Minnesota Vikings, NFL Draft

NFL Draft: Vikings address biggest need by drafting center Garrett Bradbury

The Vikings need to protect Kirk Cousins far better in 2019, and with the 18th overall pick, they’ve taken North Carolina State center, Garrett Bradbury.

By giving Kirk Cousins a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal last offseason, the Minnesota Vikings automatically went all-in to win in a short window. So adding immediate contributors in the draft has to be a priority, and with the 18th overall pick, it appears they’ve done so by taking NC State center Garrett Bradbury.

Bradbury is a center by trade and he won the 2018 Rimington Award, given to the nation’s top center. But he played guard in his first two seasons for the Wolfpack and could step back there in the NFL. He followed a strong showing at the Senior Bowl with a great performance the NFL Combine, including a 4.92 40-yard dash and 34 bench press reps to push himself into first-round consideration.

Bradbury was recruited to NC State as a tight end, so he has the athleticism to spare even as he filled out to 306 pounds in college.

As Gary Kubiak comes to the Vikings to help install a zone blocking scheme, movement skills are a prerequisite for interior offensive lineman. Bradbury brings that to the table, along with some position utility.

Vikings’ center Pat Elflein should be better in his third season, as he leaves behind a 2018 campaign that was taken off track by an ankle injury in the previous year’s NFC Championship Game and subsequent surgery. But Elflein also played guard in college, at Ohio State, and could move over to left guard and fill that hole if Bradbury steps in at center.

Despite seeming to have above average mobility, Cousins simply does not function well when pressured. He particularly lacks feel and awareness when the pocket isn’t clean, as evidenced by the problems he has had with fumbles. Just by stepping in, being healthy and performing at an average level, at center or left guard, Bradbury will automatically help reduce the interior pressure on Cousins.

The Vikings also could not run the ball last year, coming in 30th in the league in yards (93.3 per game) as well as bottom-10 of the league in attempts and yards per carry. Kubiak’s offense features the run game and play-action prominently, so Bradbury looks like a fantastic fit as general manager Rick Spielman simply filled an immediate need.

Next: NFL Draft Tracker: Instant grades and reaction

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