TEMPE, Ariz. — Before Arizona State’s appearance in the Holiday Bowl, linebacker Carl Bradford’s future with the Sun Devils was a hot topic. Bradford said he wasn’t sure what he’d do, but ASU coach Todd Graham said he’d be "shocked" if Bradford didn’t return for his senior season.
After some deliberation and a reported third-round draft grade, Bradford decided the time was right to test the professional waters. As the NFL Draft approaches this weekend, Bradford feels good about the decision and his future.
"I’ve been waiting for months and months," Bradford said. "I’m ready to see where I’m going and where I’m going to make an impact next."
Though his junior season didn’t quite live up to his expectations, Bradford was ASU’s leader in tackles for loss (19), had 8 1/2 sacks and landed on the All-Pac-12 Second Team.
Bradford said he has heard from teams he’s likely to go in the second or third round, and many draft projections agree with that. It seems a good bet his future will be determined on the second day of the draft, which starts Thursday with the first round.
Since ASU’s pro day, Bradford has drawn significant interest. He visited or worked out for the Chargers, Steelers and 49ers. He worked out locally for the Patriots and Falcons. He also heard from the Bears, among others.
Because Bradford played ASU’s hybrid "Devilbacker" position — a defensive end/linebacker combo — it seemed possible teams could shy away from him, unsure of how he’d fit in the NFL. That hasn’t been the case, Bradford said, and his versatility could prove an asset.
"I think actually a lot of teams like that I can play different positions," Bradford said. "They’ve seen on my film that I’ve rushed from both sides and blitzed every gap, so I think they like that I’m versatile and can play really any position."
He can count Cardinals general manager Steve Keim among his admirers. Keim told the Phoenix media that he "plays like his hair is on fire."
Keim on LB Carl Bradford, "Really his versatility is his strength. He can play inside or outside. He plays like his hair is on fire." #ASU
Bradford, who’s been working out in California and Arizona, says most teams have told him they’d like him to play outside linebacker or middle linebacker. That would be a bit of an adjustment for Bradford, who at ASU lined up most often as a down lineman rushing the quarterback.
Playing linebacker would require Bradford to drop into coverage, which creates a bit of an unknown, but Bradford believes he inspired confidence during his workouts.
"Even though (teams) haven’t seen me drop into coverage, from my pro day and stuff they know I can," Bradford said. "I’ve also been in the film room with a lot of them, and they’ve told me they like how smart of a player I am."
Bradford’s athleticism has never beenin question. At ASU, Bradford became something of a legend for his weight-room feats.
What might make for a bit of an adjustment is the mental side. Bradford has always been an emotional player, and at times it works against him. Graham seemed to think another year at ASU would do wonders for Bradford, but having already finished his degree, he is eager to prove himself at the next level.
Bradford has an opportunity to become the first ASU linebacker selected in the first three rounds of the draft since 1987. Nearly four months after making his decision, he’s ready to find out what’s next. He plans to watch the draft with his family in California.
"It’s getting close, so my nerves are starting to go up a little bit," Bradford said. "I’m still pretty settled though. Not until the day of I’ll probably be really nervous."