We May Have Seen The Last of Garrett Bradbury

Sep 19, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) and center Mason Cole (52) prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

In 2019, I was thrilled to see the Vikings choose Garrett Bradbury in the first round. I had seen enough of Pat Elflein, a once gritty center who never bounced back from his injury. The thinking, at least to my small football mind, was that the Bradbury selection would upgrade two positions. Center would be improved and Elflein at guard would lead to better play at two iOL spots. There are few things better in life than a two-for-one deal.

I think it’s now fair to say that I was terribly wrong. So were the Vikings. Here is what The Draft Network had to say prior to Bradbury being drafted:

Bradbury came to NC State as a tight end recruit and leaves as an outstanding NFL interior offensive line prospect. His technical refinement and consistency is even more impressive considering the relative newness to his position. Given his lateral mobility and proven success in the Wolfpack’s zone blocking run scheme, he projects most favorably to the same role in the NFL. Bradbury’s range as a blocker will be major asset to him and his NFL offense. By year three, Bradburry [sic] has the upside to become a solid starter that is primed to sign a lucrative second contract.

Looks like a lot of us were wrong. The team could have instead chosen Deebo Samuel, Elgton Jenkins, or Montez Sweat.

Bradbury, quite evidently, is a bust. He can reach block and get out in space to block on screens. The more basic parts of the game – such as anchoring in pass protection – never developed. Take a peak at his pass protection scores on PFF since being drafted:

  • 2019: 38.7
  • 2020: 38.8
  • 2021: 36.0

The numbers suggest that there hasn’t been a point yet when Bradbury has even been average in pass pro. He has always been brutal in pass protection.

All together, Bradbury is PFF‘s 31st ranked center in 2021. Mason Cole is 11th. The difference between the two is dramatic, and that’s even after seeing Kenny Clark totally bully Cole in the recent GB game. Why would the Vikings go back to Bradbury?

Giving up on a first-round selection less than three years into his NFL career never feels good. At this point, though, returning to Garrett Bradbury would compound the error. Why stubbornly insist on Bradbury when he has shown he isn’t the solution at center? He ran a 4.9 40-yard dash and put up 34 reps on the bench press. Bradbury was supposed to combine strength and athleticism, providing the Vikings with a solution at center for a decade. The actual production on the field has shown that this isn’t the case.

Already 26, Bradbury offers very little upside. Furthermore, he is taking up more than $3.5 million in cap space. Next season, that number grows to more than $4 million. The cap hit won’t go anywhere with a cut, so the team may need to look toward a trade or perhaps just keep him in a backup role.

Regardless of what they decide to do in the offseason, it has become clear that Cole is the far better player right now. Minnesota is desperately fighting to make it into the playoffs. They simply cannot afford to put inferior players onto the field because of draft status.

The result may be end of the Garrett Bradbury era in Minnesota.