The Green Bay Packers did not select an inside linebacker in the 2014 NFL Draft, something fans and pundits have criticized them for since the the conclusion of the annual selection meeting. Yet, after reviewing the game film of fourth-round selection Carl Bradford, it appears he would be a perfect candidate to move to inside linebacker and at the very least, it’s clear he can be a multiple position player in the NFL.
Bradford, who lined up mostly as a defensive end for the Sun Devils, is a player that possess good athleticism but lacks the size necessary to play as a down lineman in the Packers 3-4 scheme. At just 6-1, 251-pounds, some have questioned whether Bradford has the length to even be an outside linebacker for the Packers.
As a collegiate, Bradford was consistently making plays in the opponents backfield. In two seasons as a starter he racked up an impressive 20 sacks and 39.5 tackles for loss. So it’s clear that he knows how to be disruptive but the question is how those skills translate over to pro football?
To answer this question I reviewed the film of Arizona State’s first game on the road against Stanford. Thankfully, it was not just a highlight film, which is nice but the only way to get a true impression of a player to watch every snap against a given opponent, which I was able to do for this particular game.
Here is what I found:
Bradford’s lack of length definitely limits his ability to be a dominant rusher on the edge and hold the point of attack. He is a strong player and was able to hold his ground most of the time against the run but often times he struggled to disengage from blockers.
When Bradford was lined up as a defensive end, the explosiveness and athleticism seemed to be covered up by the physical battles with offensive lineman. He still flashed and made plays from that position, including a sack where he used an inside rush move to sack the quarterback.
However, the times where Bradford really jumped off the screen was when he was playing in a standup position. Whether it be as an outside linebacker or inside linebacker, you could see the explosiveness.
On one play in particular, Bradford was lined up as an outside linebacker, then stunted from the outside right up the middle and pressured Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan into throwing an interception.
Bradford’s ability to quickly stunt from the outside right up the gut of the offensive line so quickly did remind me slightly of Clay Matthews, who uses that particular blitz often to pressure quarterbacks up the middle.
Bradford is definitely no Clay Matthews but he is an intriguing prospect that is more than capable of playing both inside and outside linebacker in Dom Capers defensive scheme. He did struggle taking on blockers from the inside linebacker spot, where he played sparingly for the Sun Devils in some nickel and goal-line situations. But his movement and instincts at the position seemed very natural and he is more than athletic enough to handle it.
At the end of the day, Bradford may begin his Packers’ career as a 3-4 outside linebacker but it would behoove Green Bay to give him an opportunity to play inside, at least on occasion. Yet, as long as he is standing up then the Packers will be getting the most out of him.
Head coach Mike McCarthy talked this season about getting players, who can be multiple and versatile and the selection of Bradford is a perfect example of this emphasis. The Packers may not know right away where he fits best but they do know he can rush the passer, blitz effectively and make plays in the backfield — all skills that can utilized at multiple positions, which is how I see Bradford being used in his rookie season.