A look at Bradford's NFL future

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford said he will enter the NFL Draft, if he’s healthy. I assume Sam and his family will go without hiring an agent until they know for certain if he intends to make the leap to the NFL. As I’ve written previously, Sam is surrounded by knowledgeable people, including his father, who will most likely be the point man gathering information from the league. The fact they began the process last year will likely give them a better understanding of it this time.

I would assume the second injury to his throwing shoulder put Bradford over the top since he clearly wouldn’t want to be in the same situation again next season with the Sooners. The “what if” factor is just too big to ignore.

Pundits are already saying Sam will not be a top-10 pick in the 2010 draft, probably because there are too many question marks to earn him substantial guaranteed money.

If Bradford does decide to commit to the draft, he has until Jan. 15 to submit his name. So the big question is: Will he be far enough along physically by then to make a definitive decision? With an expected rehab time of four to six months, that puts his full recovery at the end of April, leaving little or no time for a workout before the draft. No workout means he would be a “high-risk” draft choice. Being high risk could mean the second round.

I talked to a few scouts and GMs about Sam’s situation and got an interesting spectrum of opinions. One well-known scout said there’s always one team willing to take a gamble, and as long as Bradford is physically repaired, he can still go in the top 10. He brought up 49ers rookie Michael Crabtree as a prime example. Michael was a gamble, and questions about his health were not fully answered by draft day, but he still landed in the top 10 with an attractive deal.

Another director of college scouting told me that Bradford is a late first-rounder now or early second at best. He said his team would not touch him with the first 20 picks.

Another GM told me, “If I had an aging QB that had a few years left, Sam would be the perfect QB to draft and incubate, thus meriting a late first-round pick.”

I’m sure if I had talked to all 32 teams, I would have gotten a lot of the same feedback.

So let’s say Sam is able to work out impressively by April. Most likely, it still won’t be enough to get him in the top 10, but it might be enough to keep him in the first round. Whichever agent he selects, I’m sure he’ll want to design a heavily incentive-laden contract. A deal for Bradford will most likely be somewhat different than the ones we typically see in the first round. I can see a team making an exception to the slotting rule on backside incentives. If there’s one position teams have some tolerance for, it’s QB. An owner, a GM and a head coach want their QB to be happy. Getting paid is being happy.

The other pre-draft occurrence might be Bradford’s agent telling GMs and owners what he’s looking for before the draft. He or she will set expectations for NFL teams on the types of incentives he’ll be looking for in the contract. The agent may go as far as designing a top-10 contract that teams might be comfortable with in order to bait teams in need of a QB. An agent would only do this if he was certain Sam would not be picked in the top 15. I would do this. Actually, if there was a strong consensus that he had no chance of being a top-10 pick, I would meet with every team in the top 10, depending on their QB needs, to discuss potential contract scenarios -- although this could be difficult for an agent with several top-10 picks to pull off.

Based on Sam’s injuries and performance to date, he’ll most likely be attractive to a team with an older QB near retirement or on the decline. So it’s possible he could develop a lot like Aaron Rodgers did in Green Bay.

Two other factors to note for those who are speculating about Sam’s future:

Drew Brees: Drew actually got stronger after his shoulder surgery, thanks to QB guru and fitness specialist Todd Durkin. I hear Todd is on the Bradfords’ radar. If he isn’t, he should be. Willis McGahee was a former first-rounder coming off a knee injury who was purposely put on the shelf on draft day. Sam could be handled the same way.

Regardless of when or if Bradford plays in the NFL, if he’s productive, he’ll get paid and get paid handsomely. That’s the way it works. Anything he left on the table last year may be recaptured down the road.

Follow me on Twitter: jackbechta

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