William Bradley-King is like most 7th-round draft picks; he is a good athlete with some limitations as an NFL player. In this case, the player is a bit less than the prototypical size for his position. WBK is listed on the Washington Football Team website at 6’3” and 254 pounds. By contrast, Washington’s starting defensive ends, Chase Young and Montez Sweat, are 6’5” and 6’6”, and each weighs between 260 and 265 pounds.
Bradley-King seems to make up for his somewhat smaller frame by being a high-IQ player with the nickname, “The Technician”. As a no-star recruit coming out of high school, WBK joined the Arkansas State Red Wolves in the Sun Belt Conference, where he excelled. However, he made the jump to Baylor and the Big 12 in 2020. While his statistical production fell off a bit against the higher level of competition, his strengths obviously caught the attention of Washington scouts.
On the first day of May, the Washington Football Team used the first of their three 7th-round picks to select 23-year-old Bradley-King in the 2021 NFL Draft.
One place they may have seen him is the Senior Bowl. These tweets are from Jim Nagy, the organizer, who is a great proponent for the players who appear in the annual player showcase:
William Bradley-King is flying under many radars but he’s a guy that many NFL teams are targeting among an intriguing tier of late Day 2/early Day 3 EDGE prospects. Going back to junior tape at Arkansas State, @Willgotthesack has a disruptive knack when he gets around the QB. pic.twitter.com/H7TPccM5Fa— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) April 23, 2021
William Bradley-King is from Kansas City (the one in Missouri, not the one in Kansas), where he attended Hogan Prep High School, and his hometown paper wrote a good article about him that sketches out his background.
A multi-sport athlete, Bradley-King was also a two-time Missouri state wrestling champion as well as a Missouri Class 3 state champion discus thrower.
Between those sports and football, he never left the gym.
He would ask [his HS coach Phil] Lascuola if he could use the school gym on the weekends to train in his spare time and would do extra defensive line sessions with assistant coach Roosevelt Gipson.
Standing at 6 feet, 4 inches, he fell 2 or 3 inches short of the typical defensive end that college coaches look to recruit.
“I’m used to the disrespect,” Bradley-King said. “I feel like Kansas City is an overlooked area, and I feel like we have some of the most hardworking athletes because we know that it’s overlooked.”
He eventually got his break with Arkansas State and never looked back.
[A]n explosive 2019 season saw him receive first-team Sun Belt Conference honors with a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and 8.5 sacks among his 49 tackles.
His attention to detail and will to improve earned Bradley-King the nickname “The Technician.” He likes to call himself a “pass rush connoisseur.”
With a year left of eligibility, Bradley-King entered the grad transfer portal and ended up at Baylor.
In nine games with the Bears in 2020, he finished with a team-high in breakups (four) and quarterback hurries (three). His 3.5 sacks also tied for the team lead and earned him All-Big 12 honorable mention.
Now, Bradley-King gets to work alongside Washington edge rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat, players he’s idolized for years.
“For me to play alongside them, it’s crazy,” Bradley-King said. “I’m sure I’m going to lose my fandom when I’m working next to them; now I’m focusing on earning my teammates respect and just coming in and showing them I’m a man on a mission.”
One draft profile I read about Bradley-King said, “Bradley-King is an athletic speed rusher who presents a lot of challenges for less flexible offensive linemen. Bradley-King should fit best as a standup rush ‘backer in a 3-4 alignment, capitalizing on one-on-one rush opportunities. He has some notable burst transitioning around the arc, coupled with some outstanding closing speed. Used almost solely as a pass rusher during the majority of his career, question marks remain on how effective Bradley-King can be working in space and in coverage. Look for a substantial role as a situational pass rusher early on while he continues to develop his power.”
The Draft Network says he is “built like a 3-4 outside linebacker”, but goes on to say that Bradley-King has seen most of his defensive plays begin in a “sprinter’s stance”.
Bleacher report describes him as “a power rusher....similar to a Matt Judon-type of player who wins off of power as a 3-4 outside linebacker but is limited athletically.”
So, he’s a power and speed rusher who’s built like a 3-4 OLB but has played almost exclusively as a pass rusher in his 4 years of college ball, accumulating 18 sacks in 36 games, mostly against 2nd tier competition. He’s expected to be an undersized backup situational pass-rusher in the NFL, who will use his intelligence and good technique to win a place on the roster.
“I take pride in technique. I take pride in football IQ,” Bradley-King said in one recent interview. “I feel like I’m one of the smartest football players and one of the most sound football players that was in college football.”
How he fits on the Washington Football Team
In Jack Del Rio’s defense, Bradley-King should get to be exactly who his profiles say he should be; that is, he will be a situational pass rusher with his hand in the dirt initially while he continues to develop his power and refine his already-good technique. Playing behind Sweat and Young, the use of WBK, if he makes the regular season roster, will be situational indeed, and he should benefit from learning behind two of the best in the world at what they do, whether he is on the regular roster or the practice squad.
I imagine that he’ll likely need to carve out some role on special teams as well; it seems probable that he’ll be part of the kickoff and punt coverage teams at the very least.
Unlike fellow 7th round pick Dax Milne, whom I spotlighted yesterday, Bradley-King doesn’t face intense competition at his position on the Washington Football Team, though it may be enough to keep him off the 53-man roster. With the departure of both Ryan Anderson and Ryan Kerrigan this offseason, the backups to starters Chase Young and Montez Sweat are a relatively young and inexperienced group of five 7th-round draft picks from the 2019, 2020 and 2021 drafts.
Ron Rivera was quite candid about the reason for this when he spoke after the draft, saying that it had proven difficult, if not impossible, to attract veteran free agent pass rushers to the Football Team when they knew that they would play behind the team’s 2019 and 2020 first-round picks.
Edge rusher depth
Last year’s 7th-round draft pick, James Smith-Williams, appeared in 14 games and accumulated 98 defensive snaps, but saw extensive duty (399 snaps) on special teams. As a 2nd year player, he will likely step up to a bigger role with the departures of Anderson and Kerrigan, and his rookie season probably provides a bit of a roadmap for what the coaches would expect of Bradley-King.
The group also includes another recently-drafted rookie DE, Penn State’s Shaka Toney, who is another undersized player; this one is expected to get some snaps at SAM linebacker, an idea that was confirmed by defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in a draft-weekend interview with Julie Donaldson.
The balance of the DE group is filled out by Casey Toohill, a 7th-round draft pick of the Eagles in 2020 who was claimed off waivers by the Football Team in October, and Jalen Jelks, yet another 7th-round pick (Dallas), this time from the 2019 draft, who has spent time on 4 NFL practice squads. In 7 games with Washington last year, Toohill got 53 defensive snaps and another 90 on special teams, meaning that his play and usage were roughly similar (on a per-game basis) to that of Smith-Williams.
The 53-man roster
It’s not hard to imagine a DE room that comprises starters Chase Young and Montez Sweat, backed up primarily by two of the 7th rounders, though which two remains to be seen.
I’m ready to go out on a limb and say that Jelks will be on the Practice Squad, if he is retained at all.
I think there’s a good chance that Toney makes the roster as depth at two positions (SAM linebacker & situational pass rusher).
That leaves three players, James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill and William Bradley-King vying for what is likely to be two positions. Obviously the rookie will need to impress to beat out either of the two players who have a season of NFL experience to rely on.
Mark Tyler, in his recent early 53-man roster projection, gave the nod to Toohill and JSM.
He also had Toney making the squad as a converted SAM linebacker.
Mark projected William Bradley-King to the practice squad (with Jelks disappearing), which seems about right to me. Bradley-King looks like a future contributor who will spend his rookie season learning and getting stronger in hopes of finding his way onto the regular roster late in this season or early in the next.