In the grand scheme of things, Sam Bradford’s football life hasn’t been that bad. A modest three-star recruit out of Oklahoma City, he was an afterthought — a depth signing — in Oklahoma’s 2006 recruiting class. Nevertheless, there he was two years later winning the Heisman Trophy and coming to within a Tebow of a national championship. Some minor hardship followed. After making the risky decision to return for his redshirt junior year, the gamble backfired — or so it seemed. Bradford twice injured his throwing shoulder, necessitating surgery that clouded his status as the potential No. 1 pick of the 2010 draft. But things again came up roses. Not only did Bradford make a full recovery, he beat out Ndamukong Suh — who was coming off one of the greatest college seasons of all time — for No. 1 overall status and the $50 million guaranteed that came with it. There months before Cam Newton would get “just” $22 million as the No. 1 pick in 2011, Bradford took home Rookie of the Year honors.
But here comes the rest of the story. In the avalanche of injuries, drops and coaching changes that have followed since, Bradford has overseen a team that’s gone 11-20-1 in his 32 starts. For every time he’s found the end zone, he’s been declared a fading prospect 100 more. The truth is, the book was still out on Bradford heading into Sunday’s latest disappointment. What many called “excuses,” others called harsh realities. Never protected by a viable left tackle, Bradford was guarded by the ghost of Jake Long on the blindside. Never feted with a coherent week-to-week offensive philosophy, Bradford was piloting an offense called by the man who helped make Mark Sanchez infamous. Never blessed with receivers who could, you know, catch the ball, he stood helplessly as Brian Quick muffed a beautifully thrown 29-yard pass in the end zone. It all built up to the moment where Bradford, once the subject of so much football good fortune, lay splayed on the sideline after an innocuous shove blew out his left knee. As he was carted off in agony, his team was going down in misery.
Assigning blame for Bradford’s stasis will never be cut and dry. When disappointment follows a player here, there, and yes, everywhere, his role in the matter will always be great. For Bradford’s part, his accuracy has come and gone while the only thing that hasn’t is his inconsistency. The closer he is to the end zone, the more pronounced his issues have typically become. But even after four years and 48 starts, it remains impossible to separate Bradford’s struggles from his circumstances. Some may call that a cop out, but the fact that Bradford’s had even modest success amidst his revolving door of linemen, coaches and pass catchers is a minor miracle. For fantasy owners, all the vagary really amounts to is a new QB2. For the Rams, the stakes are much higher. Staring down the barrel of another lost season, they must decide if Bradford — who has no guaranteed money left on his contract — is worth bringing back for a fifth year at a whopping $14.015 million. If a player who survived three stars and two shoulder injuries has one more comeback story. Even in a quarterback-rich draft, the answer is likely yes. But with Bradford, it’s never that easy, even if it once was.
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1. Peyton Manning
From a box-score perspective, Manning’s Sherman’s March across the NFL continued unabated Sunday. His 386 yards and three touchdowns are what fantasy owners have come to expect in an average week. But there was a disturbance in the force after Manning got smushed for a second-quarter safely, namely the fact that his always wobbly ducks stopped flying in a straight line — or as far. Manning’s ball simply had no life for the final two and a half quarters. Was it a temporary blip or a disturbing omen? For now, the guess is temporary blip. Manning gets the Redskins’ “defense” in Week 8 before going on bye in Week 9. The real question is, was it the first of many blips? That’s a more open-ended question with a less comforting answer.
2. Nick Foles
This is why it’s better to put your faith in good players instead of good situations. All signs pointed to Nick Foles carving up the walking-wounded Cowboys on Sunday. Instead, he averaged 5.5 yards less per pass attempt than rush attempt, going an unfathomable 11-of-29 for 80 yards. Where last week it appeared Foles might offer sneaky QB1 value for the rest of the season, it’s now abundantly clear his home will remain the bench once Michael Vick (hamstring) is ready to return.
3. Tom Brady
All year, Brady’s had convenient excuses for his uncharacteristically erratic play: Injuries and rookies. On Sunday, he had no one to blame but himself. A shocking 22-of-46, Brady wasn’t just vexed by on-again/off-again arch-enemy Rex Ryan, but out-right inaccurate. Brady badly overthrew a number of passes, and underthrew his terrible pick six to S Antonio Allen. There’s hope, of course. Rob Gronkowski is back, and Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins are playing better. But a down year is no longer a possibility, but the reality. Brady is completing just 55.4 percent of his passes, and owns an 8:5 TD:INT ratio through seven games. His QB1 value is nebulous until he gets back on track.
1. Chris Ivory
Don’t call it a comeback. That’s because it wasn’t necessarily a comeback, per se. Ivory opened eyes Sunday — majorly — by out-touching Bilal Powell 35-3. But he also managed just 104 yards on 34 carries, good for an underwhelming 3.1 YPC. Will that be enough to keep the lead job going forward? Rex Ryan’s comments indicate yes, but a more even timeshare is still likely in Week 8. Either way, Ivory is somewhere he wasn’t coming into Week 7: The FLEX radar.
2. Robert Griffin III
You name it, RGIII set a new season high in it Sunday. Most encouraging of all, however, was his 84 yards rushing on just 11 carries (7.6 YPC). It was the second straight week Griffin was more effective on the ground, only this time it was in a win. RGIII had little trouble getting to the edge, and got upfield once there. With the zone read rounding back into form, so should Griffin’s fantasy value.
3. Le’Veon Bell
Bell bounced back from a rough Week 6 to sting the Ravens for 99 yards on 20 touches. Although he didn’t find the end zone, Bell is now averaging 19.6 touches per game, and quickly locking himself in as an every-week RB2. Volume will do that for you, and Bell has more of it than the majority of running backs in the league.
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