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Additional Thoughts on Sam Bradford

On Thursday, I wrote about the mediocre (and worse) statistics produced by Sam Bradford throughout his career. Today, I wanted try to present the other side of the case. I’ve written about Bradford a few times here at Football Perspective, and some of those articles are instructive:

  • A year ago, I wondered whether Bradford would break out in his first season with the Eagles, and became a quarterback with the rare age 27 breakout season. I wrote that the odds were highly against a quarterback playing like Bradford through age 26 and then turning into a very good quarterback, but number one picks stuck on bad teams were the quarterbacks most likely to buck that trend.

In the context of defending Bradford, it is easy to point to a revolving cast of characters, both at receiver and offensive coordinator. His first three seasons in St. Louis, he had a different leading receiver and different offensive coordinator each year. In fact, he’s now had five different leading receivers in each of his five seasons, and last year was the first time he’s had a player gain even 700 receiving yards:

YearTop ReceiverRec YdsOffensive Coordinator
2010Danny Amendola689Pat Shurmur
2011Bradon Lloyd683Josh McDaniels
2012Chris Givens698Brian Schottenheimer
2013Jared Cook671Brian Schottenheimer
2015Jordan Matthews997Pat Shurmur

As a result, no player has gained even 15% of Bradford’s career passing yards. In fact, Bradford’s career-leading weapon is Brandon Gibson, who has 11.2% of Bradford’s yards. And only Danny Amendola is also over seven percent.

Brandon Gibson226165211.2%
Danny Amendola22913989.5%
Chris Givens1199936.7%
Jordan Matthews1179186.2%
Lance Kendricks1249006.1%
Steven Jackson1458715.9%
Zach Ertz1058165.5%
Austin Pettis1206904.7%
Danario Alexander746054.1%
Daniel Fells653912.6%
Brandon Lloyd583512.4%
Laurent Robinson753442.3%
Jared Cook423342.3%
Mark Clayton463322.2%
Brian Quick453152.1%
Darren Sproles652972.0%
Brent Celek202952.0%

That’s a pretty underwhelming set of receivers. One thing that might be instructive is seeing how those players have fared without Bradford. Let’s go in descending order based on the number of targets each player has seen from Bradford.

1) Danny Amendola (229 Targets)

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Okay, it’s not too surprising that Amendola has been better with Tom Brady than Sam Bradford. For what it’s worth, Amendola played in exactly 42 games for both the Rams and the Patriots, and started exactly 17 games for each team, too. He was targeted much more frequently with the Rams, though, and had 1,726 yards with St. Louis and 1,481 with New England.

2) Brandon Gibson (226 Targets)

Gibson was with the Rams until 2012, but played with the Dolphins the last two years. He was better with Bradford than he’s been with Ryan Tannehill:

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3) Steven Jackson (145 Targets)

Jackson has played with Marc Bulger, Bradford, and Matt Ryan. His prime came with Bulger; he was 27-29 with Bradford (and also getting Bradford’s early years), and then 30 and 31 with Ryan. His pass-catching efficiency numbers were pretty similar regardless of the two St. Louis quarterbacks, although that may just be the nature of checkdowns to running backs:

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4) Lance Kendricks (124 Targets)

Kendricks hasn’t seen even 40 targets from any other quarterback, but in the aggregate (Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis, Nick Foles, Case Keenum, et. al.), Kendricks has been a lot better with Bradford (mostly due to yards per catch). You can see that by comparing the Bradford line to the totals line (which includes Bradford, but also everyone else):

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5) Austin Pettis (120 Targets)

Pettis has the same entanglement issue: in the aggregate, the numbers are pretty comparable, although the TD/INT numbers drive the passer rating drop:

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6) Chris Givens (119 Targets)

Givens is a deep threat, which made him a poor fit for Bradford’s talents. But he was even worse catching passes from Kellen Clemens:

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7) Jordan Matthews (117 Targets)

Matthews was Bradford’s leading-receiver last year, but his performance lies somewhere in the vast middle ground between how the receiver has played with Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles:

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8) Zach Ertz (105 Targets)

Ertz is the mirror Matthews, playing best with Foles and worst with Sanchez:

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.15.30 AM

9) Laurent Robinson (75 Targets)

Robinson famously had a breakout season with Tony Romo and playing on a loaded Cowboys offense; otherwise, he has underwhelmed, including during his time with Bradford.

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10) Danario Alexander (74 Targets)

Alexander spent time with Bradford and Philip Rivers. He looked a lot better playing with Rivers, particularly when it came to touchdowns:

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Bradford has thrown passes to targets that have played with quarterbacks like Brady, Romo, and Rivers; unsurprisingly, those receivers looked a lot better with those quarterbacks than they did with Bradford. On the other hand, Bradford’s otherwise been playing with some pretty mediocre talent and has looked generally better than the other quarterbacks throwing to those players. Of course, let’s not forget that “the other quarterbacks” are often replacement-level players like Clemens. Bradford does have targets that have played with Tannehill, Sanchez, and Foles, and that’s probably the tier you’d put Bradford in today. Which, I think, is not exactly promising news to Eagles fans.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Bradford only had two full seasons in college, and the hype surrounding the Heisman Trophy seemed to elevate his stock. Only three games played in his final season at OU, and he struggled against Florida in the national title game the season before. I didn’t see him as a great prospect, even though he was an accurate passer. The 2010 draft was poor for the QB position.

    It’s possible Bradford could improve with a better supporting cast, but don’t know if he could ever be the difference maker.

  • Kaedwon

    Not only were his WRs mediocre at best in StL, but his OLs were horrid. Not for nothing are the Rams always looking for their next QB; they just broke their last one.