Is Sam Bradford Worthwhile in Fantasy Football This Year?
Since being drafted with the number one overall pick in 2010, Sam Bradford has consistently failed to live up to the lofty expectations that come with the pick. Whether due to a shoddy offensive line, lack of weapons, or inconsistent play on his part, Bradford has been a mediocre quarterback for the duration of his career. Now entering his fifth season and coming off a brutal knee injury, does Bradford have any chance at fantasy relevance?
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Our advanced metrics, mainly Net Expected Points (NEP), reinforce the belief that Bradford has been, at best, a middling quarterback for the duration of his career.
|Year||Drop Backs||Passing NEP||Per Pass||Success Rate|
In 2010, of passers with more than 200 drop backs, Bradford was the 32nd overall signal-caller according to NEP, with only Jimmy Clausen putting up a worse score. In 2011, under the same criteria, Bradford was 34th, and only Blaine Gabbert was worse.
Over the past two seasons, Bradford has finished 24th, with subpar quarterbacks like Christian Ponder, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel and Matt McGloin finishing ahead of him. One bad season can be explained, but four consecutive seasons of performing with the likes of Blaine Gabbert and Jimmy Clausen indicates that Bradford is pretty below average.
While many will point to his strong touchdown-to-interception ratio (14-to-4) last season before his injury as reason to believe he'll come through with something of substance in 2014, keep in mind that 10 of his 14 touchdowns came from six yards away from the end zone or closer. The remaining four were from 10, 13, 16 and 31 yards away. This is why he didn't score highly within our Net Expected Points metric, because he wasn't necessarily playing above expectation given the short touchdown distances.
In truth, it’s time to drop the “potential” tag from Bradford, and say it like it is. Bradford is a mediocre quarterback, whose numbers were inflated in college by a spread offensive system.
The Rams coaching staff, consisting of ultra-conservative play callers Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer, doesn’t inspire much confidence for a Bradford resurgence. Fisher’s teams have always predicated themselves on playing tough defense, running the ball effectively, and trying to win close games. In addition, Schottenheimer’s play-calling has been historically bad for quarterbacks. He was once the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets for six seasons, and is now entering his third year with the St. Louis Rams. In his eight seasons, Schottenheimer’s quarterbacks have only topped a Passing NEP above 10.10 twice. For reference, last year's group of quarterbacks with more than 200 drop backs saw 22 topping that 10.10 threshold. Schottenheimer’s quarterbacks have also scored a negative Passing NEP in five of his eight years.
Compounded by this conservative offense is the fact that Bradford will have to go against three of the toughest defenses in the league next year in the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals - the first, seventh and fifth ranked defenses according to our metrics from a season ago. With a complete lack of creativity on offense, defenses like these can pin their ears back and attack the Rams. While Bradford may be a talented quarterback who could potentially thrive in an open system, the Rams offensive philosophy puts a cap on any potential.
The Supporting Cast
Sam Bradford apologists will tell you that he's never had enough talented weapons around him to sustain success, and, for the most part, those people are right. Bradford hasn’t had a 700-yard receiver since he’s been with the Rams, and has simply never had a reliable target. The Rams bolstered their offensive line this off-season with the drafting of tackle Greg Robinson, however they did very little to improve Bradford’s weapons. Their main addition was Kenny Britt, who is coming off an injury-riddled and largely ineffective 2013 season (and career).
The Rams will be relying on incumbents Tavon Austin, Jared Cook and Steadman Bailey to take a big leap in 2014, and even if all three progress, the Rams will still be left with a mediocre receiving corp. There are some talented players on the Rams offense, but outside of Zac Stacy, none of them have fulfilled their potential yet. I don’t believe Bradford has the ability to elevate his supporting cast given his historical metrics, and this group doesn’t seem to be enough to propel Bradford from mediocrity.
The numbers say Bradford is a bottom-15 quarterback, the system is conservative, the division is devastatingly difficult, the weapons are average and Bradford could be considered injury prone. Don’t waste a pick on Bradford in fantasy football this year - he's nothing more than a bye week replacement in standard fantasy leagues.