With the 187th pick of the 2011 NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Allen Bradford, running back, USC. Judging by many of the comments I've read so far on Bucs Nation and other sites on the web, the previous announcement would've been met with a cacophony of boo's had the Radio City Music Hall audience been made up of Bucs fans instead of the sea of Jets fans who make draft headquarters home every year. Help me out because I always have trouble with this. Is it J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets!? Or, no, I think it's T-J-S-something. Ah, who can remember? Those guys should really start that chant more often so the rest of us can join in. The point is, Allen Bradford doesn't seem to be getting a lot of love from the Buc faithful, and I can't understand why.
Most of the criticism levied against Bradford seems to be that he's too similar to LeGarrette Blount, and that the Bucs would've been better served drafting a "shifty change-of-pace back." While I can't discount that such a player would benefit the Bucs, I can make a case for why Bradford was a smart pick, especially in the sixth round.
First off, just because most people assumed the Bucs were in the market for a running back doesn't mean they had to take the kind of player everyone and their sister had on his/her draft board. Most thought that surely the Bucs would select a Jacquizz Rodgers type like say, I don't know, Jacquizz Rodgers to come in and spell Blount on third down and fill that "elusive scat back" role. The Bucs defied conventional wisdom however, waiting until the sixth round to draft for depth at the position instead.
As Buccaneer fans, we should all have a firm grasp on the importance of depth. I needn't remind you of a certain broken down Cadillac and what a relief it was to have a spare ride in the garage. Earnest Graham won't be around forever though, so taking Bradford late in the draft was a smart move.
Are LeGarrette Blount and Allen Bradford similar? Yes. They are similar in size and playing style. Both are downhill runners who rarely go down on first contact. Both are fearless and will lower a shoulder to pick up as many extra yards as they can before they're taken down. So what exactly is wrong with having two of them?
People criticize Bradford's top end speed, but take note of his acceleration through the hole. Be sure to not discount his quickness, and always remember there is a big difference between "quick" and "fast." But Bradford is also patient while waiting for a lane to open. When running behind what is already a patchwork O-Line that the Bucs did not address in the draft, patience will be a virtue.
If you can't wrap your mind around Allen Bradford becoming a solid contributor to this offense right away, then at least think of him as insurance. For a sixth rounder, Bradford is a great value pick to add depth to a running game that features Blount, who could very well suffer a sophomore slump for all we know, and who doesn't have the cleanest track record when it comes to character issues. He spent two years in Junior College, had one good year with Oregon, and then punched his way out of college football in what was supposed to be his breakout season. For a team that has had to deal with Tanard Jackson and Aqib Talib, I'm surprised at the blind faith put in LeGarrette Blount after only one season of success and a checkered past off the field (or on it if you count where he knocked out that Boise State kid).
Would a smaller scat back be good for the Bucs? Sure. But that has nothing to do with the team selecting Bradford. He provides depth and physicality to an offensive attack that will take shape over the next couple of seasons. And they got him for a sixth round pick while other teams were debating whether to take a kicker or a second string long snapper from Slippery Rock University. In a couple of years, we may just look back on the Allen Bradford pick as another feather in Mark Dominik's already gaudy cap.
Now, if we can just talk about taking two tight ends.....