(Eagan, MN) — The Minnesota Vikings selected North Carolina
State center Garrett Bradbury with the 18th overall pick in the NFL
draft on Thursday night, using their first-rounder on an offensive
lineman for the first time in seven years.
With the front five again their position of greatest need , the
Vikings could hardly have had the board fall to them any better.
Alabama tackle Jonah Williams, who could wind up as a guard in the
NFL, was the first blocker off the board at No. 11 to Cincinnati.
Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom went to Atlanta at No. 14.
Then the Vikings had their pick of the rest, with Florida tackle
Jawaan Taylor, Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford and Washington State
tackle Andre Dillard also available. With the 6-foot-3, 306-pound
Bradbury , the Vikings got a natural fit with the inside
zone-blocking scheme they’ll be favoring to try to generate more of
a running game and keep the pressure off quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Bradbury ran the 40-yard dash in 4.92 seconds at the scouting
combine, the third-fastest time among all offensive linemen. He
finished the three-cone drill in 7.41 seconds, the fastest of his
position group. The endorsement of new offensive adviser Gary
Kubiak carried plenty of weight in the room. So did the impression
of defensive line coach Andre Patterson from his evaluation of
prospects on the other side, when he walked in coach Mike Zimmer’s
office one day.
”He said, `Who’s this center from NC State? This guy is a really
good football player,”’ Zimmer said. ”And so that even intrigued
Pat Elflein, who has been the starting center since being
Minnesota’s third-round draft pick in 2017, becomes a strong
candidate to move to guard, his primary college position. Both
general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer stopped short
of assigning a position to Bradbury, who was a tight end and
defensive end in high school and the starting left guard for the
Wolfpack as a sophomore before moving to the middle.
”We’re just trying to get the best football players in here,”
The Vikings, alas, did not go with another cornerback. Spielman
even joked this week at his pre-draft news conference that his wife
told him not to come home if the Vikings were to use that precious
first-rounder on another player at the head coach’s favorite
position, where Zimmer has helped develop several draft picks into
standouts over the last five seasons. This preference became a
punch line for fans last year, as the Vikings frequently struggled
Now they have an Associated Press All-American and the winner of
the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best center.
”The one thing I know is that he doesn’t play corner, so I can go
home tonight,” Spielman said.
Quipped Zimmer, smiling: ”I was trying to get one.”
Last year, the Vikings passed on a deep class of interior offensive
linemen to take cornerback Mike Hughes out of Central Florida with
the 30th overall pick. Hughes showed plenty of promise , returning
an interception for a touchdown in his NFL debut, but he tore the
ACL in his left knee six games into his rookie season.
With Hughes coming off his injury, Holton Hill suspended for the
first four games this year and Trae Waynes entering the final
season of his contract, cornerback wouldn’t have been an indulgent
selection. But the need up front, after a so-so first season under
Cousins, was too glaring to ignore.
The only other time in the 13 drafts the Vikings have had with
Spielman that they made an offensive lineman their first pick was
2012, when tackle Matt Kalil went to them at No. 4 overall. He made
the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but his five-year tenure with the team
was mixed at best. That was the first draft with Spielman as the
final decision-maker. When he was vice president of player
personnel before his promotion, Spielman shared authority with the
The Vikings have only used a first-round selection on an offensive
lineman three times in the past 30 years: Kalil, Bryant McKinnie
(2002) and Todd Steussie (1994). They were each picked for at least
one Pro Bowl. Two of the three others taken in the first round in
Vikings history, Randall McDaniel (1988) and Ron Yary (1968), are
Pro Football Hall of Fame members.