Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Mar 2010

MMQB: Bradford's Workout Should Clear Top of Draft

This week, our intrepid correspondent focuses on the efforts of Sam Bradford and Dr. James Andrews, introduces us to Scot McCloughan's replacement, details his recent spring training adventures, and just smells the citrusy air.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 29 Mar 2010

60 comments, Last at 01 Apr 2010, 12:01pm by bubqr


by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 8:58am

d. I'm not a college basketball guy (what a shock!), but I'd say people are handing the national title to West Virginia way too soon.

I know it's not football related. But, it's a really weird statement. Isn't Duke considered the favorite to win at this point. I think more people expect Duke to win, based on stuff I've seen on TV as well.

by Temo :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 10:17am

It reminds me of the old stereotype of sports radio talk shows where the host will emphatically criticize a statement of opinion that he himself has made up.

"I don't care what ANYONE says, Rex Grossman IS NOT a good quarterback!"

by langsty :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 4:41pm


by Spielman :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 9:23am

Regarding Bradford:
A guy I know has fixated on Bradford's profile at NFL Draft Dog, (http://www.nfldraftdog.com/2010-nfl-draft/sam-bradford.html) which says that the Oklahoma offense utilized sideline reads, meaning that Bradford has very little experience actually reading defenses for himself.

Other scouting reports list his ability to read defenses as a plus. Does anyone who is actually familiar with Oklahoma and its offense, as I am not, know whether there's any truth to the Draft Dog report?

by Jimmy :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 11:26am

Having looked at the report they seem to be taking about Oklahoma's system where the coaches send in a play and everyone on offense lines up. Then two coaches start signalling adjustments (with one of them being a decoy). I don't know if they just call adjustments or if they change they play, or both. The point they are making is that to some extent Bradford has been playing with a coach holding his hand or running a training wheels offense. Not having any knowledge of what the coaches are signalling I have no idea how big a problem this is. It does say pretty clearly that he does have to read defenses post snap (as even the biggest control freak of a coach has to let his QB do that) and does a decent job of doing so. They also point out the fact that he has been running a spread offense against predominantly zone based defenses while surrounded by elite talent almost exclusively from the shotgun. Contrary to all the press speculation Bradford will have a lot of learning to do once he gets to the NFL (which for my mind eliminates him from being a can't miss prospect).

by peachy :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 11:43am

My biggest reservation is about how he'll deal with a pass-rush. In his Heisman season he played behind an absolute brick wall (though when teams did get to him - the first half against OSU, the second against UF - he was much more ordinary.) We all expected to get an answer last year, when he'd be throwing behind a completely rebuilt line... but of course that didn't happen.

by tuluse :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 11:47am

Unless the answer is "he'll get hurt".

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/31/2010 - 10:19am

I completely agree. I really, really like Bradford - his accuracy and touch are sensational, his arm is not spectacular but is more than good enough, his release is quick. It seems to me that there is a mounting body of evidence that accuracy simply cannot be taught/acquired once a player reaches the pro level, and it is vitally important. His attention to detail on play fakes and draws impressed me when I saw him, and that speaks to focus and work ethic, also hard things to acquire where not naturally present. In many ways, I think the comparison Andrews makes is the right one - Drew Brees. However, his low start count has to increase the risk that I am (and the pro scouts are) wrong about him. Moreover, as you say, we have very little idea of how well he will be able to handle a potent pass-rush. My suspicion is that Bradford will struggle badly if asked to start as a rookie behind anything less than a great offensive line (again, look at Brees' early career), and I think (due to the lower start count hence greater uncertainty) he has more chance than Clausen to be an outright bust. However, I also think that he has the best chance of any quarterback in several years of being a hall of fame calibre player, and I think that justifies the admittedly substantial risk. Much as I love Suh, I think the Rams are doing the right thing by passing on him.

by Spielman :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 12:00pm

Thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to respond.

by Nathan :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 12:04pm

They also point out the fact that he has been running a spread offense against predominantly zone based defenses

FWIW, it's much harder to read zone than man, right? I mean even I can tell in a split second, "my guy beat their guy". And if this is true then he's definitely making post snap reads, right? I mean if you use motion to find out they're in man pre snap, then the coach can signal you to throw to the matchup you want... but nobody can diagnose what kind of zone you're facing presnap with much accuracy... unless you just don't mask what you're doing with your alignment in the college game (I dunno, I don't watch college football except the funny offenses like Navy). Or am I wrong?

by Jimmy :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 12:22pm

I suppose if you are getting man coverage you do actually have to find the guy who has beaten (or is about to beat) his man and make sure you aren't being tricked into throwing towards the help being given to the cover player. I would imagine that read adjusted routes against a zone defense would (or should in a well coached team) lead to the QB looking off safeties and so forth whilst waiting for the receiver to settle into a hole in the zone. There are plenty of ways in which man coverage can need to be read properly to avoid robbers and so forth and I have no idea what the prevalence of combo coverages and more sophisticated schemes is in the Big 12 - or any other conference for that matter. So I guess the short answer would be 'I dunno' and the long answer would be 'It depends.'

by tuluse :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 1:25pm

Just ask Mark Shanchez. He said he saw 4-5 different defenses in college and couldn't believe how much more complicated and intricate defense got in the NFL.

by Nathan :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 1:45pm

Is that like, 4-5 different defensive schemes (3-4, 4-3 over/under, 3-3-5), or 4-5 different looks/coverages? Cause just coverage shells should give you 5 in Cover 1, Cover 2, Cover 3 cloud/sky, and Quarters... and then there's blitzes. I dunno, that just seems hard to believe.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 12:15pm

Making reads in the spread is pretty much totally different from playing QB in the NFL. No doubt, Bradford would say that he read the defenses too even if the coaches signalled adjustments. However, playing against soft zone coverage from the gun is just not anything like the NFL.

Unless you're playing the Colts with a lead in the second half of a Super Bowl.

I'm not bitter.

But seriously, folks, any college QB still has a lot to learn in the NFL. You recall the seamless transition of pro-style offense QB's like Leinart, Quinn, and Sanchez, right? I would worry a lot less about Bradford's ability to read and a lot more about his ability to work.

by RickD :: Wed, 03/31/2010 - 1:41am

Even the great Peyton Manning needed time to learn pro defenses.

by Daniel2772 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 10:44am

It seems like every week PK is trying to cajole some team into signing PacMan Jones. Why is he carrying water for this guy?

by Temo :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 10:54am

Obviously, they have a lot in common. Pacman knows where all the best coffee houses are, and who's a better connoisseur of strip clubs than Peter King?

by bubqr :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 11:08am

I thought Dr Schefter cleared Bradford a while ago ?

by MJK :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 11:24am

The note about the NFL considering having a SB in New Jersey, and the precedent it would set, is interesting. I've always thought it would be fun to have a SB in a cold-weather open stadium. Especially because it would be hilarious if, say, the San Diego Chargers had to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Foxboro or the Meadowlands in the middle of a snowstorm... Not to mention having to have whatever aged, baby-boomer musician they got that year perform in a snowstorm....

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 12:11pm

It would have been funny to see Colts-Saints at Soldier Field in the wind.

by Aaron Boden (not verified) :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 12:14pm

There is no reason that the NFL can't have the superbowl in a cold weather outdoor stadium. The CFL has been having the Grey Cup outdoors for a number of years. Mind you, I think CFL teams are a bit tougher about things like that, as none of them are pampered by consitantly good temperatures like teams from the southern states.

by Sophandros :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 12:25pm

How much do people pay to see the Grey Cup? The suits in the stands don't want to freeze their asses off at the Super Bowl after dropping a few thousand for their tickets...

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 3:46pm

None of the suits are actually in the stands. They're in the boxes, which are climate controlled.

by Travis :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 1:55pm

Also, the Grey Cup is in late November, not the beginning of February.

by IceBlock (not verified) :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 2:07pm

I've been to the Grey Cup when it was about -30. Late November on the praries is colder than early February on the east coast. Who cares what the suits think? They'll still pay for the tix. If they don't, it'll give an opportunity for Joe 6-pack to go. And to answer the other question, tickets are in the $350 range (I know that's not actually a range) - nowhere near Superbowl, but enough that its not just a whim purchase. And the market is much much smaller.

by Sophandros :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 1:44pm

BTW, no one has anything to say about his inclusion of Tebow in the first round?

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by bubqr :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 3:58pm

As I've said numerous time before, I'm pretty sure he'll end up in the first.

What is more surprising to me is Earl Thomas listed as "most likely to break into the first round", while I think he'll go before #20. Take McCourty out, E.Thomas in.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 4:35pm

The more I hear, the more I think it's likely he'll go at the end of the round or be one of the top 5 picks of round 2, and not by the team that currently owns the pick. I don't know who but someone will trade into the first round (Cleveland? Buffalo?) before another team has a chance to grab him early in round two. The question is when.

by tuluse :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 5:01pm

He's not a draft expert so whats the point of even worrying about where he has players going?

by Jimmy :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 5:09pm

I actually thought PK's initial approach of just asking personnel guys who they think might go in the first round is more likely to elicit true responses than asking them who they are thinking about drafting. The problem with the approach PK has is that every GM in the league knows PK will to some extent trust them and print the gist of what they say so out come the smoke screens.

Unlike many draft prognosticators PK doesn't pretend (or deludedly beleive) that he is good at scouting players. I give him points for at least being up front about it.

by t.d. :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 2:00pm

I feel sorry for Rams fans. Maybe he'll be good, but you can't take a quarterback #1 unless he's a sure thing, and this guy has had the same shoulder separated twice the only season he faced any pressure (but I'm sure the Rams' offensive line will be fine)

by Eddo :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 2:19pm

And what position, pray tell, is worthy of gambling on with the first pick? Please don't say DT - while Suh and McCoy seem like "sure things", defensive tackles have roughly the same success rate as quarterbacks, and drafting a DT doesn't give you the positional value that drafting a QB does.

Seriously, Okung's probably most worthy of the #1 pick, but the Rams drafted their LT last year, at #2 (Smith). So for a team that wants positional value at #1, but doesn't want to draft a LT, QB is the way to go. Personally, I like Clausen better than Bradford, mostly for the reason you cite (Bradford's injury history/lack of success under pressure).

by t.d. :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 3:25pm

In particular, there are red flags with Bradford, not some hypothetical quarterback. Suh contributed as a pass rusher, unlike the recently highly drafted tackles from LSU, who were viewed primarily as run-stuffers, and players who contribute to the pass rush merit consideration at #1

Furthermore, Alex Smith and David Carr show that whiffing on a qb sets a team back five more years, whereas a bust at these other positions would still provide some depth/rotational value

by Anonymous23 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 4:58pm

I don’t know if the whiffs on Carr and Smith are solely due to teams selecting the wrong QB. Carr played behind one of the worst lines in recent memory in Houston. Smith has played behind way below average lines throughout his career and has had the misfortune of learning a new offensive scheme roughly every season. Not to mention the fact that SF has had either terrible or underachieving players at the WR and TE spots. I honestly do not think that any rookie/young QB would have succeeded in either of those environments. QBs who get drafted by broken franchises tend to be busts for no other reason than the surrounding talent surrounding them is below average and they often suffer from a schematic disadvantage. We’ve never seen Carr or Smith play in an environment conducive to success. On the flip side, when we’ve seen Daunte Culpepper without Randy Moss and an above average offensive line in Minnesota, he has looked rather ordinary.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 03/30/2010 - 6:28am

> Carr played behind one of the worst lines in recent memory in Houston.

I'll present this without belaboring the point too much. Here are Houston's sack percentages over its brief franchise history.

2002: 14.5%
2003: 7.6%
2004: 9.4%
2005: 13.2%
2006: 8.2%
2007: 4.0%
2008: 5.5%
2009: 4.0%

That striking improvement is not a coincidence. Houston made a huge offensive personnel change in 2007. And it wasn't on their line.

by Tracy :: Tue, 03/30/2010 - 12:52pm

Wasn't 2007 also the year that Kubiak was hired, bringing with him an entirely different blocking scheme? (One that was successful for 10 years in Denver no matter who was playing qb.)

by JIPanick :: Tue, 03/30/2010 - 1:06pm

No, that was '06. I remember because that was the year Plummer turned back into Jake the Mistake.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/31/2010 - 5:12am

Just so. Note, too, that the David Carr era Texans often run-blocked pretty competently - as indicated by ALY, for example. Obviously some players (and units) really are better at run-blocking than pass-blocking, but in most cases I think such major statistical discrepancies are the product of very good (Colts) or bad (early Texans) QB play. FO are quite right when they harp on about OL play being less important to sack rates and more important to successful running than most people tend to suppose.

by tuluse :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 5:00pm

Both those teams had plenty of problems not related to the QB that held them back.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/31/2010 - 10:09am

Hmm. I think the whiffs on Smith and Carr may just show that having lousy talent evaluation sets a team back for as long as it is in place and for several years afterwards, and that teams with lousy talent evaluation are liable to draft the wrong QB (which certainly doesn't help). Also that teams tend not to give up on high draft picks as soon as they probably should. The 2005 Texans roster was very close to being garbage from top to bottom, with Andre Johnson, Dunta Robinson and Chester Pitts the only players with any real value outside of special teams. The Texans had to recover from Charlie Casserly and Dom Capers, not David Carr.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 5:14pm

The best answer would (obviously) be to try to leverage the player they do take into taking significantly less than Stafford got last year. If that player isn't Bradford they might have a better chance due to not having to pay a QB premium. Not that I understand the principle of a QB premium anyway as QBs get drafted above their ability level due to the importance of the position and consequently would be paid better anyway.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/31/2010 - 9:57am

Based on the tables in this article in the PFR blog (looking at drafts between 1978 and 2002), I'm not convinced there's much reason to believe quarterbacks are over-drafted relative to their ability level. First round quarterbacks have a higher career-AV-over-50 percentage than first rounders at any other position, and a higher percentage of them make pro bowls than guys at any position other than S, DT and RB. The numbers in the top ten are less favourable, but the only premium position that seems to have a clearly higher top ten hit rate given the inevitably much smaller sample sizes is OT. Given the disparity in value between a quarterback and a player at any other position of equivalent relative talent, I think it's pretty hard to argue that QBs are being drafted too high in general. Defensive ends, on the other hand, may well be (though absent any detail on how players going from a college 4-3 to an NFL 3-4 were handled I'd hold off definitive judgment there too).

by Jimmy :: Wed, 03/31/2010 - 12:44pm

My main contention is that they seem to expect to be paid higher than their draft slot. I think that is bunk.

by Dean :: Tue, 03/30/2010 - 10:25am

The thing is, even if they decide Bradford isn't their answer, they still have a valuable asset in that #1 pick. And you can market Bradford in such a way that teams will be willing to trade up to get him. Nobody's going to trade up to take a DT first overall.

If they don't like Bradford and don't like Clausen (and there are serious red flags about both guys), then they can trade down, get their guy (whether he be Suh or whoever), and use the extra picks to fill other holes. Sure, they'll still have a vacancy at the most important position on the team, but if you don't believe a guy is worth it, you can't take him just because he's a QB.

At that point, they can use some of those picks to trade for a guy, or see what re-treads can be dusted off for a year. Next years crop looks much better, so maybe they could get their QB in '11. The danger being that by the time the QB is ready, Spagnulo and Devaney are looking for jobs.

by t.d. :: Wed, 03/31/2010 - 12:08pm

Ironically, scarcity at the DT position has killed several otherwise high caliber teams the last couple of years (Pittsburgh and San Diego last year, the Jets the year before off the top of my head)

by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 2:48pm

When i filled out an ncaa college bracket it was eerily similar to baracketology on sportscenter. I knew i was screwed even though i know nothing about college basketball.

My point is that doesnt this condemn bradford? If MMQB likes bradford then he will probably end up awful. Thats my prediction despite as recently as a couple weeks ago thinking he will be the best qb in the draft.

by Eddo :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 3:49pm

Assuming a player will be bad based on one pundit saying he'll be good is just as bad as assuming a player will be good based on one pundit saying he'll be good.

by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 8:56pm

unless if there is a consistency to it.

by Nathan :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 6:51pm

Just watched the Bradford highlights here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwstGmNajh0 (btw these little highlight packages the draft nerds put together are kind of fun to watch). Here is my completely uneducated take:

Quick release, throws well on the run, throws exceptionally well rolling to his left, throws the screen with good touch, good soft ball all around, throws routes over the middle with accuracy and decision (no hesitation), doesn't seem to be lacking arm strength on intermediate routes but never once saw him air it out even off play action (looked like he wanted to once or twice), seemed to stare down his receivers, never saw him stand up in the pocket and take a hit while delivering a ball.

by R. Carney (not verified) :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 8:12pm

After hearing 267 prognostications/predictions/expert's analysis on every player in the draft, #268 shouldn't really sway anyone's opinion. So Bradford threw at his pro day today...in shorts...to his own receivers...with no center...or no defense. If you want to put this in perspective, pick up a football, call one of your buddies, go outside and throw him a few down and ins, down and outs, button hooks, slant and go's, etc (I know this isn't what they are referred to in the pros, but it's what they're called outside, so please don't try to correct my route naming). Anyway, see how many throws you miss. If you're less than 70%, you've been on Football Outsiders too long, and that big bright bulb in the sky is called the sun. You can't tell anything from watching a guy whose thrown footballs since he was 4 years old throw footballs to his buddies. Who knows if he won't go out there and totally fold or be tentative in game situations? You won't know until it's too late.

by Dean :: Tue, 03/30/2010 - 10:30am

All too true. Every time I play football with a new batch of guys, they try to stick me at QB. I play a mean game of catch. I can throw it a mile, great spiral, plenty of zip on the ball, and decent mechanics for a guy who never played the position at any level other than the playground. But put me in a game situation, and I can't hit the broad side of a barn. We're talking worse-than-Vick level here. There's a HUGE difference, and the higher up the food chain you go, the more those defects get magnified. Bradford looking good in his pro day means that his shoulder is on schedule. He did what was expected. That's all. The only way it would mean anything is if he'd looked bad. Then that will be a huge red flag.

by Theo :: Tue, 03/30/2010 - 10:46am

JaMarcus? Is that you?

by Dean :: Tue, 03/30/2010 - 11:08am

Ha! I'm kinda stocky, but I'm not quite that bad. And last I checked, I don't think I have a legargy addition, but I suppose I still could be in denial.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 03/29/2010 - 11:52pm

post 238 good post. if s bardford cant look good at pro day then probably crap.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 03/30/2010 - 9:44am

Raiderjoe peers into his crystal balls and sees the future!

by JIPanick :: Tue, 03/30/2010 - 1:04pm

I for one feel I must now do my part to push this thread to the prophesied 238th post.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 03/30/2010 - 7:36pm

futuree looking good. It says Raiders make oplayoffs in 2010 seoasn.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 04/01/2010 - 9:51am

Are the oplayoffs held in Dublin?

by bubqr :: Thu, 04/01/2010 - 12:01pm

Very good one !

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 03/31/2010 - 7:40pm

orackle 1xo-042 goig to be crap in 2010. coach moron, qb crap, offenisec line sivish. defebnie okay