Don’t Be Surprised if Garrett Bradbury Returns as Vikings Center
It hasn’t been a smooth ride for Garrett Bradbury during the first three years of his NFL career, but don’t be surprised if it’s Garrett Bradbury again at center for the Vikings in 2022.
The “burden” of a first-round pick weighs heavily on his shoulders. For a team to take a center in the first round is a huge leap of faith. To be proven worthwhile, one of two things has to happen. The player has to be a key missing piece that makes his team a championship contender or a generational talent that is one of the elite players at the position for the next decade. Obviously, Bradbury has proven to be neither.
Drafting Garrett Bradbury
There weren’t many dissenters as Bradbury was the favorite choice for the Vikings going into the draft back in 2019. Nor were there many when he was selected to come to Minnesota with the 18th overall pick of the 2019 draft. The Vikings needed a center, and Bradbury came highly rated.
Unfortunately, Bradbury hasn’t lived up to the billing of first-round talent. He does have strong points. The athleticism the former regime craved is there, but his strength of run blocking isn’t good enough to mask the pass protection issues. He needs to show more consistency with high-level run blocks. He also does the center-specific stuff well. His snaps are on the money nearly all of the time, and he is good at calling the protections. He has one big problem — consistently getting mowed down by big nose tackles in pass protection.
The fact that they kept asking him to make those blocks with no help was madness. When you play a wide zone scheme and sacrifice size for athleticism, the coaching simply has to help the linemen out.
Leaving your small center to stop the likes of Akiem Hicks one on one is never going to work. Double teams need to be schemed up to give the offensive line a chance in passing sets. The offensive-minded Kevin O’Connell, along with Wes Phillips, Brian Angelichio, and Chris Kupe should focus more on the passing game and how to give their players the best chance to succeed.
Is Finding a Replacement Plausible?
With that in mind and all $4,009,095 of Bradbury’s contract is guaranteed. It makes sense that he gets another chance. The only way to save some money is to trade him, which would more or less half the cap hit. The problem with that is, who is going to trade for him?
Then you have to find his replacement and hope for a big unit to be put in at center. Then think again. The Vikings are still running a wide zone offense, and O’Connell will still want athletic linemen, and it sounds like he thinks Garrett Bradbury again at center can work.
The only real option in the draft is Tyler Linderbaum, which would require the first-round pick. I don’t see that happening. I would be surprised if any of Minnesota’s picks over the first two days don’t come on the defensive side of the ball — unless they’re bold and take a quarterback, which I also think is unlikely. After Linderbaum, there is nobody I like on Day 2 or after who can have an immediate impact like Creed Humphrey did for the Chiefs.
Which is why I am saying don’t be surprised if it’s Garrett Bradbury again at center. I think he gets one final year with a clean slate and new coaching staff to prove himself.
It feels like we’ve been waiting for Bradbury to leap forward with his pass protection forever and if it was still Mike Zimmer and his team running the show, I would have no patience to wait any longer.
However, if O’Connell believes his coaching team can get more out of him, then that’s good enough for me. Now, Garrett Bradbury needs to go out there and play like his Minnesota Vikings career is on the line with every snap of the ball.
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