For many NFL prospects, especially in the later rounds of the NFL Draft, the moment they’re selected is the height of their NFL career. Being drafted isn’t a golden ticket to a roster spot; someone can excel in college, but if they can’t grasp the NFL game quickly they’ll find themselves stuck on the practice squad (if they’re lucky).
Today’s subject, a free agent pickup by the Buffalo Bills this offseason, took such a route. He was a fourth-round pick in 2014, but didn’t make his NFL debut until two-and-a-half seasons later. Now on his third team in less than 12 months, he’s probably looking at his last chance to latch on to a team.
Name: Carl Bradford
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 248 lbs.
College: Arizona State
Draft: Round 4, Pick 121 by the Green Bay Packers (2014)
Financial Situation (per Spotrac): Bradford is on a one-year deal that will pay him $615,000 this season. None of that is guaranteed money.
2016 Recap: After spending his first two seasons on the practice squad, Bradford saw his first live game action in the second half of 2016. He split the year between the Packers (four games) and the San Francisco 49ers (two games), seeing limited action on the defense while primarily being relegated to a special teams role. He totaled three tackles on the year.
Positional Outlook: While the Bills are lacking high-end talent at the linebacker position (since everybody seems to consider Lorenzo Alexander as a one-year wonder), the depth chart has plenty of guys who belong in the NFL. Bradford’s chances at the final roster likely depend on the performance of draft picks Matt Milano and Tanner Vallejo in training camp and the preseason.
2017 Offseason: Bradford signed with the Bills a few hours into the free agency period on March 9.
2017 Season Outlook: As I alluded to earlier, the depth chart isn’t top-heavy at linebacker but is well-stocked with players who can play in the NFL. For someone like Bradford, there’s an opportunity to make the roster with a strong offseason. There’s also a good chance that he’ll find himself on the chopping block. He does bring value as a special teams player, but there are plenty of those guys on the roster now.
If one of the draftees is practice squad-bound, Bradford has a shot. If they both stand out, he’s on the outside looking in.