2014 NFL Draft: A Dark Horse Cowboys Candidate In The Early Rounds

Christian Petersen

Carl Bradford could be a dynamic piece that could be an early step in changing the way this Cowboys defense plays.

Name: Carl Bradford

Position: Arizona St

Ht: 6'1"

Wt: 241

Games Studied: USC, Stanford, Wisconsin, UCLA (2013), USC, Cal (2012)

Position/Projection:

Plays all over the front seven in Arizona State's defense. Plays as an open side DE (7 or 9 technique) and closed side DE (5 or 7 technique), a stand up rush OLB at the point of attack, and a traditional off the line of scrimmage LB as the defense changed through multiple fronts. Due to his size will probably be primarily projected as a 3-4 rush OLB, but I think he fits the Cowboys' scheme as a Sam OLB, playing at the point of attack in the under front, or off the line of scrimmage in the over, and move him down to DE to rush the passer in the nickel front.

Pass Rush:

When his opponent is in a pure passing situation, you can almost guarantee that Bradford is going to somehow impact the QB. Whether from a 2- or 3-point stance, he gets off the ball like a missile. Rarely does anyone on either team beat him off the ball. His very fast get off, and (wait for it) quick twitch first step put him in position to beat the OT around the edge. When he gets to the edge he has the flexibility necessary to bend and lower his shoulder to give the OT a small target to block. This helps him be in position to turn the corner and be in position to make a play on the QB. Even when he doesn't make the play initially he puts the QB in early duress and gives guys on his team a chance to succeed.

You see him occasionally turn speed into power and get significant push on an OT. He's not a guy who will just overwhelm a blocker with his strength, but he is strong enough. Saw him get push, walk the OT back, shed and make the play on the QB for a sack or hurry/hit. Although the speed to the edge is his primary move, he is versatile enough to make the inside move. Actually saw him once take an inside swim move and blow by an OT who over set to the outside due to his speed. In addition saw him asked twice to be the looper on a twist stunt into the A-Gap, once from a DE position, and once from a stand up "spinner" position inside another DE. Both times he was explosive through the gap and was on the QB quickly, once he got a hit on the Stanford QB forcing a poorly under-thrown ball and an easy interception for a teammate. Occasionally his opponents will slide the protection away from him because of the presence of his college team mate Will Sutton. When they do this and leave a TE or RB to block him, he makes them pay. He over-matches these guys with explosion and athleticism, and gets to the QB either for a sack or quick pressure and a hit.

When teams try to throw over him in the screen game he shows plenty of awareness (2 INTs in games I saw, including one ridiculously athletic play). He shows awareness to slow his rush to be in position on a throw to a RB on a quick swing pass and made the play on the ball. Sometimes when he is making a run at a moving QB on a roll out or scramble he has a tendency to leave his feet trying to knock down a ball, this makes him susceptible to pump fakes which allow QBs to avoid him in space.

Run Game:

For a small guy playing DE he holds up OK against the run. If he's lined up head up with someone he can hold his ground, but he doesn't overpower o-linemen at the point. There are times when he is able to penetrate in the run game and make plays, creating tackles for loss, but he's not always consistent there, though this could be assignment based in the scheme based on his alignment.

He shows the ability as a point of attack player to chase the outside zone run from the back side and make tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. He also shows the patience to slow play the QB on the read option, and react to the action whether a give, a QB keep or a play action pass.

When he plays as a traditional linebacker off the line, his instincts are OK in the run game, although he plays much fewer snaps there so it is difficult to get a real read on this. He looks comfortable at LB, and showed the ability to use his hands to take on an OG coming to the second level, shed the block and be in position to make the tackle.

Coverage:

Although there are limited reps here, you see him drop a few times a game and he looks just fine. Again he seems to be comfortable in space, whether he's dropping to the flat area or running with a RB out of the back field he looks like he can handle his assignments here at the next level. I saw both of his two career interceptions in my study, and while one was (as mentioned before) an extremely athletic play, where he got his hands up to knock down the ball on a free rush, and dove to make the catch, the other showed his ability to see a throw to the flat coming, make a play on the ball, and return it for a touchdown.

Summary:

When you watch Bradford play, he plays like a Rod Marinelli player. He has a great first step, harasses the QB, hustles to the ball, attacks the ball when he makes tackles and finishes the play often. If you want your team to be the kind of defense that looks like it is flying around the field, playing fast and making tons of plays, this is a guy you want on your team. He was all over the field and made a ton of game changing plays (sacks, INT's, forced fumbles, tackles for loss). Bradford is the kind of player I could watch play all day long, I've said a few times over the last few days that he is a Von Miller starter kit to me, who will be a solid LB and dynamic player in nickel pass rush situations who helps his team hold leads once teams start trying to throw their way back into the game. He will have a second-round grade from me solely because of his size, and will end up in my top 40 players. I would not be against the Cowboys spending a second-round pick on him, and plugging him as an impact nickel rusher with the opportunity to compete with Wilber and Holloman for the Sam LB spot.

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