Vikings again a contender with Sam Bradford at QB

Why the Vikings can contend with their new QB, and why the trade is a risk for Minnesota and a smart long-term move for the Eagles.

| 3 months ago
(Elsa/Getty Images)

(Elsa/Getty Images)

Vikings again a contender with Sam Bradford at QB


An offseason of trying to figure out just what the Philadelphia Eagles were trying to do with their quarterback led us to the final weekend before the regular season, as they trade Sam Bradford to a desperate Minnesota Vikings team that has been scrambling since starting QB Teddy Bridgewater went down for the season earlier this week. In return, they acquired a 2017 first-round pick and conditional 2018 fourth-rounder.

In addition to Bradford, the Eagles signed Chase Daniel to much more than just a backup deal this year while betting the house on QB Carson Wentz in the draft, so at least by their own account, they’ve been working from a position of excess. The Vikings, meanwhile, lost Bridgewater while potential second-year backup Tyler Heinicke is also injured, leaving perennial backup Shaun Hill as their most experienced option.

Let’s look at the top takeaways for both teams in this deal:

1. The Vikings should again be considered a Super Bowl contender with Sam Bradford under center.

This trade was triggered by the Vikings’ current roster situation. Armed with one of the best defenses in the league, running back Adrian Peterson’s likely last few days of glory, and a young receiving corps, losing Bridgewater brought them from championship contender status to top-10-pick-in-the-draft contender. They acted quickly. (Check out colleague Sam Monson’s analysis following the Bridgewater injury here.)

Enter Bradford, who could now write a book about the number of offensive systems he’s played in since entering the league in 2010. From a traditional West-Coast offense, to a Patriots-centric offensive led by Josh McDaniels, to Chip Kelly’s up-tempo system, and now to offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s vertical passing system, Bradford has yet to settle in as he enters his seventh year in the league.

Inconsistency and injuries have marred Bradford’s career, as strong play is often followed by a disastrous game, all while the injury bug has been all too prevalent. When healthy, he has settled in as a mid-tier quarterback, capable of throwing accurately to the short and intermediate levels of the field while showing better than expected throwing down the field. If there’s a knock, the stats have always seemed to lag behind his play as he’s never been surrounded by a talented group of playmakers.

Last season, Bradford played with the worst receiving corps in the league, a group that dropped 7.6 percent of his passes to lead the league. He missed all of 2014, and while there was some early-season rust, he was one of the top-graded quarterbacks during the second half of the season. On the season, he actually finished 12th in PFF quarterback grades, at 85.3, one spot ahead of 13th-place Bridgewater at 82.6.

BridgewaterBradfordGrades

Stylistically, there are some similarities to Bridgewater, as Bradford’s average depth of target (7.4 yards) ranked just behind Bridgewater’s 7.5 mark, both of which were among the shortest in the league. Both players have been criticized for their ability to create chunk plays, and while Bradford could stand to take a few more chances, we may see him checking down to running backs and shallow crosses quite a bit in Turner’s system.

Bradford’s accuracy based on ball location:

Bradford Acc

The other big concern is Bradford’s health, as the Vikings used the highest percentage of seven-step drops in the league, leading to Bridgewater getting pressured more than any other quarterback in the league at 46.8 percent. The deep drops combined with subpar pass-blocking made for some ugly play up front so Bradford’s ability to get the ball out of his hand and avoid injury will come into play. Luckily, he led the league in adjusted completion percentage under pressure, and even though the passes were on the shorter side, it’s important to keep the offense on schedule if the offensive line can’t hold up.

2. Even though the trade makes sense for Minnesota, this deal is still a major risk.

The Bridgewater injury is an unfortunate situation for the Vikings, as he has ranked among the top 15 quarterbacks in PFF grades each of the least two years, but Bradford was right there with him last season and there’s a good chance he outperforms Bridgewater’s raw statistics from last season.

However, that doesn’t mean this deal still isn’t a major risk for the Vikings. A first-round draft pick is tremendously valuable in today’s NFL, and they had to give one up in this deal for a player only under contract for two more seasons.

Again, it’s understandable why the Vikings chose to make this move, and if anything it indicates the team’s realization that it is one of the most well-rounded rosters in the league. The graphic below represents Minnesota’s ranking at every position group (ignore the QB ranking, which was completed prior to Bridgewater’s injury and the trade for Bradford), and it illustrates a team that is very strong all over on defense, particularly up front with defensive tackle Linval Joseph, defensive end Everson Griffen and outside linebacker Anthony Barr. The secondary is anchored by Harrison Smith, PFF’s top-graded NFL safety in 2015.

Vikings rankings

The offensive supporting cast has some question marks on the line and at wide receiver, but Adrian Peterson is still one of the best backs in the league and the featured piece of a run-heavy offense.

This could very well end up being an excellent short-term move for the Vikings, as it reinstates their contender status heading into 2016 at the very least, but the loss of a first-round draft pick shouldn’t be overlooked as it relates to the team’s future.

3. The Eagles make a smart move for the long term.

Philadelphia officially steps into transition mode, as Daniel takes over as the likely starter and the Wentz clock starts ticking a little bit faster. Daniel has 76 career attempts to his name and he has been just about average during that time. He struggled during the preseason, ranking No. 56 of 84 quarterbacks in PFF grades, and there are few indicators that he’ll be a better-than-average starter this season, especially with a still-questionable receiving corps in Philadelphia. This is still a very strong Eagles roster, and they play in a wide-open division in the NFC East, but this looks much more like a rebuilding season for Philadelphia following this trade.

The expectation for Wentz was to sit this season in a “redshirt” year, but assuming he comes back healthy from preseason injury, he might see the field much sooner than anticipated. In our prospect rankings leading into the 2016 NFL Draft, we had Wentz ranked as the second-best QB in the draft behind Jared Goff, ranking him 14th overall (Goff was No. 4 overall).

Wentz is a work in progress, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he struggled if forced into action this season, but as colleague Sam Monson wrote during the draft process, Wentz has “jackpot” potential if he reaches his ceiling. It certainly makes sense for the long-term strength of the franchise to pave the way to build around Wentz, regaining a first-round pick that they had to give up in order to trade up for Wentz in the process.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Runner1967

    No they’re not Bradford has only proven two things in NFL: he gets hurt a bunch & he sucks.

    • enai D

      Yep, they are, and Bradford’s 81 career passer rating proves that he’s pretty much the definition of an average NFL quarterback. But then, that’s what Bridgewater was last year when they went 11-5 (with a slightly worse roster), so that’s all they really need to contend this year.

      • Guadzilla

        Bradford was average QB with absolute chumps at WRs, no rushing attack to speak of, last season, 2 years of rust and a relatively predictable play-calling system. And despite all that, once he shook off the rust, he was the 12th ranked QB in the league in the latter half of the season, as per PFF.

        I am an Eagles fan and think the Eagles made a huge mistake drafting Wentz instead of building around Bradford. I think he’ll do very well for the Vikes.

        • 81TinaKane

          To me it looked like bradford was rusty early in 2015 but came on in the last 8 games or so. I know he hasnt gotten alot of help being on bad rams teams an philly receivers led the league in drops…i wasnt a bradford fan but when diving into all his seasons an stats i think hes solid an can get better. Btw..im with you on wentz, he reminds me of timmy couch, for your teams sake i hope wentz can play

    • gorge

      Negative idiot…shutup.

      • Runner1967

        Awww did I hurt your fees fees?

  • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

    kinda crazy that the league average accuracy % for passes behind the LOS is only 70%, you’d think it’d be above 90

    • crosseyedlemon

      I’m guessing that most passes in that situation are just desperation attempts to avoid a sack rather than designed plays.

      • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

        good point

  • crosseyedlemon

    The Eagles correctly realized that Bradford would not be a long term solution for them so they got about the best deal they were likely to get. Even under the best situation, Philly is still a few years away from being a championship caliber club so now they can bring Wentz and the other young guys along in a patient manner which is a sensible approach. The deal prevents the Viking offense from being completely dependent on Peterson but other than that they don’t gain much.

  • Fuming Riley

    Bradford is not a sb caliber qb, vikes just threw away 1st round draft pick…dopes

    • KRD

      Trent Dilfer won a super bowl. Defense wins championships.

      • Runner1967

        Really the Vikes are now the 2k Ravens D? Sure they are.

    • SELRAHC

      Was Trent Dilfer a SB caliber QB? Read the article you might learn something.

      • Runner1967

        Yeh that once in a lifetime D had zilch to do w/Ravens winning a SB. Vikes do not have close to the talent on that 2000 Raven D. Try again.

    • 81TinaKane

      I guess brad johnson, big ben, peyton last yr, joe flaco, all were not worthy yet they all some how have rings

      • enai D

        Its amazing that we’re seeing these sorts of comments only a few months after the Broncos won the SB with a starting QB who posted a passer rating of 67 (well below both Bradford’s career and 2015 mark).

        • Runner1967

          Vikes don’t have near the talent on D side of the ball Broncos did, try again.

          • enai D

            Lol, 65 wat? What rock do you live under? Maybe it is somewhat more latent/undeveloped (e.g. Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, etc.), but in terms of pure talent they’re on par with any defense in the league, including/in particular Denver. To claim otherwise is basically to just admit that you simply don’t follow the NFL very closely.

      • CommonSense

        Big Ben? Are we playing a game of “which one of these does not belong”?

        • 81TinaKane

          Weird im pretty sure when we won his first super bowl ring he was nothing more then a game manager, in fact i belive his td to int was 17/11.

          • CommonSense

            If you judge QBs solely off TD/INT ratios or how well they play on your fantasy team then I’m not surprised you put Ben in that category. Watch games from the seasons he won Super Bowls. His ability to avoid the rush and extend plays isn’t reflected on the stat sheet.

          • Runner1967

            O boy here we go. Ben had a poor SB no doubt about it. Prior to that game in 3 playoff games on the road to get PS to the SB? 7 TDs, 1 Int and 3 rushing TDs. Let me guess that doesn’t meld with your BS? Funny how reality works.

          • 81TinaKane

            Yea really 3 whole games, my gosh throw out the whole regular season from 2004, 05 06, 07 because of 3 play off games….kids these days, offense ranked 24th in passing, averaged under 200 yards passing regular season an rushing offense was 5th in 05, but hey dont let facts get in the way because of 3 playoff games

    • enai D

      Lol, I see that you don’t actually follow the NFL at all.

  • 81TinaKane

    The vikings needed to do something, norv runs the same type of offense that was ran in philly, the vikings have two 3rd round picks an two 4ths as well as having 9 1st round draft pics in the past 4 years. The pick giving up most likely will be in the 20’s. Having shawn hill as qb wasnt going to fly. Bradford has never been on a talented team like the vikings…he has a strong arm an is accurate which is a staple of the west coast offense. One could argue bradford is a upgrade. I love the move, 1st round picks are gambles like any other pick. I dont think its a stretch to see bradford post 20 to 25 tds with 3500 to 4000 yards. Call it stupid, but it was even more stupid to stand pat an i applaud a team willing to push their chips in the middle an go for it

    • enai D

      Seems like more of a trade-off than an upgrade; Bradford does things that Teddy doesn’t do well (throw the deep ball), and Teddy does things Bradford doesn’t do well (make good decisions under pressure, extend plays with his legs). Will be interesting.

  • DrAWNiloc

    A first and a fourth round pick for a run-only team to upgrade QBs from 30th to 34th for one year at a time when teams are spitting out similar pivots like pez dispensers. Philly fans should be dancing in the streets.

  • David Nathaniel

    the real winner of this trade is the Cleveland Browns. Philly will be lucky to win even 3 games this year, which all but guarantees the Cleveland Steamers them the number 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.