EAGAN, Minn. — Garrett Bradbury is the perfect fit for the Vikings new-look offense.
Minnesota snagged the North Carolina State center with the 18th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Thursday night, adding a versatile and athletic lineman to a unit that struggled with inconsistency this past season.
“This was one of the guys that we had targeted because of his natural athletic ability, his strength he plays with,” said Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. “I had an opportunity to see him play live against Wake Forest this fall, and he really stood out on the field when I went down there and watched him play.
“[He] had a great Senior Bowl, great combine, fits everything from the criteria standpoint, not only positionally and schematically but also the character, the passion for the game, the smarts, everything that we look for as we build this offensive line,” Spielman added.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer described Bradbury as “very athletic, very smart, very tough.”
Bradbury chatted with the Twin Cities media on a conference call less than an hour after being drafted, and said his background in another sport now helps him on the gridiron.
“I was a huge Jorge Posada fan with the Yankees,” said Bradbury, who played catcher on the diamond in high school. “I think it helped a little bit with my mobility and being able to bend.
“In terms of communication, you’re kind of the leader back there behind the plate,” Bradbury added. “I got to call pitches and [talk to] the infield … I think that helps because as an offensive lineman, you have to be able to communicate and have all five guys on the same page.”
Bradbury was a star at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, where he had the fastest 3-cone drill (7.41 seconds) among offensive linemen, ranked second with 34 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press and was the third-fastest time among offensive linemen with a time of 4.92 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
That athleticism and mobility fit exactly what Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski, along with Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak, want in their offensive linemen.
“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,” Zimmer said. “But [Vikings offensive line coach] 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, I think that this guy will be a really good fit,” Zimmer added. “And then scouts … everybody loved this kid in the draft.”
Bradbury began his college career as a tight end before moving to the offensive line as a redshirt freshman. He started at left guard in 2016 before transitioning to center for his redshirt junior and senior seasons.
“I never want to come off the field, and that’s one of the reasons I moved to offensive line,” Bradbury said. “As a tight end, I was probably looking at 20 snaps per game at best.
“At offensive line, we don’t come off the field,” Bradbury added.
The North Carolina native won the Rimington Award in 2018 as the nation’s top center, and his arrival in Minnesota could impact Vikings center Pat Elflein, who won the same award back in 2016 with Ohio State.
Do the Vikings see Bradbury as a center or a guard?
“I don’t know, we’ll have to line them all up and see,” Zimmer said. “We’re just trying to accumulate the best players that we can get, line them all up and figure it out and we’ll go.
“But they have the athletic skill set that we’re looking for with the type of offense that we’re going to run,” Zimmer added.
Added Spielman: “I think [position flexibility] is very important. One of the points of emphasis that we put on was guys that can play multiple positions, especially up front on the offensive line, because if you do have a guy that does get hurt, you can move guys around and still be very good football players.”
Bradbury said he was content lining up at any interior spot.
“I’m coming up there saying that I’m ready to play football again and that I’m an offensive lineman,” said Bradbury, who was charged with just two pressures allowed on 457 pass attempts during the 2018 regular season. “I’m ready to help the team win, help protect the quarterback and run the football. If they want me to play any of those positions, I’m happy to play them.”
Bradbury was the third offensive linemen selected in the first round. The others went at picks No. 11 and 14, leaving the Vikings hoping and waiting Bradbury was still there at the 18th spot.
“Well, we were nervous,” 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, yeah.”
In the end, the Vikings got a guy they had their eye on for over a year. And it was at a position they needed to address.
“We’re going to be a lot better [up front],” Zimmer said.