6′ 3″ 218 lbs.
2008 Heisman Trophy Winner
By Bill Smith and others
Bradford is the most pro ready of the 3 Heisman candidates.
Sam Bradford won the Heisman but it is not sure if he will declare for the 2009 NFL draft. Of the 3 that were at the ceremony, in my opinion now he is the most NFL ready. He is eligible for the draft because he is a red shirt sophomore. He has started for 2 years and in that time has proven that he is capable of making the move to the next level.
He processes information quickly. He scans the field and is able to work the progression of the play. By working the progression, we mean check out receivers in order to see if they are covered and getting the ball to the open guy. He has the vision to find the next receiver quickly.
He has made good decisions. He has thrown for 4464 yards, with 48 TDs with only 6 interceptions. That gives him a QB rating of 168.3. He is a playmaker and has 5 rushing TDs. He converts an above average number of 3 downs which is critical in the NFL.
He can run but is much more of a pocket passer than most other spread QBs. That will give him an advantage in the draft over a Tim Tebo or Chase Daniel. He moves around in the pocket to avoid the rush but still keeps his vision down field. He is not nearly as accurate moving as he is when he can set his feet. If he goes to a team like the Lions, he had better work on that because behind the Detroit offensive line he will be running a lot.
He has above average but not great arm strength. Many of his long TDs are due to hitting excellent wide receivers that are able to run the ball after the catch.
He has very good touch and a quick release. However, on swing passes he tends to push the ball out rather than throw it. That is surprising given how often the team runs that play.
He does not have exceptional accuracy. He has completed 68.3% in 08 as compared to nearly 77.8 percent by Colt McCoy. While some of those incompletions are throw-aways, he does miss more open receivers than you would like.
A lot of his statistics come in garbage time. The Sooners scored more than 60 points in their last 5 games. When a team is down by 40 points, their defensive backfields are easy pickings and the D-lines are gassed.
Most of the passes in the Sooner playbook are out of the shotgun formation. That brings us to perhaps the biggest concern that GMs have about not only Bradford but almost all of the college spread formation quarterbacks—what about his footwork? The QB is under center for nearly all plays in the NFL.
Traditionally, shotgun or spread offense rookie QBs struggle with the 3, 5 and 7 step drops fundamental to the NFL passing game. Many high pick shotgun/spread formation QBs have failed. Nearly always their downfall has been due to footwork/accuracy problems. It is nearly impossible to have NFL level accuracy by a quarterback that lacks consistent footwork. The passing windows are microscopic compared to those in college even in good conferences. Timing of the throw is critical and timing is determined by footwork.
A second and nearly equally significant concern is the ability of Bradford to make pre-snap reads. An NFL quarterback must be able to read the defense before the snap to determine if the play needs to be changed or not. The Oklahoma system involves the team looking to the sideline to get the play. The reading of the D is done by the coaching staff in the booth, relayed to the sideline and given to the QB.
In the NFL, the QB must make the reads. Is the opponent going to blitz? Are they in zone, man or a combination coverage? Each of these possibilities requires different patterns and play calls. Many of the Big 12 QBs have never been responsible for making those reads. The problem is made more significant by the multiple defenses the NFL uses. While he had NFL quality receivers, they were not facing NFL quality defensive backs. These guys are bigger, faster, smarter, and hit a lot harder than any college conference defenses.
Yet another major question the NFL will have is Bradford’s ability to anticipate the player coming open and hitting the spot where he will be when the ball gets there. Often that ability is what separates the very good quarterback from the Hall of Fame one. The Sooner offense is not built to require that. Almost all the patterns require a WR to stop in the open area because the Big 12 plays so much zone. In cases where he has faced man coverage, he has at least convinced me that he can anticipate the open receiver.
I think another year would be very helpful for Bradford. However, with so many of the NFL bottom feeders in such desperate need of QB help and so few quality prospects in the senior class of 08, it is more than likely that he will declare. He will be the first or second QB drafted depending on the combine. He will not be able to play in most of the college all star games because he is an underclassman. His prime competitor for the first QB taken will be Georgia QB Matt Stafford.
In the preseason rankings, Stafford was ranked #1. Matt and the team did not have the kind of season most of the experts had projected and his stock has dropped a little. I project now that one of them will be the choice of the 0-16 Lions with the first pick. The other could go in the top 10 to Kansas City, Jacksonville, or San Francisco. If not, the second QB might fall to the mid teens with Minnesota, Chicago, or even Washington or Philadelphia depending on what they do with their current starters. But don’t feel sorry for the second in the draft. He will still be set for life with his first contract. That is one of the biggest problems the NFL has.
A Second Opinion
Daryl Breault Says, “In two years, Sam Bradford might go down as the most decorated college QB ever. The 3rd-year sophomore has been named the 2008 Heisman winner, the Davey O’Brien winner as the nation’s top QB, is a 2nd team Walter Camp All-American, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and an easy choice for 1st team All-Big 12. This after a freshman season that saw him notch freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News, Rivals and CollegeFootballNews.com, CollegeFootballNews.com’s Big 12 Player of the Year, a Sports Illustrated All-America honorable mention, The Sporting News Freshman of the Year, The Sporting News All-Big 12 Freshman, Academic All-Big 12, honorable mention All-Big 12 by coaches and AP and was a finalist for the Manning Award as the nation’s top quarterback. He is one of 6 Oklahoma offensive players to be named All-Big 12 this year, including 3 linemen. Two more Sooners were 2nd Team All-Big 12 Offense. He is the best player on the nation’s most talented team.
Suffice to say, Bradford is a first round lock no matter when he comes out and could possibly be the next Payton Manning, he is that damn good. Despite only being a sophomore Bradford has a great shot at being the #1 overall pick if he enters the 2009 draft. He was just as highly decorated in high school and seems to be something of a prodigy.
Bradford has more than enough size at 6’3”, roughly 220lbs and can pack on a few more pounds of muscle. He’s a little lanky but he’s still just a kid. His height allows him to see the whole field and he does a great job of making quick decisions and getting the ball out fast. He doesn’t have a rocket arm but he is incredibly accurate on short and intermediate passes and he throws a beautiful, well placed rainbow on longer passes. His accuracy to all levels of the field is arguably the best in college football right now. Bradford runs Oklahoma’s high powered offence to perfection and has a great grasp of the offence. Despite his relative inexperience, he should have no problems digesting an NFL playbook as early as next summer. He reads and understands defenses better than many seniors, quickly digesting what he’s seeing and making the right decision. Not only does he make the right decisions 9.5 outta 10 times, he’s been doing it in arguably the toughest conference in college football and that is something that will win him a ton points with scouts and general managers. By all accounts, Bradford is the real deal.
While they’ve been some highly decorated seasons, Bradford has only two years of experience under his belt and is still only 21 years old. The way he has played shows that he is well beyond his years in terms of development but you still can’t discount his lack of experience. The biggest worry I have about him is the level of talent around him and how much of a factor in his success that has been. As mentioned before, Oklahoma had numerous players named All-Big 12 1st and 2nd, 4 lineman, 1 RB, 1 FB and 1 WR. Oklahoma regularly rolls out NFL caliber lineman and Bradford rarely is pressured. He has been sacked 11 times so far this year and only 14 last year. His quick release is part of the equation but playing behind a star studded o-line has helped keep him clean. What happens when he goes to Detroit or something and he’s getting the crap kicked out of him 50 times a season? While his arm strength is more than sufficient, it’s not elite. That shouldn’t be a major knock on him, at least it isn’t for me, because of how accurate he is to all parts of the field and how quickly he get’s the ball out. Being that he is only a sophomore, his mechanics will need some refining but he is very close to being NFL ready.
It’s crazy to think that he should enter the draft after just his 2nd year as a starting QB but he’s done so much, won so many awards, played well in the biggest games and has basically everything you could ask for in a QB that he has such a great chance to go very high in the draft that it might be even crazier for him to return. Whose to say his stock will ever be this high again? If he plays great in the championship game against Florida this year he might be a lock for #1 if he comes out. He will need to prove that he is the best player on the best team and not just a product of that team’s talent but the talent in him is evident, that is not in question. The real question is: is he ready for the next level?
All eyes are on Oklahoma sophomore QB Sam Bradford as he gears up to face a fast, physical Florida defense. This will be the game where Bradford proves he is the real deal, ready to handle the rigors of NFL life or if he’s just a product of the system and all that talent around him. Florida can attack quarterbacks and Bradford has not had to handle the rush much playing behind an o-line that features 4 All-Americans this year. The National Championship game will be a big indicator of Bradford’s abilities and you can bet there will be a ton of NFL people paying particularly close attention to this game. Look for Bradford’s ability to handle the rush, his mechanics under fire and his poise in a huge game that may determine #1 overall in the draft.
Bryan Dietzler Says: “The lack of overall experience is going to hurt Bradford in the long run when he enters the NFL. Despite playing on team that has won a lot of games, put up a lot of points and generated a ton of yards, Bradford still has a lot to learn and isn’t quite ready to take on a starting role in the NFL. Things could change depending on what team he lands on and the kind of system that he ends up in and the coaching staff he works with. Sure, Bradford has a lot of potential but he is going to need a lot of help getting up to speed in the NFL. However, he might surprise a lot of his critics once drafted into the league.”
Looking closer at Bradford, you will see that his experience in reading defenses is lacking a bit and he will need to approve on that in order to be a success in the NFL. With this, it might be a good idea for Bradford to stay in college another year to help himself gain additional valuable experience that will only help him in the long run. The lack of experience will hurt Bradford so the best advice for him is to stay in school and get a little more experience. This way he will be much more prepared when going into the NFL. Bradford is great at running an offense and is smart and very cautious which happen to be important traits to have in a quarterback. Bradford has a lot of talent but is still not quite NFL ready at this time.
Robert Bryant Says: “He has much more experience than most people think, even though he is only a sophomore, he has started every game for the last two years. He did get knocked out of the Texas Tech game last year with a concussion, but outside of that he has been an iron man. He is tall (6′ 4″), and what I really look for is a quick release, accuracy and a strong arm, which he does have. Especially his quick release, the ball gets out of his hands so fast the defensive backs don’t have time to react. Now he isn’t a Matt Ryan that will set the world on fire as a rookie, he is a player that a team needs to have patience with. I don’t have a problem with the Lions drafting him #1 over all and letting him sit on the bench for a year while they rebuild their offensive line.”