Devaney: Deciding No. 1 pick a grueling process

INDIANAPOLIS — A year ago at this time, Rams general manager Billy Devaney stood at a podium inside the NFL Scouting Combine media center, faced with repeated questions about what direction his team would go with the No. 1 overall draft pick.

Here’s how Devaney started his session with reporters Friday: “It’s great not picking No. 1, for a lot of reasons.”

Even as Devaney told a smaller group of reporters that he knew all along Sam Bradford was his guy, a year removed from the process, he’s in a better position to speak to what the teams needing a franchise quarterback face, especially the Panthers with the No. 1 selection.

“Especially with the first overall pick, you exhaust everything,” Devaney said. “You want every little nugget you can find on the guy, good or bad. … We checked every possible person that we could who knew anything about Sam Bradford.”

Devaney suggested the biggest challenge is projecting how a quarterback will handle the pressure that comes along with the position.

“The on-field stuff is almost easy to look at,” Devaney said. “Those guys are highest-paid for a reason. The stuff that they have to go through, and the pressure that’s on them away from the field, that’s the hardest thing to judge. How is a kid going to handle that? 

“Our situation here, the guy is the first pick in the draft with the contract and (being) the face of the franchise. It takes a special guy to handle all that. When somebody is drafted in the first round, you know what the expectation level is right away, and it’s hard. A lot of guys just don’t handle that. They still have the skill and the ability to play, it’s all the peripheral stuff, the intangible stuff, and that’s always the hardest part to predict.”

For Devaney and the Rams, their due diligence paid off, as Bradford became The Associated Press’ 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. And a number of teams starting the get-to-know-you process with quarterbacks at the combine this week are hoping to repeat that success.

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