Seventh round picks are the NFL draft equivalent of lottery tickets. They are longshots to contribute, if they even survive final cuts. But every now and then, a seventh round pick makes an impact, bringing many to question why he was not taken earlier in the draft. Case and point: Ahmad Bradshaw.
The guy who scored the Super Bowl 46-winning “butt-down” played his college ball at Marshall, but that doesn’t mean he didn't have major conference talent. Bradshaw was originally enrolled at the Universityof Virginia, but was released from the program after being charged with underage drinking and resisting arrest. The problems didn’t stop there; Bradshaw was caught stealing a PlayStation from another student while at Marshall(he eventually served a 60-day jail sentence split between the 2008 and 2009 off-seasons). Despite putting up fantastic numbers in college and projecting as a 5th or 6th round pick, teams were scared by Bradshaw’s off-the-field issues, and he slipped to the sixth-to-last pick in the draft; the 18th and final running back selected.
Luckily for the Giants, Bradshaw’s character has never been in question during his years as a pro, and his talent-level was much better than advertised. His quickness, strength, and shiftiness allowed him to make an immediate impact in the Giants' 2007 Super Bowl run. Bradshaw has since become an even more important cog in the' running game, often putting the team, as well as numerous defenders, on his back.
Bradshaw's story is a texbook example of why some people believe first round picks should not be used on a running back. Although elite talents like Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden are usually only found in the first round, running back is the easiest position to snag excellent contributors later in the draft. Unfortunately, the other side of that coin is that running backs have the shortest shelf-life of any position in football. Although Bradshaw is only 25, it seems likely that he will never be able to handle the kind of workload he had in the 2010 season (276 carries, 1235 yards). He is simply not built to be a durable, every-down back, and his career could be prolonged by keeping him in a true backfield platoon.
Bradshaw has missed five games over the past three years, but he has also averaged 890 yards and eight touchdowns per season in that span. The diminutive back's other major concern was his propensity to put the ball on the ground, losing six fumbles in the 2010 season. But to his credit, Bradshaw worked with the Giants' coaches and cured this flaw, fumbling exactly zero times during the 2011 regular season.
I don't know how Bradshaw will hold up over the rest of his career. What I do know is that counting out one of the toughest players in the game is foolish. Bradshaw played much of the 2011 season with a cracked foot, the same foot in which screws had previously been inserted (I don't want to think about how painful stepping on a screw might be, let alone playing football with one surgically inserted into my foot). But somehow, he keeps on running, leaving behind a trail of would-be-tacklers. Simply put, the Giants are a better team when Ahmad Bradshaw is on the field. That, along with the fact that he was the leading rusher in two of the franchise's four Super Bowl wins easily makes him one of the best picks in Giants history.