Player Spotlight: Sam Bradford

A detailed examination of the Sam Bradford's fantasy prospects for the 2015 season.

Chip Does It His Way

Chip Kelly enters his 3rd season in Philadelphia in complete control. Nervous Eagles fans (myself included) can only sit back and wait to see how it all unfolds. Kelly made a lot of decisions this offseason that run counter to traditional views on building a successful NFL franchise. Yet, we can't ignore Kelly's success in his first two seasons:

  • 2013 -- 10-6 Record, NFC East Division Title, 4th in Points Scored (442 Points)
  • 2014 -- 10-6 Record, 2nd in the Division, 3rd in Points Scored (474 Points)

Now, about those unconventional decisions...

  1. Rule: Don't Sign Injured Players -- Kelly turned this ideal on its head. First, he traded away perennial Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Then he gave major dollars to a pair of running backs -- DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews -- that have missed 27 games in five seasons. The craziest move of them all was trading FOR Sam Bradford -- a quarterback who's missed 31 games in five seasons, has torn his ACL twice,  and has a bum shoulder.
  2. Rule: De-emphasize A Position Only To Re-Emphasize It Weeks Later -- Although LeSean McCoy was beloved, fans understood trading him because Kelly didn't see the value of having $9mm tied up in the ground game. Except weeks later the Eagles signed DeMarco Murray to a monster free agent deal and gave Ryan Mathews $4mm per season to boot.
  3. Rule: Don't Overpay for Marginal Contributors From Great Teams -- Byron Maxwell was no better than the 4th best player in the Seahawks secondary, yet Kelly signed him to a 6-year, $63mm contract with $25mm guaranteed.
  4. Rule: Don't Give Up Draft Picks To Acquire Overpaid Veterans -- When it was announced that Nick Foles was traded to the Rams in exchange for Sam Bradford, everyone assumed the Rams threw in draft pick compensation. After all, Bradford was the one with the $13mm cap number, a horrific injury history, and a failed pedigree. Yet, when the deal was formalized it was the Eagles who threw in a 2nd round pick to go along with Foles -- a younger, healthier and far less expensive quarterback.
  5. Rule: Don't Let Your Best Home Talent Leave Town -- DeSean Jackson was shown the door last offseason in spite of leading the team in yards and touchdowns in Kelly's first season. This year the Eagles let Jeremy Maclin leave town in spite of being equally as dominant in the WR1 role. We've already discussed the trades of LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles -- two home grown talents with dominant seasons playing in Kelly's system.
  6. Rule: Don't Overvalue College Players Simply Because You Know Them -- The Eagles have nine Oregon Ducks on the roster. NINE. Sure, Oregon is a premier college program but the idea that one team warrants nearly 20% of the team's roster? Incredulous. As if that weren't alarming enough, the Eagles have another TWELVE (12) Pac-12 players on the roster. 21 players that Kelly either coached or coached against.

Is Kelly simply better than the rest of us? Is he able to see arbitrage within the NFL talent pool in areas that other NFL personnel executives avoid? Time will tell, but NFL history has not been kind to teams that spend aggressively in free agency for veterans; much less veterans with checkered injury histories.

Sam Bradford -- 24 Carat or Fool's Gold?

If you're an Eagles fan, the news of the Foles-for-Bradford trade left your mouth agape. If you're not an Eagles fan, the news probably brought about a snicker, a shake of your head, and a morbid fascination akin to watching a train wreck. As we've already detailed, Sam Bradford is a reclamation project. He's missed 31 games in five seasons, including most of the last two years. Why was Kelly willing to trade for a player with Bradford's history? Mainly because he doesn't believe in the concept of being 'injury prone.'  Let's put aside Bradford's glaring injury history for a moment and look at what he did on the field:

  • 58.6% completion rate -- 39th among quarterbacks with at least 500 attempts (2010-2014)
  • 6.29 yards per attempt -- 47th among qualifiers
  • 3.4% touchdown rate -- 41st among qualifiers
  • 0.43 fantasy points per pass attempt -- 42nd among qualifiers

Let's not mince words, Sam Bradford has been AWFUL in his first five seasons. The idea that Bradford is an elite talent that only needs to stay healthy belies the facts. Bradford hasn't been a Top 40 quarterback. Period.  Why should we expect Bradford to vault into fantasy relevance even if he manages to stay healthy?

The Best Argument For Bradford, Is To Study The Man He's Replacing: Mark Sanchez

Prior to last season, Mark Sanchez' career was somewhat analogous to Bradford. While Sanchez hadn't suffered major injuries, he too was a high 1st round draft pick that started immediately for his team (the Jets), but ultimately failed to evolve into a credible NFL starter. Let's look at how Sanchez ranked from 2009-2013:

  • 55.1% completion rate -- 48th among quarterbacks with at least 500 attempts (2009-2013)
  • 6.49 yards per attempt -- 44th among qualifiers
  • 3.6% touchdown rate -- 41st among qualifiers
  • 0.43 fantasy points per pass attempt -- 42nd among qualifiers

Do those numbers look familiar? They should, because they're nearly identical to Sam Bradford's career passing numbers.

 Sanchez ('09-13)Bradford ('10-'14)
Comp % 55.1% 58.6%
Yards Per Attempt 6.49 6.29
Touchdown % 3.6% 3.4%
FPTs/Pass 0.43 0.43

In essence, Sam Bradford enters the Eagles system as the same quarterback Mark Sanchez was a season ago. That's encouraging for Bradford because Sanchez' play too a massive leap forward in 2014:

  • 2014 Completion Rate -- 64.1% (+9% versus Sanchez' career average)
  • 2014 Yards per Attempt -- 7.8 (+1.3 yards vs. his career mark)
  • 2014 Touchdown Rate -- 4.5% (+0.9% vs. his career)
  • 2014 Fantasy Points/Pass -- 0.54 (+25% vs. his career)

After taking over in Week 9, Sanchez was the 9th best fantasy quarterback

RankFirstLastPaYdsPaTDsINTsRushRusYdsRuTDFPTs
1 Drew Brees 2,724 19 10 17 41 1 212.4
2 Aaron Rodgers 2,289 19 2 23 157 1 210.2
3 Eli Manning 2,837 16 9 4 15 0 198.4
4 Russell Wilson 1,985 9 4 72 487 3 198.0
5 Ryan Tannehill 2,424 16 6 27 119 1 196.1
6 Andrew Luck 2,030 18 7 28 149 1 187.4
7 Ben Roethlisberger 2,572 16 6 14 7 0 187.3
8 Peyton Manning 2,593 17 12 13 -16 0 184.1
9 Mark Sanchez 2,418 14 11 30 87 1 180.6
10 Matt Ryan 2,388 13 7 16 86 0 173.0

There you have it...if Chip Kelly was able to take Mark Sanchez and turn him into an accurate, downfield passer with Top 10 fantasy value, why can't he do the same for Sam Bradford?

Positives

  • The Eagles have finished Top 5 in points scored in each of Chip Kelly's seasons
  • Sam Bradford is arguably the most talented quarterback to play in the system
  • Kelly turned Mark Sanchez into a Top 10 fantasy passer last year
  • The Eagles have one of the league's best offensive lines (assuming the new guards can play up to expectations)
  • The price is right, as both Sam Bradford can be had late (QB17, 11th round of 12-team leagues)

Negatives

  • The injury history is undeniable, Bradford has become the litmus test for the 'injury prone' label
  • Bradford has been a bad quarterback through his first five seasons, ranking outside the Top 40 at most relevant metrics
  • Mark Sanchez proved capable of executing the offense at a high level last year, Kelly has another option if Bradford struggles

Final Thoughts

The Eagles will give Sam Bradford every opportunity to disprove his myriad doubters. If Bradford stays healthy, practices regularly, and performs well in the preseason, his ADP will steadily rise into the high end QB2 range. A 16-game season in Chip Kelly's offense would certainly be worth that kind of investment on draft day. Drafting Bradford is making a bet on Chip Kelly. You have to believe that the system is everything. You have to believe that Kelly can do for Bradford what he did for Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles. And you have to bet on Bradford staying healthy. That's a lot of bets that have to go your way. If they do? Bradford can produce Top 10 fantasy value for a fraction of the cost. The good news is he's only going to cost you a late round pick, so if he doesn't work out, it won't be hard to replace him via the waiver wire. I'm not counting on Bradford panning out, but I can't argue that his current price makes taking that bet palatable.

Projections

YEAR GCMPATTYDTDINTRSHYDTDFumL
2012 STL 16 328 551 3702 21 13 38 128 1  
2013 STL 7 159 262 1687 14 4 15 31 0 1
2015 PROJ-Dodds 15 348 538 4110 27 12 32 64 0 4
2015 PROJ-Henry 14 320 505 3960 25 10 33 80 1 4
2015 PROJ-Wood 15 325 530 3800 25 13 25 80 0 3
2015 PROJ-Tremblay 15 341 561 3871 25 16 44 148 2 1

Thoughts from Around the Web


Ryan Dukarm of FakePigskin.com views Bradford as undervalued:

Kelly’s wide open, hurry-up system is great for fantasy owners, as it maximizes plays and attempts at points. Looking at the Eagles’ quarterbacks from last season and their fantasy output, the combo of Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez put up QB14 numbers in the whole 2014 season. If you agree that Bradford is the best quarterback — when healthy — of the three, then you should jump all over Bradford at his current price. He’s an excellent backup fantasy quarterback with QB1 upside considering some of the pass defenses he faces in his division. And with Mark Sanchez essentially free as a handcuff, I’d have no problem taking Bradford in round 15 and taking Sanchez with my last pick instead of a kicker. If Bradford ends up healthy for week 1, simply drop Sanchez and grab your kicker, win-win.

Ken Pomponio of The Huddle also views Bradford as undervalued:

Two years ago in Chip Kelly’s first season in Philly, Nick Foles (10 starts) and Michael Vick (six) combined for 416 fantasy points, which would’ve ranked third if they were one QB entity. Then, last season, Foles and Mark Sanchez each started eight games and combined to put up 359 fantasy points, a total which would’ve ranked eighth overall among QBs. So what if Kelly and the Eagles finally have a quarterback who can last a full or near-full season? We realize that’s asking an awful lot from – of all players – Bradford, who’s started more than seven games only once in the last four seasons, but if he does, even the conservative math adds up to a top-10 finish. - See more at: http://www.thehuddle.com/2015/articles/2015-breakthrough-top-10-fantasy-players.php#sthash.JR35V0Da.dpuf

Two years ago in Chip Kelly’s first season in Philly, Nick Foles (10 starts) and Michael Vick (six) combined for 416 fantasy points, which would’ve ranked third if they were one QB entity. Then, last season, Foles and Mark Sanchez each started eight games and combined to put up 359 fantasy points, a total which would’ve ranked eighth overall among QBs. So what if Kelly and the Eagles finally have a quarterback who can last a full or near-full season? We realize that’s asking an awful lot from – of all players – Bradford, who’s started more than seven games only once in the last four seasons, but if he does, even the conservative math adds up to a top-10 finish.

Two years ago in Chip Kelly’s first season in Philly, Nick Foles (10 starts) and Michael Vick (six) combined for 416 fantasy points, which would’ve ranked third if they were one QB entity. Then, last season, Foles and Mark Sanchez each started eight games and combined to put up 359 fantasy points, a total which would’ve ranked eighth overall among QBs. So what if Kelly and the Eagles finally have a quarterback who can last a full or near-full season? We realize that’s asking an awful lot from – of all players – Bradford, who’s started more than seven games only once in the last four seasons, but if he does, even the conservative math adds up to a top-10 finish. - See more at: http://www.thehuddle.com/2015/articles/2015-breakthrough-top-10-fantasy-players.php#sthash.JR35V0Da.dpuf
Two years ago in Chip Kelly’s first season in Philly, Nick Foles (10 starts) and Michael Vick (six) combined for 416 fantasy points, which would’ve ranked third if they were one QB entity. Then, last season, Foles and Mark Sanchez each started eight games and combined to put up 359 fantasy points, a total which would’ve ranked eighth overall among QBs. So what if Kelly and the Eagles finally have a quarterback who can last a full or near-full season? We realize that’s asking an awful lot from – of all players – Bradford, who’s started more than seven games only once in the last four seasons, but if he does, even the conservative math adds up to a top-10 finish. - See more at: http://www.thehuddle.com/2015/articles/2015-breakthrough-top-10-fantasy-players.php#sthash.JR35V0Da.dpuf

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