The competition is on.
After a week of training filled with numerous reports of the undersized center being run over by defensive tackles, head coach Kevin O’Connell addressed the future for the former first-round pick that was deemed the team’s biggest draft mistake since 2015.
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O’Connell Not Ready to Say Bradbury is Starting
In an August 6 press conference, O’Connell said that while Bradbury has been a cause for concern early in training camp, he still gave the North Carolina State product his vote of confidence.
“#Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said he’s ‘definitely not worried’ about the play of center Garrett Bradbury and that it’s too early,” Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson reported. “However, #Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said there’s still competition at the starting center spot and isn’t ready to say that Garrett Bradbury is definitely his guy for Week 1.”
It is early in camp, but O’Connell is still green in Minnesota and has yet to become jaded about the prevailing issue with Bradbury — his size.
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Bradbury Remains Unrefined in His Technique
At the start of the 2020 season, PFF draft analyst Mike Renner deemed Bradbury the biggest draft mistake by Minnesota since 2015 for his poor pass-blocking abilities.
“The Vikings’ selection of Bradbury has layers of mistakes packed into it. It torpedoed the career of Pat Elflein, whom they drafted the year prior as he was far more suited for the center position. He also is more than likely going to continue to put them in that no man’s land for years to come. That’s because he’s good enough in the run game to not be replaced, but a liability in pass protection,” Renner wrote in 2020. He has earned pass protection grades of 41.4 and 38.8 in his first two seasons.”
Bradbury has shown few signs of improvement since Renner’s scathing review. Bradbury ranked 38th in pass protection among 40-graded centers who played a minimum of 20% offensive snaps with a 43.7 pass-blocking grade last season.
And while Bradbury’s currently up 10 pounds from his 2021 playing weight of 295 pounds this offseason, he hasn’t shown to have developed his anchor or footwork to help keep him upright. At 6-foot-3, 306 pounds coming out of the 2019 draft, Bradbury ranked in the eighth percentile in height and 30th in weight, per Mockdraftable.
The problem is, Bradbury is actually an ideal center for a wide-zone running scheme O’Connell is installing — but he still has to hold his ground in pass protection.
“Garrett Bradbury in the middle is what you look for from a core center from a standpoint of communicating,” O’Connell said at the combine, per Vikings. com. “I see a guy [with] really, really good movement skills. Obviously, a guy that was drafted really high for a reason. I can remember evaluating him through the process. [He] did a lot of really good things in college, and it’s just been a matter of finding the right fit for him and the right system.”
If Bradbury proves to be too much of a liability as a starter, the Vikings’ next option would be Chris Reed, a free-agent signing from the Indianapolis Colts whose primary position is guard.