The Washington Football Team used one of its three seventh-round picks (240th overall) to select Baylor edge defender William Bradley-King.
Bradley-King (6-foot-3, 252 pounds) originally started his college career at Arkansas State, where he was a solid contributor for the Red Wolves. He consistently got better each season, resulting in 89 tackles and 15.5 sacks over the course of three seasons, earning him back-to-back all-conference honors in 2018 and 2019. He then transferred to Baylor, where he started eight games and led the team in sacks.
Here are five things to know about one of the newest additions to Washington's defensive line.
1. "Stars mean nothing" to him
Bradley-King was obviously a talented player at Hogan Preparatory Academy. He earned all-state honors as a senior and was named to 2015 the All-Simone Team, an award given to players in the Kansas City, Missouri, metro area. And yet he received no stars on his recruiting profile before initially committing to Western Illinois.
But don't mistake Bradley-King for someone who looks too heavily into where he was ranked in high school. "One thing that I've always wanted to prove is [that] stars mean nothing," Bradley-King told the Kansas City Star.
Hogan Prep head coach Phil Lascuola could see that Bradley-King had what he called "the spark." He did not know at the time if Bradley-King would be one of the few to make it in the NFL, but at least the potential was there. Bradley-King was constantly in the weight room, as he had discus throwing and wrestling on his plate in addition to football. He worked out on weekends and spent extra practice time with assistant coach Roosevelt Gipson.
"You could see the aspirations started of 'I could do this. I can make this happen,'" Lascuola said.
Eventually that work paid off; he was a two-time state wrestling champion and won another state title in discus throwing. He also started getting attention from Arkansas State, and in February of 2016 he signed his letter of intent with the Red Wolves. He might not have been as highly-regarded as other defensive players, but he told The Star that he is used to the disrespect.
"I feel like Kansas City is an overlooked area," Bradley-King said, "and I feel like we have some of the most hard-working athletes because we know that it's overlooked."
2. He calls himself "the technician"
Bradley-King considers himself a "pass-rush connoisseur" because of his love for rushing the passer and his attention to detail. In fact, he even told reporters after Washington drafted him that he calls himself "the technician."
"I take pride in technique. I take pride in football IQ," Bradley-King said. "I feel like I'm one of the smartest football players and one of the most sound football players that was in college football."
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein praised Bradley-King for his intelligence and ability to play "a mature brand of football," and that showed in his Pro Football Focus numbers. He was the highest-graded edge defender in the Sun Belt by a large margin during the 2019 season, earning a 91.3. That number was good enough to be ranked fourth overall in his position that year.
Zierlein also mentioned in Bradley-King's evaluation that he uses his footwork to catch offensive linemen off guard and create opportunities for himself. That is a result of him putting in extra work early in his career to create an arsenal of attack moves.
Fortunately, Bradley-King will be learning from defensive line coach Sam Mills III, who helped turn Chase Young into the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year. There is still a lot more for the rookie to learn, but at least he will be playing for an established coach who values technique as much as him.
"I think teams missed [on] how perfect I want to be," Bradley-King said.
3. He had a stellar career at Arkansas State
Bradley-King was a solid player for Baylor in 2020, leading the team with four pass breakups, four quarterback hurries and 3.5 sacks. That was enough to earn him a Big-12 honorable mention, but he was even better in his previous three seasons with the Red Wolves.
Bradley-King gradually became a mainstay on Arkansas State's defense by starting out as a reserve during his redshirt freshman season. He eventually became a full-time starter in 2019, but he still put together some solid numbers in limited action before that. He recorded a career-high 33 tackles to go with 6.0 sacks in 2018. He also proved to be a proficient run-stuffer with 9.5 tackles for a loss, which was third on the team.
His final season with the team, though, was undoubtedly the most memorable. Not only did he lead the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, six quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles, he also had 49 stops -- more than his previous two seasons combined. That was more than enough to earn him a first-team All-Sun Belt selection.
Bradley-King ended his career at Arkansas State with 89 tackles -- 25 for a loss -- 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. He transferred to Baylor hoping to improve his draft stock, and while he did have to wait until the seventh round for Washington to call him, he is grateful for the opportunity.
"I didn't like seeing guys I felt like aren't nearly as good as me go before me, but I just feel like I'm built for this situation," Bradley-King said. "The way I came up, nothing was ever easy and I just knew this situation wouldn't get any easier."
4. He already admires Montez Sweat and Chase Young
Given his nickname, it only makes sense that Bradley-King likes to keep up with the NFL's best pass-rushers. And as it turns out, he gets to play alongside Young and Montez Sweat, a duo that was among the league's most efficient in 2020 and one that Bradley-King has had his eye on for some time.
"I love Washington. I look up to [DEs] Montez Sweat and Chase Young," Bradley-King said. "I really model my game after Chase Young and those are just some of the guys I study."
It was a good decision for Bradley-King to choose Young as a player to emulate, because the former No. 2 overall pick made dominating games look easy in 2020. He was an all-around player with 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and 44 tackles, and he had one of the highest-graded rookie seasons for an edge defender by PFF. What's more, his pass-rushing technique has been praised by coaches and analysts alike.
"Moves," Bradley-King said on how he models his game after Young. "We have the same kind of playing style, the same type of tenacity. He uses double swipes a lot, stab-single, takes pride in his get-off and I took some of those things and molded them in my own way."
Sweat had an even better statistical season than Young, racking up 9.0 sacks and six passes defensed. He also had an interception returned for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Together, the duo accounted for 35% of Washington's 47 sacks, and now the rookie gets to follow in their footsteps.
5. He could be an early contributor to Washington's pass rush
It could be argued that the defensive line was not necessarily a position of need for Washington. In addition to Young and Sweat, the group is loaded with talent in the form of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne manning the interior, not to mention Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle coming in as backups.
But Washington decided to keep bolstering the group and grabbed Bradley-King and Penn State's Shaka Toney in the seventh round. And it looks like they may see the field sooner than people think.
"We drafted these guys with the idea that these guys can contribute this year," general manager Martin Mayhew said after the conclusion of the NFL Draft.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said when he arrived in Washington that he wanted to let his pass-rushers do what they do best, which is put continuous pressure on quarterbacks. Whether he was playing with Baylor or Arkansas State, Bradley-King has proven he can do that. He won't be a starter, barring injury to Young or Sweat, but he can be a quality backup as he continues to learn the game.
As long as he continues to approach his situation with the same work ethic he's had throughout his career, he can become a valued piece to one of the team's strongest groups.
"We have two quality guys," Mayhew said of Bradley-King and Toney. "We felt we had to get depth and so we went out and made the move that we did to ensure the opportunity. And low and behold, the two guys we had slated for being available were there and we chose them back-to-back for that reason. We think both guys are explosive, dynamic young pass-rushers that have room to grow and we think both have some upside and they're going to create instant competition as we go forward."