Carl Bradford has been an extremely productive hybrid player for the Arizona Sun Devils the past two seasons. Along with Will Sutton, the Sun Devils have had an active defense that is able to win with speed and quickness and make impact plays in the backfield. Bradford has been moved around the defense and played defensive end, outside linebacker and inside linebacker in a few situations. He was able to take advantage cashing in a total of 40.5 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles in 27 games the past two years.
Bradford has been applauded for his hard work on and off the field and while he had another year of eligibility with football, had gotten his degree and opted to go ahead and enter this year’s draft. During his freshman year when he redshirted, he was awarded for his work in the weight room. Bradford’s style of play has been characterized as high energy and having a high activity level.
For the NFL, Bradford seems to be more suited to being a situational pass rusher. The less structure Bradford has in his role, the more effective he is in what he can do and that has typically come with his ability to get after the passer. His willingness to attack outside, inside and directly at the opposing blocker makes him unpredictable and can allow him to cause problems. As a run defender, he has questions with instincts, reads and angles, so while there is potential there, it is difficult to imagine he will be able to make an impact there early in his career, short of a huge change. He does offer some interesting ability in man coverage and could be an intriguing sub package player. Bradford looks like he should go somewhere on day three of the draft and help as a pass rusher, coverage and on special teams.
Vitals & Build
Bradford measured in at 6’1” 250lbs at the scouting combine with 30 ½” arms. His lack of length will hurt him, but he does possess a good amount of strength when he is able to aim it. Bradford has some nice burst and acceleration as well as top end speed and body control. His motor is usually running, but there are some situations where he runs on empty and his effort drops off, but they are few and far between. Bradford has some physical potential, but the problem he runs into is his lack of length and there only being so far he can go.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Bradford is able to time up the snap well and get an advantage pretty consistently. Especially when he is lined out wide or coming from a standup end, he is able to get up the field quickly and get an early advantage on his opponents.
His first step is largely good because not only is he able to up off the ball well and get a good amount of distance with it, he does it with a pretty good level. For the most part, he does a good job of making the most of his lack of height and length by forcing opponents to reach down to get a block on him.
Bradford’s ability to take on and shed blocks is above average. He can certainly get engulfed at the point of attack, but he does a few things well. Bradford seems to have a good sense of how to get opponents to get lost as to where they are on the field and in so doing, it makes it so he has an angle to make a play at times.
He also can shock opponents to get a small amount of space and attack a hole or ball carrier. Bradford also shows he can spin out of contact at times. In both situations, it tends to require him to be going laterally or reversing field as he does have more problems when it comes to shedding blocks when the blocker is between Bradford and the ball carrier. In those situations, he is usually relying on sheer effort to win or the opponent getting lost in space and taking advantage.
Bradford is pretty mediocre against the running game. He does not have great instincts or read plays well, which leads to a lot of guessing and missed opportunities. The design of the defense has him coming off of the edge a great deal and when he gets into the backfield, he gets too deep and in situations where he has to make a decision on whether a handoff will happen or be play action, he is guessing.
If he would stop at heel’s depth and read the play, he could make the proper read and attack accordingly and even if he is wrong, he can make the right adjustment. Rather, he just runs as fast as he can and picks a target. When he is right, he can make a big play but when wrong, he is not in any kind of position to make the adjustment.
Bradford is strong at the point of attack when he is able to create momentum and has his hips aimed at the opposing blocker. Not only can he hold up, but has shown the ability to collapse the pocket. The problem is when his hips are not aimed at the blocker or he cannot create momentum, he can get thrown around relatively easily. Opponents can throw him down in single blocking ranging from tight ends to offensive linemen. Part of the problem is he does not use his arms to protect himself or brace for contact well when he is being blocked from an angle. He is either shielded or knocked down to the ground too often.
Bradford can run down plays and will occasionally escape blocks, using spin moves or shocking the opponent to create space. Too often, he is too late to make an impact but occasionally he will spin off and make a nice tackle.
His angles are poor and he will take himself out of plays by attacking wide when he should aim straight at the mesh point. There are a number of examples where opposing offenses will block down and leave him untouched and he is too far wide to take advantage. Bradford has the speed and acceleration where if he does attack down the line, he can make plays from behind and chase down the ball carrier.
Far too often, he seems to run around with little or no method to his madness and while his level of chaos will allow him to make an impact, he makes too many misreads, too many poor angles and is too easily countered. At this point, when it comes to the running game, Bradford is a player who relies on activity to make up for relatively aimless play. It makes it difficult to count on him to do his job within the scheme.
Bradford is an intriguing option as a pass rusher because he is smart in how he mixes up his attack at the opponent. He has the ability to speed rush off of the edge, get low and bend around the edge, flattening out to the quarterback.
Bradford is also willing to attack inside and shoot gaps as well as go right at the opponent. His bull rush is effective because he has his hips aimed at the opponent and can maximize his functional strength, able to periodically catch opponents under their pads and knock them not only backward but drive them into the quarterback. He is athletic enough and aware enough to find the quarterback and secure the sack in these situations. Not only that, but his bull rush can help create opportunities for teammates.
His arm length could make it more difficult for him to win with his hands and get into the bodies of opponents, both with power and his athleticism. The good news is that he can get low and get leverage, which could help make up for some of that lack of length.
Bradford has the burst, athleticism and functional strength to where he could potentially make an impact at the next level attacking off of the edge. The one thing that Bradford does do well is that he tries to get up in the air and knock down passes. He has a pretty good sense of timing on when to jump and does not just go up looking to deflect the ball, but has the hands to catch the football; something he has done in a few situations.
Bradford shows a good amount of ability when he is an edge rusher who can bend out and cover receivers in the flat. He really does move well in man coverage and when he knows exactly what he needs to do. Bradford can run with opponents, mirrors pretty well and is physical in coverage, able to knock opponents off of their line. He is more known for his ability to rush the passer, but he shows a natural ability to help a team in coverage.
The Sun Devils is a team that will use their starters and impact players on special teams in hopes of gaining an advantage. As a result, Bradford has experience both in protection as well as on coverage units and this could be an avenue where he is able to make an impact on a roster early.
At this point, Bradford projects as a situational pass rusher and sub package player, but while he is able to play with his hand in the dirt and look good coming up the field from there, he is still likely better suited to rush from a linebacker spot. He is able to help in coverage and it would be easier to move him around and allow him to show rush and drop into coverage or vice versa. It is also the best chance he has to becoming a full service player and eventually becoming a starter.
Bradford has similar qualities of Parys Haralson of the New Orleans Saints. The former Tennessee Vol was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He has been used primarily as a situational pass rusher but has been able to function in a starter at times. Haralson has had some productive years in getting 17 sacks over a three year period, which is what could happen with Bradford, having some nice production for whichever team picks him.
Carl Bradford has some skills that should translate to the NFL including his ability to rush the passer and potentially help in pass coverage. The running game looks more shaky for him and how much he can help in that part of the game. His instincts, reads and ability to get to the ball carrier have some real question marks and make it tough to rely on him when it comes to assignments. Nevertheless, Bradford should be able to be a sub package player and with special teams. As a result, Bradford looks more likely to go on day three of the NFL and there appears to be as good a chance of him going in day two as he does going undrafted entirely.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com