When the Lions secured the first overall pick of the 2009 draft thanks to their 0-16 season, early buzz had them looking at Sam Bradford with the pick.
Bradford had just won the Heisman Trophy as Oklahoma’s quarterback and it seemed that, at worst, he’d be the favorite over Matthew Stafford when it came time for the Lions to hand in their pick. But Bradford decided to remain for his senior season and wound up going first overall to the Rams the next season.
Some wondered if Bradford’s choice was impacted by his desire to play for a team that wasn’t coming off of a winless season. With the Rams facing the Lions this Sunday, that episode has bubbled back to the surface and Bradford was asked about it on Wednesday.
“None at all,” Bradford said, via Justin Rogers of MLive.com. “I went back to school just because I felt I wasn’t ready for the NFL. At that point I had only played two seasons. I think I was still 20, 21 years old. I just felt I could really use another year in school to mature, both physically and mentally. Even though I cam back and got hurt, I still feel that year helped me develop as a person.”
It worked out pretty well all around. The Lions wound up with Stafford and got Ndamukong Suh with the second pick in 2010 because Bradford’s presence meant he wasn’t going first overall and those two played a big role in getting the Lions back to the playoffs. Bradford almost got there as a rookie while winning the 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and his future remains bright despite an injury-plagued 2011 season.
Thinking about the alternate history of the NFL if Bradford went to Detroit makes for a fun game of “What If?” although we doubt that either team would want to make a change in hindsight.