IOWA CITY — Bradley Fletcher keeps a low profile, doesn’t say much but does so in an articulate manner.
In many ways, Fletcher’s play at cornerback reflect his outward impression. He’s confident, assertive and talented. His personal drive, combined with physical skills and a solid work ethic have parlayed Fletcher into one of the fastest risers in this year’s NFL draft. It also could land the former Iowa defensive back a spot in the first three rounds this weekend.
“He’s a guy that we kind of call one of the sleepers in this draft,” said Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Service, LLC. “He’s got loose hips, he’s smooth in transition. We’re going to give a third- or fourth-round grade at the very worst. We think he should be a third-round guy.”
Fletcher, 22, has been one of Iowa’s most traveled players in recent weeks and has met with multiple NFL teams, including the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. He said he’s worked on his speed and quickness since the end of Iowa’s football season, and the results are proven.
Fletcher ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the NFL Combine in February. He shaved off a little more time at Iowa’s pro day last month, running it in 4.44 seconds. He’s a good-sized cornerback at slightly taller than 6 feet and weighing nearly 200 pounds.
Shonka grades Fletcher 14th among cornerbacks, but he’s the second-tallest among those players. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. lists Fletcher ninth among cornerbacks and has Jacksonville selecting him in the third round.
Fletcher’s draft stock soared with East-West Shrine Bowl in January. He recorded six tackles — including three solo — and he broke up one pass. His play and athletic ability launched him into the discussion as a potential man-to-man NFL cornerback.
“He was at least one of the best corners, if not the best corner there,” Shonka said. “He played really fast, he was impressive when he drives on the ball. The thing that was impressive about him at the combine was his ability to turn and run. That is supposed to correlate with your 40 time. A lot of guys didn’t run the drill real well, and Fletcher, his times were like 4.47, which obviously correlated with his 40 time.
“His back peddle turn and run was 4.46 and 4.46 which is outstanding. Plus he’s got long arms and can leap. His runs were real smooth in his turns. He’s very athletic.”
Fletcher started 17 games for Iowa, including all 13 his senior season. He recorded 152 tackles, including 60 last year. He had three interceptions last season and 10 pass breakups. He totaled five interceptions and 17 breakups in his Iowa career.
“You get a sense there’s a lot of interest in him,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Fletcher spent most of his off-season speed training to prepare for the combine. As the draft approaches this weekend, his focus is on conditioning.
As for any indications where the Youngstown, Ohio native might go, Fletcher is taking it in stride.
“I have no idea right now,” Fletcher said. “I’m just going into it open minded and see what happens.”
Along with speed and size, Fletcher’s athletic ability is a plus. He recorded a vertical jump of 38.5 inches, third-best among the top 14 corners on Shonka’s board.
“As Deion Sanders used to say, ‘I don’t need that playbook, I’ve got that guy right there,’” Shonka said. “That’s what Fletcher can do. I think he’s a third- or fourth-round guy. And if he goes later, somebody got a steal.”