The Minnesota Vikings enter the NFL Draft with only Brett Jones, Danny Isidora and Aviante Collins as candidates to start at left guard Week 1. That is, of course, unless they find an interior offensive linemen early in the draft who could make an immediate difference. One of the best fit linemen who could be available at No. 18 is North Carolina State’s Garrett Bradbury.
Similarly to Frank Ragnow, who emerged during last year’s draft process as a top interior lineman, Bradbury’s ascension began at the NFL Combine. The website Relative Athletic Scores, which compares Combine performances from all available historical data to the most important areas for each position, ranked Bradbury as the third best athlete ever at the center position, just ahead of Ragnow.
Here’s a look at the percentile of his Combine scores in each area (via Mockdraftable):
At the owner’s meetings, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer indicated the reason the team passed on other available linemen after Ragnow was picked last year was concerns about scheme fit. Bradbury’s athletic abilities could make him a strong player in an outside zone scheme where linemen are routinely undersized but quick. Zimmer was asked last season how valuable 2018 second-round pick Brian O’Neill’s outstanding athletic traits will be for this type of scheme.
“A lot because if you’re running away from him a lot times he’s not blocking the guy that’s over him,” Zimmer said. “He’s blocking the guy the next guy inside and that’s guy’s going to be running with the back and in order to get there and get him blocked, or cut off, or pushed by the hole you have to be athletic. And if it’s going to him they maybe combination block off of two guys to one and up to the backer depending on where he goes. The athleticism is important.”
While Bradbury played center at NC State, there is an easy comparison to make between him and Nick Easton, whose Relative Athletic Scores were only a shade below Bradbury. Easton was acquired by the Vikings as a center but moved to left guard at the start of the 2017 season and put together a solid performance. Easton left this offseason in free agency for New Orleans.
Whether he would be able to catch up quickly to another position, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein pointed out that Bradbury’s physical traits are backed by high football IQ as well.
Bradbury’s body control, core strength, movement skills and intelligence check very important boxes for teams looking for immediate center help. His pass-pro tape against Clemson proves he can hold his own against a variety of pass-rush flavors while his strength and athleticism make him scheme flexible. He is a candidate to become an early and long-time starter in the league.
Pro Football Focus gave Bradbury solid grades in both pass (84.6 out of 100) and run (83.3) blocking and credited him for 13 pressures against in 512 snaps last year.
The question won’t be whether Bradbury could be a plug-and-play starter and raise the level of the offensive line’s zone running ability, it’s if the Vikings will have a chance to select Bradbury. Some draft simulations run using The Draft Network have Bradbury being selected by the Carolina Panthers at 16. NFL.com’s most recent mock drafts have him as a late first-round pick, giving the Vikings a chance to take him if the top tackles are off the board.