Bradford was the right move.
Spagnuolo had been an advocate of a pair of defensive tackles, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, but noted earlier in the week that improvements on offense can help on the other side of the ball.
"We're fired up," Spagnoulo said. "This is a special guy. Throughout the process it just grew and grew. He's got all the things you look for in a quarterback."
Bradford didn't wait long before getting the call from the team, with more than six minutes remaining on the Rams' 10-minute limit as the draft began in New York. Long enough, though.
"The butterflies didn't start kicking in until about lunch time, and by the time tonight came I was extremely nervous," Bradford said. "It feels great now, and I'm just excited to be a St. Louis Ram."
The Rams could address a related need, wide receiver, on Friday on the second day of the first prime-time draft. The time gap might also boost the trade market for St. Louis' 33rd overall pick.
"The second round's going to be a great round," Devaney said. "Everything's on the table at this point."
Bradford jumped to the head of the class after a nearly error-free showing at his pro day in March that erased doubts he'd need more time to recover from surgery. Bradford knew he was ready a few weeks before that workout, and believes he maximized time off the field, too.
"I learned a lot about myself, how to deal with adversity, how to deal with things that don't go right in your life," Bradford said. "I feel like I've matured mentally from going through that situation and I think I'll be much better prepared as I make this transition."
The Rams telegraphed their intentions when they released Marc Bulger this month, a move that left the franchise with veteran backup A.J. Feeley and untested Keith Null and Mike Reilly on their slim quarterback depth chart. The Rams also liked Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy of Texas and could have moved down if they were bowled over by a deal, but Devaney said there were no serious offers.
Bulger, Null and Kyle Boller, who signed with the Raiders, combined for 12 touchdown passes last year. The Rams trailed the rest of the NFL by scoring just 10.9 points per game, and depended heavily on Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson.
Bradford followed the Lions' Matthew Stafford as the second straight quarterback taken with the first overall pick. He's the ninth Heisman winner to be selected No. 1, and first since the Cincinnati Bengals took USC quarterback Carson Palmer in 2003.
The Rams previously chose offensive tackle Jason Smith and defensive end Chris Long with the second overall picks in 2009 and '08.
Devaney and Spagnuolo said the draft was business as usual for the Rams even though they're for sale. Billionaire Stan Kroenke of Columbia, Mo., the minority owner, is seeking to purchase the remaining 60 percent of the team and has said he wants to keep the franchise in St. Louis.
Illinois businessman Shahid Khad is also bidding for the 60 percent stake in the Rams. Kroenke exercised matching rights, although his ownership of the NBA's Denver Nuggets and NHL's Colorado Avalanche is at odds with the NFL's prohibition of cross ownership.