Allen Bradford will find stiff competition for playing time in his new NFL home, but that shouldn't be a problem. The former USC running back has already been through that battle and it didn't slow him down a bit.
On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Bradford in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, making him the 187th player chosen overall. As such, Bradford joins a backfield that could potentially include LeGarrette Blount, Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham and Kareem Huggins, depending upon coming developments in free agency and the training room.
Like Blount, Bradford brings impressive size to the backfield, with a 6-0, 235-pound frame that made him a challenge between the tackles for Trojan opponents, especially over the past two seasons. And like Erik Lorig, another former Pac-10 standout in the Bucs' running back group, Bradford was originally a defensive player.
A highly-recruited linebacker out of San Bernardino, Bradford was originally thought to be a safety upon his arrival at USC. However, he was quickly converted to offense and began his collegiate career as a power runner while also contributing immediately on special teams. That could have been a daunting request for Bradford, given that USC's tailback stable is often four or five deep in five-star recruits, but he fought his way through the crowd to become one of the team's most productive runners.
While he carried the ball only sparingly in his first two seasons, he was one of the Trojans' top special teams players by his sophomore season, with 11 kick-coverage tackles in 2007. His emergence in the backfield began in 2009, after he missed most of 2008 as a medical redshirt. As a junior, he carried 115 times for 668 yards and eight touchdowns. While his TD total is a good indication that the Trojans liked to use the powerful Bradford near the goal line (13.1% of his career carries were in the red zone), his 5.81 yards per carry also showed his big-play ability.
Last year, new USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin named Marc Tyler the Trojans' starting back ahead of Bradford, but the two ended up being a very productive tandem. Tyler led the team with 913 yards and nine touchdowns, but Bradford was just behind at 794 yards and five scores. Moreover, Bradford's impressive 7.2 yards per carry was easily the best mark among the Trojans' many backs.
Like the Buccaneers' fifth-round pick, Florida safety Ahmad Black, Bradford capped his collegiate career with perhaps his finest game to date. In the Trojans' 2010 season finale at UCLA, Bradford ran for 212 yards and added a 47-yard touchdown catch.
Obviously, the Buccaneers found great success with Blount as a powerful back with breakaway potential last year, and now Tampa Bay's backfield contains even more beef. Taken in tandem with Tampa Bay's fourth-round selection of Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker, which should allow the team to make greater use of its single-back/two-TE schemes, the addition of Bradford could signal the Buccaneers' intentions of relying even more on a power running attack.
No matter how long it takes Bradford to carve out a role in the Bucs' rushing attack, he could make an instant impact on special teams. He was considered a very sure tackler at USC, obviously a product of his defensive background. The Buccaneers often use later-round picks on players who seem sure to help out in the kicking game while possibly developing into an asset on offense or defense. Recent examples include Lorig, safety Cody Grimm and linebackers Dekoda Watson and Geno Hayes.