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Spotlight: Sam Bradford

posted by Will Grant on Aug 9th


Will Grant's thoughts

By the time the season started, any reasonable fantasy owner had to be thinking that Sam Bradford was headed for disaster. He was taken #1 overall by a team that had put up only 175 points in 2009. His top receivers were lost for the season to injury, and the team was signing receivers that were being cut by other teams before the season started. A rookie QB on a bad team with reject WRs and an injured shoulder can't possibly be successful, right? 2,800 yards and 15 TDs is about all you can ask from him. He's not even worth a roster slot.

Bradford proved us all wrong. Despite only one receiver playing all 16 games for the Rams, Bradford still put up 3,500 yards passing and 18 passing TDs. He led the Rams to seven victories, scoring over 100 more points than the previous season and even had NFL fans talking playoffs right up until the final game of the season. He finished the season as the #20 fantasy QB, and became the leader of this team from that point forward.

Before the lockout, the Rams added a new offensive coordinator: Josh McDaniels from Denver. McDaniels is known for his pass-oriented offense and fortunately Bradford was able to speak with McDaniels and go over the new playbook before the lockout. By the time the player-only workouts began in May, Bradford was teaching the new offense to his fellow teammates. Now that the lockout is over, McDaniels and Bradford are spending long sessions going over the offense, and Bradford is gaining confidence in himself and his team with each practice.

What to expect this season
With a full season under his belt, a pass-orientated offense and healthy stable of WRs, Bradford is poised to become a starting caliber fantasy QB this season. The offensive line is rock solid, and the WR corps has dramatically improved with the return of Donnie Avery and the addition of former Jaguar Mike Sims-Walker. Rookie TE Lance Kendricks should also provide an additional boost to the passing game, although it may take him longer to get up to speed. Let's not forget that Bradford also has Steven Jackson to run the ball and keep opposing defenses from loading up to stop the pass. Bradford certainly has all the tools in place to elevate his game even more this season.

Not without Risk
It's important to note that despite the lofty expectations, Bradford is not a lock to finish in the Top 10 this season. He clearly lost momentum at the end of last season, and had just one passing TD and six interceptions over the final five games. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that St. Louis was recruiting people from the stands to play WR at that point, but it is definitely a cause for concern. Bradford wasn't the healthiest guy coming into the NFL last year, and injuries are also something to be aware concerned about. He has a brand new offense, with brand new receivers and it may take some time to get everyone on the same page. Finally, let's not discount the fact that he's still a young QB with even MORE pressure on his shoulders now. When you're anointed the franchise savior, the expectations increase exponentially. The added pressure might be too much for the young QB to deal with, and he could become careless trying to do too much.

Positives

  • Coming off an excellent rookie season, where he stepped in and brought the team to the door of the playoffs in his first season
  • Dramatic improvement in the WR corps with Donnie Avery back from injury and Mike Sims-Walker signed via free agency
  • The addition of pass-oriented offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels back in February, well enough before the lockout to give Bradford an idea of how the offense should be run

Negatives

  • Just one passing TD and six interceptions over the final five games of 2010
  • New offense and new receivers means giving everyone time to gel, even if they are an improvement over last season
  • Injury concerns from the past still linger, and any missed playing time would be costly to both the Rams and Bradford's development

Final thoughts

Bradford begins this season as a guy that many fantasy players expect to ascent into the ranks of the fantasy starters. His performance last year given his position as rookie QB of the worst team in the league with the worst group of receiving corps was nothing short of spectacular. This year he begins as the unquestionable leader of his team, and he'll have a new group of pass catchers to help him improve on last year's performance. The sky is the limit for Bradford, and he has shown poise and leadership in the face of tremendous adversity. Look for him to really make his mark on the league this season if he can stay healthy for the full season. He's well worth a spot on your fantasy roster, but don't get caught up in the hype that has him going as high as QB8 in some early drafts. Bradford has excellent potential, but it's important to balance that with realistic expectations and draft him accordingly. You won't be disappointed unless you overpay.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

LHUCKS said:

Bradford, IMHO, is the best young QB in the game.

Bradford's rookie numbers made Peyton Manning's rookie numbers laughable. Bradford's rookie numbers pretty much make everybody's rookie numbers look laughable...and he did it with second rate WRs/targets for a good portion of the year.

Now add pass happy QB guru Josh McDaniels to the equation.

Of all the QBs that are being undervalued this year, Bradford leads the charge IMHO, the estimates are much too conservative.

4400 yards passing
29 TDs

Bradford will assert himself as one of the premier QBs in the league in 2011 and most importantly he'll win a lot of fantasy leagues for those owners wise enough to draft him in the middle rounds while their competitors are drafting QBs with similar numbers in the 2nd and 3rd.

We Tigers said:

I'm a bit surprised at the responses so far. Bradford's crazy-low YPA (5.95!) is a curiosity for me. That was a full half-yard lower than any other starter last year. I'm sure he'll improve this season, and Josh McDaniels should turn him into a devastating QB sooner rather than later, but that YPA is a Derek Anderson/way-past-his-prime Marc Bulger level number.

I guess you can read that two ways. If the Rams keep passing and he improves a bit--Orton went from 6.4 YPA with the Bears to over 7 YPA under McDaniels--he'll clock 4000 yards. If it's a bit of a red flag/sign that much of his 2010 fantasy usefulness was really based on volume more than performance, he might not make much progress this year. I don't know if the Rams will go after any of the FA receivers, but their receiving corps is definitely one of the league's least impressive, and I'm not in love with either of their draft picks. Also, how much time is he going to get working with McDaniels this offseason?

I'll take the non-controversial route and give Bradford a slight bump, but nothing all-star: 355/560 for 3708 yards; 21 TD/15 INT. A fine year, but right now there are at least 12 QBs I'd take over him without a second thought.

Raiderfan32904 said:

Bradford is the next Peyton Manning. That much is clear. You could see that he was special in College, when he would make stick throw after stick throw to his receivers in Oklahoma. He was the one guy on the field that made you just drop your jaw and say "wow!".

He's a franchise QB, no doubt. But he currently lacks the offensive weapons around him to be what he could be. He has become the face of the franchise, and will make average players around him better. I see him still struggling to be consistent in fantasy to make that be a QB #1, but has the upside, and is a great #2 QB.

rzrback77 said:

It is interesting to read the comments on Sam Bradford. Most of the projections seem to be on the optimistic side in my opinion. I realize that he just completed an awesome rookie campaign as he completed 60% of his passes (354 of 590) for over 3,500 yards without many outstanding receiving options at his disposal. Since he played so well as a rookie, most think that he is bound to improve, but neither Flacco nor Ryan experienced much improvement in year two and I believe that they both stayed in the same system. Bradford has a new OC (McDaniels) that is a passing game guru, but with the current lock-out situation there may not be many chances for a lot of new folks to get comfortable. The Rams were lacking weapons at receivers a year ago, but have added three options in the draft, but again how much time will they have to get prepared?

Many mentions of McDaniels and his pass-happy offense, but a year ago, St. Louis threw 590 passes, which was 10 more than Denver. How will this number increase much? The real opportunity for improvement for Bradford would be in the yard per pass attempt category. As a team, the Rams were 30th a year ago, ahead of only Arizona and Carolina. When looking closer at the ypa, it dampens my enthusiasm on how successful Bradford was as a rookie and the claims that his season was one of the best rookie years of all time. Looks like a lot of very short pass completions.

The Rams did rank 21st in passing yards in 2010, but that was more a result of the 590 pass attempts, which ranked fifth overall and they also ranked 10th in total number of offensive plays, which was surprising to me and could be expected to be reduced in 2011.

I think that the Rams will depend more on Steven Jackson in 2011 and their number of passes will drop. I also expect that their defense will be a little better and their number of offensive plays will drop. There is plenty of reasons to expect the passing offense to step back with so many new players and a new system that may be installed late.

Badgers Fan said:

Bradford is a fantastic quarterback and will one day be possibly the best in the league, but lets be honest the Rams receiving core has a TON of question marks. He is going to need a lot of his injured receivers to stay healthy. Assuming they sign Mark Clayton, if their starting wr's were Clayton Danario Avery and they all managed to stay healthy, that's actually very good, plus Kendricks is a great pass catching TE. Unfortunately, all 3 of those guys were hurt at different points last year, as was Laurent Robinson. It appears Robinson won't make the squad, and Gibson's spot is 50-50 due to the 2 rookie wr's they picked up in the draft. There's actually some decent names and depth here, but I think his numbers rely, more than most qb's, on their health. Because he saw last year with possession receivers Amendola and Gibson (actually dropped a lot of passes, wasn't even a good possession receiver lol), there was no vertical game. So all tho it's not a popular thing, I'll give 2 seperate sorts of projections. As a last remark, I'll add that I think Steven Jackson gets more passes thrown his way, and less carries, so that benefits Bradford because of Steven's receiving skills. Lets also assume his receivers hold onto the ball: Only four quarterbacks had their completion percentages affected more by dropped passes than Sam Bradford in 2010, according to STATS LLC.

MrTwo94 said:

People need to settle down with these projections. Bradford had a good rookie year. He's not the first guy to do this. His 60% completion percentage looks impressive but his 6.0 ypa quickly offsets any warm and fuzzies. His 3512 yds were simply compiled due to sheer number of throws. He ranked 3rd in the league in attemps and 12th in yards. There is nothing wrong with expecting an improvement in year two, although someone has already pointed out that Matt Ryan actually declined in several areas from year one to year two. In all likelihood, his attempts will decrease some. Hopefully his ypa will increase to offset it, but it is very unlikely that the attempts would remain so high and his ypa would take the meteoric rise that would be required to achieve over 4000 yards. After watching him in the Big 12, I can't help but feel his chances of a 16 game season are not great. I was amazed he made it through his rookie season. Maybe he has become more durable, but I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up injured as frequently (and easily) as Matt Stafford. For that reason, even if I did believe he had a huge upside, I'd still draft with caution.


Sam Bradford projections

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