Sam Bradford, QB - Oklahoma
Weight: 236 pounds
40 time: 4.79
The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner who put up insane production as a sophomore, Sam Bradford enters the 2010 NFL Draft as one of the most overrated prospects in the last five years.
A two-year starter for the Sooners, Bradford threw for 8,403 yards, 88 touchdowns, and just 16 interceptions with a 67.6% completion percentage (604-893); his best statistical season came in 2008 when he had a breakout season at the national level, throwing for 4,720 yards, 50 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions with a 67.9% completion percentage (328-483). He entered the 2009 season with a 23-5 record as a starter.
Sam has ideal size for a quarterback prospect with a tall frame as well as having had the chance to add bulk during the 2009 season when he missed all but three games with a season-ending shoulder injury. He’s an intelligent quarterback, having scored a 36 on the wonderlic, a very good score, in addition to having very good instincts and game-managing skills at the quarterback position. Bradford has excellent accuracy with the ability to deliver the ball consistently to the receiver in the precise location it needs to be. His pocket presence is good, but not great with a solid understanding of where the pass rush is coming from. He’s shown nice athleticism with the ability to take off and make a play with his legs (five rushing touchdowns in 2008).
Bradford is a calm and composed player on the field who is most comfortable playing in the shotgun, however he’s also capable of playing under center; this is something that he is going to need to get used to doing on a consistent basis. Sam has shown the ability to go through his reads and progressions down the field, however this is something that he needs development on. The system that he played in at Oklahoma allows for the quarterback to have between three, four, and five options every time he is throwing the ball. It’s a wide open offense with an extremely talented supporting cast that allows for him to make a large amount of easy throws. Last season, Bradford played with the best tight end in the country, arguably the best offensive line, which included Duke Robinson, Phil Loadholt, Trent Williams, and Jon Cooper, as well as two very talented running backs in DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown and three excellent receiving options in Juaquin Iglesias, Manuel Johnson, and Ryan Broyles. That also doesn’t include a defense that ranked among the best in the nation and made it extremely easy for Bradford to get the ball back in favorable conditions to boost the score and increase his stats.
Bradford’s season-ending shoulder injury this year may show who he is as a quarterback without the nation’s top offensive line protecting him. Without having minutes to throw the ball at the next level, will he be capable of scrambling away and making plays while under pressure? His pocket presence in 2009 wasn’t on the same level as it was in 2008. When Sam went down with his injury, backup Landry Jones came in and picked up right where Sam left off, throwing for 622 yards, nine touchdowns, and just two interceptions in his first two games.
One more note relating to the system; many of the throws that Bradford has had to make in his college career have been easy and simple. Throwing screens and dump off passes to explosive running backs, tight ends, and receivers have shown exactly how Bradford’s stats can inflate with just one five-yard toss. Bradford’s reads and progressions are also simplified in the system. He has several options running favorable routes for the quarterback, such as five-to-ten yard underneath patterns and screens. When he did have to throw the ball down the field, he had the best tight end in the nation there to make acrobatic and spectacular catches in case Bradford was inaccurate. You don’t throw 50 touchdowns in a 14-game college football season without playing in a system; Graham Harrell, Colt Brennan, and Timmy Chang can all attest to that, as they are the last three players to put up statistics that rival Bradford’s; Harrell and Chang never played a down in the NFL and Brennan is nothing more than a career backup at this point.
In 2008, in four games against Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Missouri, Bradford threw for 1,378 yards, 14 touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a combined 69.5% completion percentage. Also add in the fact that he was only sacked three times in the four games, thanks to that outstanding offensive line. The competition level of defenses in the Big 12 is very poor, which was proven when you look at the fact that he threw for just 256 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, a 63.4% completion percentage, and was sacked twice in the BCS Championship Game against Florida; it’s very clear that Bradford’s stats and production have also come from playing against awful defenses in the Big 12.
Sam’s accuracy on the short-to-intermediate throws has proven to be excellent. However, as he throws the ball further down the field, his accuracy becomes more inconsistent. Bradford has shown that he has the arm strength to deliver the ball down the field, however he’s also been inconsistent in being able to make the deep throws that an NFL quarterback needs to make. One big concern that I have with Sam is his on-field demeanor and leadership. Rarely did I ever see Bradford show an ounce of emotion on the field and his demeanor on the field comes off as him being sullen and depressed rather than showing the tools that you look for in a quarterback who could lead your team down the field to win a game in the clutch. Lastly, none of this takes into account the durability concern that Sam brings, having just had a reconstructive surgery on his shoulder. Showing he can throw a ball at his Pro Day is one thing, but no scout will know how to can play in a game post-surgery until he’s playing quarterback in the NFL. I project that Bradford will be drafted in the first round, specifically among the Top Four picks in the draft with a strong chance of going first overall.
I’m certainly not as high on Bradford as others are. The last quarterback to be drafted out of Oklahoma (outside of Josh Heupel who never played a down in the league) was 63-years ago in 1947 when Charley Sarratt was taken in the 10th round; dating back to 1937, there hasn’t been a single Oklahoma quarterback to ever find success in the NFL; in 1942 Jack Jacobs was drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Rams, but went on to have a career 42.9% quarterback rating as well as throwing just 27 touchdowns-to-49 interceptions. Looking back in history, former Sooner quarterback Jason White, also a Heisman-winning quarterback, threw for 40 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions in 2003 when he won the award; he also threw for 3,205 yards, 35 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions with a 65.4% completion percentage (255-390) in 2004, numbers that are eerily similar to Bradford’s; Jason went undrafted. Whatever way you look at it, Bradford is going to have to buck some serious trends to have success in the NFL. Sam Bradford has some of the tools needed to develop into a solid starting quarterback in the NFL in the mold of a player like Matt Schaub; where I disagree with others is that I don’t feel that Bradford is a franchise-changing player at the quarterback position. He’s a nice prospect, but I don’t think he’s an elite player, certainly not in this year’s talented draft.
Notes: In 2008 Sam was named first-team All-American, first-team All-Big 12, and was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year; that year, he also won the Davey O’Brien Award as the top quarterback in the country and the Sammy Baugh Award as the country’s top passer. Sam is a citizen of the Cherokee tribe. His dad, Kent, played offensive line at Oklahoma in the late-1970’s. Coming out of high school, Sam was rated as the No. 6 player in the state of Oklahoma as well as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country by Rivals.com. As a senior in high school, Sam threw for 2,422 yards and 19 touchdowns. Outside of a fantastic system at Oklahoma, how do you go from throwing for 19 touchdowns in high school to three years later throwing 50 in one season at the Division-I level? Sam was also a successful basketball player in high school, having averaged 18.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game as a senior.
The jury is clearly split on Bradford’s pro potential; ask one scout and you’ll hear comparisons to Peyton Manning, ask another and you’ll get the spread offense/system quarterback rap. There’s no questioning Bradford’s physical attributes, which all fall in line with the prototype NFL quarterback. The intangibles are there as well, but after that you start getting the split decision leading up to the ultimate question: is Bradford a franchise quarterback or not?
Short-term, it’s unlikely Bradford will have much fantasy value as he’ll be drafted high enough that he’ll be expected to start right away and do his college-to-pro learning on the job. All indications are that the learning will happen in St. Louis, where he’ll benefit from a decent offensive line and productive running back to take some of the pressure off—though he could use a significant upgrade in the receiver department. And when you consider that vastly more “pro-ready” quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez haven’t been able to crack the top 15 fantasy quarterbacks during their first NFL seasons, Bradford has all the makings of a wasted redraft pick. Dynasty leaguers will face the same question the Rams have been grappling with: will Bradford’s talent overcome his spread offense pedigree (and apparent lack of pocket awareness) and allow him to become a stud NFL signal-caller? The upside is worth a roster spot in larger dynasty leagues, but if patience is not among your virtues you’ll be better served giving that spot to a quarterback who’s already in the league.