Nigel Bradham's fantasy value takes a hit in Philadelphia
New Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is bringing along some key members from the 2014 Bills’ defense he oversaw. One of those players is 26-year-old linebacker Nigel Bradham, who signed a two-year contract with Philadelphia, the team announced Thursday.
Bradham (6-foot-2, 241 pounds) was a fourth-round pick in 2012 and started 11 games that year after becoming the first player at Florida State to lead the team in tackles in three consecutive seasons since Marvin Jones (1990-92). Bradham spent his first four pro seasons in Buffalo, playing in 57 games with 38 starts. His best season came under Schwartz in 2014, when he made 14 starts and racked up a career-high 100 tackles to rank second on the team that year. He also had 2.5 sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles and seven pass breakups.
Bradham was the strong side linebacker in Schwartz’s 4-3 scheme and recently told Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News that “Schwartz’s scheme is fun, and that he plays to his players’ strengths.”
However, things changed in 2015 when Rex Ryan switched to a 3-4. Bradham started the first 11 games and was fourth on the team with 57 tackles until an ankle injury cut his season short. He clearly struggled to adapt as his overall grade ranked 79th out of 94 linebackers, just one year after he was the No. 28 overall linebacker in our grades. In terms of IDP fantasy scoring, he went from 27th (balanced scoring) among linebackers in 2014, to 91st in 2015. Making this even more concerning is the fact that the Bills home stat crew continues to be a very favorable one for racking up high tackle totals, and is partly why Bradham and other Buffalo linebackers have had heightened fantasy value in previous seasons.
Clearly, Schwartz and the Eagles are banking on Bradham returning to his 2014 form with a switch back to the 4-3 scheme in which he is most comfortable. He’ll be replacing Kiko Alonso on the tight end side of the field and will be flanked by Jordan Hicks in the middle and Mychal Kendricks on the weak side, forming what on paper looks to be a solid LB corps. The key to finding the value in the Eagles linebacking corps in 2016 will be identifying which of the trio makes way for a defensive back in sub packages, and is most likely to be Bradham, hamstringing his fantasy upside.
BOTTOM LINE: Even the 2014 version of Bradham was only a mid tier LB2 at best in IDP formats, and that was with the fortuitous tackle counts in his home games. However, as a unit his addition, along with other recent moves, certainly helps shore up the Eagles’ D/ST. Philadelphia figures to enter 2016 as a somewhat overlooked fantasy D/ST after the nightmare combination that was Chip Kelly’s tempo offense and a gassed, outmatched defense under former coordinator Bill Davis. So, consider the Eagles’ team D/ST with your second-to-last pick, or as a week-to-week matchup play in DFS, but be wary of committing to Bradham as more than a LB3 as he’ll be competing for both tackles and snaps with Kendricks and Hicks. The pre-season will be very informative in telling us how this unit will be used, and play a major part in how we value all three players in 2016.