It was the perfect storm for the Minnesota Vikings to have their pick of the litter on draft night.
As soon as the New York Giants picked quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth overall selection, the Vikings had to have the feeling that they would be in good position when the draft reached the 18th overall pick. After all, the more QBs taken, the more players in key areas of need — ahem, offensive line — would be available.
Washington selected QB Dwayne Haskins at 15, Carolina grabbed Florida State pass rusher Brian Burns with the 16th and the Giants, the last risk to the Vikings’ chances at getting their favorite lineman, reached for defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, it became clear that Minnesota would have an impressive group of players of which to choose from.
When the Vikings were finally on the clock, the following top prospects were available: Garrett Bradbury, Jawaan Taylor, Andre Dillard, Greedy Williams, D.K. Metcalf, Noah Fant, Montez Sweat and Cody Ford.
They picked Bradbury, easily the No. 1 center on the board and a player compared to the likes of Alex Mack, Ryan Kalil and Jason Kelce.
“We were nervous,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “As it came down in there, we were getting down, and obviously you’ve got a pecking order and some guys that you like, but we were sweating it out there at the end.”
“We felt very strongly that this was a unique opportunity to get a very good football player to come into our program,” general manager Rick Spielman.
One of the biggest factors for the Vikings was finding a player whose skill set fit with the outside zone scheme that Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison have used throughout their careers. While there may be more positional value with someone like Dillard, Bradbury’s impressive athleticism and ability to reach the second level quickly were clearly a factor in the Vikings getting their guy.
“I think the offensive staff did a really nice job of sitting in there and talking about each one of these guys and their skill sets, and really all the offensive players in the draft,” Zimmer said. “Rick Dennison — you know, the one thing about these guys being together, they know the exact type of guy that they’re looking for, and along with Kevin [Stefanski], I think that this guy will be a really good fit, and then scouts obviously — everybody loved this kid in the draft.”
Following the Vikings’ pick, the Titans selected Jeffrey Simmons, Denver went with Noah Fant and Green Bay nabbed safety Darnell Savage. Had the Vikings traded down, there is the possibility that they still would have been able to pick Bradbury. The Eagles picked Dillard with the 22nd pick.
But this wasn’t a year for the Vikings to risk missing out on an immediate impact player.
“We’ve been through a hundred scenarios leading up to tonight, and there were a couple guys that we looked at, but Bradbury was by far our target tonight when we got into the draft,” Spielman said.
Now they head into the second round with options galore. The middle rounds are chalk full of wide receivers like Deebo Samuel and J.J Arcega Whiteside, tight ends like Dawson Knox and Jace Sternberger and corners like Trayvon Mullen and Justin Layne.
From this point forward, there almost isn’t a wrong direction the Vikings could take. Even if they selected another offensive lineman, they would be addressing a need.
They had to come away with a Day 1 starter on the offensive line that would immediately improve the team’s run blocking and pass protection. Mission accomplished. Anything else they come away with is a cherry on top and that’s largely thanks to the teams ahead of the Vikings, who went in some surprising directions and gave Bradbury to Minnesota on a silver platter.
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) April 26, 2019