IDP Bets for Breakout - Nigel Bradham
This series looks at the DL, LB and DB positions and those players that are primed and ready to have big seasons for their potential owners, much like Navorro Bowman just a few seasons ago. This piece, I continue looking at the linebacker position with another potential sophomore sensation that resides in the Empire State, former Florida State Seminole, Nigel Bradham.
Bradham entered the 2012 Draft after a decent Combine showing. Bradham is a physical linebacker, who was a playmaker from the outside, running down opposing ballcarriers with his quickness. From 2009-2011 at FSU, he averaged 92 tackles per season and totaled 21.5 tackles for a loss. His nine sacks show that he’s able to get to the quarterback and make plays in the backfield. He was looked at as a project and was ticketed for special teams as a rookie.
Buffalo drafted Bradham in the 4th round in a draft rich in linebacker talent, and he appeared in 402 defensive snaps. He ended up starting 11 games and was more of a situational linebacker, never appearing in more than 77% of the defensive snaps in a game. He was brought in more to stop the run and was among the top 15 4-3 outside linebackers in run stop percentage. For how much he was on the field, he actually put up decent numbers.
Bradham finished his 2012 season with 57 tackles and an impressive 14.2% tackle frequency. The only issue with Bradham was the inconsistency of his snaps, making him an unreliable option in IDP leagues throughout the season, even as a starter. However, I do like the way he finished the second half of the season after the Bills’ Week 8 bye. Bradham had four games at least five tackles, including 17 in the final three games of the season. So with just over 400 defensive snap in 2012, why am I so high on him in 2013?
First off, it’s the opportunity he’s been given. Incumbent WLB Nick Barnett and MLB Kelvin Sheppard are not returning. Barnett is a free agent (who still doesn’t have a team) and Sheppard was traded to the Colts. Buffalo is transitioning to a hybrid 3-4 defense and will feature multiple fronts and looks, so Buffalo might not have a typical base defense. One thing is clear, Bradham is going to be the on the field the majority of the downs.
To expand on that, GM Buddy Nix, envisions Bradham as a three-down linebacker and could be playing the weak-side role at ILB in the new defense. Buffalo is also going to count on him to blitz more, something he wasn’t called on to do in 2012, as he rushed the passer on just 15 snaps. DC Mike Pettine’s scheme is an attacking scheme and he’s going to be asked to rush the passer and use his speed, giving him chances to make plays in the opposition’s backfield. One such play against the Jets in 2012, shows his recognition of a play, and ability to stop on a dime to shift and make the play:
Here’s Bradham lining up outside on the strong-side:
It’s a direct snap to Jeremy Kerley and Bradham stops his coverage with eyes still on the ball carrier:
He’s able to make the play on Kerley, resulting in no gain:
If Bradham is indeed an every-down linebacker, I anticipate him being on the field for at least 1,000 snaps and if he can maintain, at least, an 11%+ tackle frequency than 100+ tackles should be well within reach. I feel more than comfortable drafting him as an LB3 and watch him produce LB2 numbers.
Mike Woellert is a Senior Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Follow Mike on Twitter @PFF_MWoellert