Name: Jordan Brailford
Position: Edge Rusher
School: Oklahoma State
A productive, movable edge with athletic upside, Brailford is a likely day three pick who has helped himself tremendously with a strong combine and showcase performances.
Brailford possesses modest length for an NFL edge rusher. He is not undersized per se, but he may have some issues creating separation. Brailford’s frame is adequate for a stand up rusher, but may need to add weight should he play with his hand on the ground at the next level.
In terms of straight line athleticism, Brailford is excellent. He is explosive out of his stance with strong get-off and early acceleration. Much of his pass rush success comes from his ability to burn tackles up field, either early off the snap or purely with his long speed. Brailford finished top-10 among edge rushers and defensive linemen in the 40, vertical and broad jump at the combine, which lends credence to his explosive tape. Brailford’s change-of-direction is strong as well, though it comes in to play more in the run game than as a pass rusher. He is quick to dart gaps in run defense, but plays much more vertically against the pass. Brailford has good bend to sink through blockers, but is not always totally on balance when trying to turn corners.
Brailford plays with a high motor, which can make him look stronger than he actually is. That said, his fairly explosive lower body takes him places. He can get off the ball quickly to establish leverage advantage, and has decent enough leg drive to get push. Brailford can also manipulate his man a bit when separated, indicating solid arm strength. However, powerful play is not really his strong suit. He was a force in the run game at times more due to his knifing ability and edge setting than his strength to hold the line. He was asked to play off-ball quite a bit in his last season. Now, whether that is to take advantage of his versatility or to mask his weaknesses is not clear, but Brailford’s functional strength may ultimately lead to a permanent switch off-ball.
28 tackles for loss the last two seasons would indicate that Brailford is a disruptive force, but that was not always the case. Against slower, flat-footed linemen, yes, Brailford could burn them with his quick get-off and ability to dart into gaps. However, against upper-echelon tackles, Brailford can get swallowed up a bit. He can get extension to hold the edge and read the play, but his aggressive, full steam ahead style can catch him with his hands down, and lead to burial.
Brailford was not one to read plays a lot in college. Rather, he was at his best when he could attack a point without having to maintain integrity. Hence the reason Oklahoma State used him off the ball as much as they did against zone-heavy offenses. It allowed him to make a decision quickly and commit to it hard. When asked to engage, separate and discard, Brailford is more wont to lose leverage and get ridden out of the play.
The pass rushing upside is where much of Brailford’s draft stock lies. He possesses a decent frame and good athleticism to eventually develop into a situational edge, if he can add some depth to his pass rushing plan. Right now, Brailford is successful almost exclusively when he fires upfield and tries to bend the corner. He can get some extension to clear hands, but his hand work is pretty raw. For the most part, his hands come into play when engaging for a bull rush or when trying to rip around the corner. Brailford’s bull rush rarely gets him to his mark, as he merely tries to plow forward without using length to its full capacity. His quickness helps him on stunts, though if guards and centers pick him up, he does not currently possess adequate counters.
That is the main barrier between Brailford and the max of his pass rushing potential. Brailford lacks moves and counters. He does not hand fight particularly well, does not possess a backup plan and can get swallowed up quickly on his initial rush. When he gets that early advantage off the ball, Brailford can be lethal with his burst and bend. Plus, he showcased a strong quick spin in the East-West Shrine Game.
Those things are a good baseline to develop Brailford into an NFL pass rusher. But he will remain a project until the counters and depth of rush plan come along.
Minnesota’s defensive end depth is awfully lacking right now. Outside of the top three guys, they currently possess only late-round picks still in the dawn of their careers. The jury is out on all of them with regard to turning into potential rotation guys. Each has flashed in one way or another, and Stephen Weatherly has become the number three end after going in the seventh round. So clearly, the Vikings know how to get something out of their fringe end talent.
Brailford fits well into that group with the likes of Tashawn Bower and Ifeadi Odenigbo. He is a guy with solid physical attributes who could develop into a strong pass rusher, or potentially become depth as an off-ball linebacker. At the least, his motor and straight-line speed could lend itself to special teams. As a day three pick, Brailford brings some traits that can eventually translate to an NFL pass rusher, while potentially adding early impact in the kicking game.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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