The Vikings picked center Garrett Bradbury from NC State with their first draft pick, #18 overall, in the 2019 NFL Draft. Bradbury was seen as a top center, if not the top center, in this year’s draft class. Some say the best center prospect in the last few drafts.
Let’s break down his game.
He’s a Smaller, Strong, Athletic Center
If you look at Bradbury’s measurables on the right, two things stand out. He did very well in all the athletic drills, along with the bench press. On the other hand, he’s a relatively small offensive lineman, even for a center, with short arms, except for having pretty big hands. In this way, he is comparable to Jason Kelce, who’s been one of the best centers in the league the past several years.
In general, while Bradbury has good core strength, being on the smaller side without quite as much girth in his lower half, he has to work a little harder to sustain his anchor against big bull rushers. And with short arms, he needs good hand technique to mitigate that against longer defenders who try to extend and stack him. All that tends to make him more of a finesse blocker - using good technique and strength- to get the job done. Having said that, he’s tough, physical and plays through the whistle.
Excellent Technique and Athleticism
Fortunately for Bradbury, his technique is excellent across the board, so his size issues haven’t shown up on tape much. In fact, as a zone blocker, Bradbury is thought to be elite in his skill set. Whether footwork, hand placement/usage, movement skills, balance, grip or flexibility, Bradbury is excellent in every facet in terms of technique and athletic ability.
As an outside zone blocker, which NC State ran a lot of, Bradbury stands out for his ability to make “reach” blocks. What this means is that on a zone run to the left side, when the center has a defensive tackle lined up outside his left shoulder or in the gap to his left, he needs to get out in front of him to prevent his penetration into the backfield and then seal him off from the run lane. Given the defender’s position advantage, this isn’t an easy task. It requires a good burst/initial quickness after the snap to get the jump on the defender, then excellent footwork and body control to maneuver into position to frame the block effectively.
Bradbury is as good as they come in this skill set.
Here is an example on film:
This is the type of run block the Vikings will ask Bradbury to make as part of their outside zone run scheme.
New and Improving Center
Bradbury is also relatively new to offensive line and the center position, having switched from a tight-end when he arrived at NC State as a freshman. He played left guard his first two seasons (only 38 snaps his first year), before moving to center in 2017, where he started his final two years.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Bradbury improved every year in both pass protection and run blocking. In pass protection, he progressed from a 75.1 grade in 2016, to an 82.5 in 2017, to an 84.6 in 2018. Meanwhile his run blocking grades improved from 68.8 to 78.2, to 83.3 last season.
Last season, PFF credited him with a 98.5% pass blocking efficiency, having given up 2 sacks, 1 QB hit, and 10 pressures over 512 pass blocking snaps. This ranks only 28th best among center prospects in this draft class. This is where his size and arm length issues show up the most, having more difficulty anchoring and sustaining blocks in pass protection.
As a run blocker, Bradbury is at the top of his position in positively graded run block % - or really good run blocks. He is about average in avoiding negatively graded run blocks, or blocks where he lost the rep. Overall, he was the 2nd best graded center in run blocking, and 7th graded pass blocker, with the 2nd highest overall grade among centers last season.
Having been a center for only two seasons, and an offensive linemen for three plus, Bradbury has come a long way toward learning his position. In fact, his technique is already well ahead of most more well-seasoned college veterans, and he appears to be as NFL-ready as any offensive linemen in this year’s draft.
Beyond that, Bradbury appears to be an excellent fit in the Vikings outside zone scheme, which seems likely to benefit him as he begins his career as a pro.
Here are some scouting reports on various aspects of Bradbury and his game:
- A true technician that is intentional about playing with leverage, body positioning and hand placement. Highly effective taking advantage of blocking angles and working combo blocks. Finds leverage points and does well to exploit them but isn’t necessarily a consistent people mover in drive block situations. Does well to maximize his play strength by playing with consistently sound technique and timing. - Joe Marino TDN
- Elite zone blocker with outstanding burst and footwork to reach technique from A to B-gap with ease. Has been the best zone blocker in college football for maybe two seasons now. Outstanding quickness, hand placement and football IQ to consistently identify and reach targets in a timely fashion. Made everyone around him better on the offensive line with his ability to assist on first level and still gets to his target on the second level. Only concern is the lack of scheme diversity at N.C. State, all zone there. - John Ledyard, TDN
- Finesse blocker. Effective in lateral situations and fully capable of steering defenders with his hips and hands, but isn’t going to drive anyone off the line of scrimmage. Has good foot action to try to sustain forward momentum and positive framing. - Kyle Crabbs, TDN
- Takes consistent pass sets and effectively frames rushers. Has excellent foot speed which enables him to stay square and mirror rushers. Keeps rushers at the end of his reach with a usually well-timed and located punch. Highly effective help blocker when uncovered. - Joe Marino, TDN
- Good luck beating him on his edge unless you get him off-balance first. Power rushers succeed in pushing him back slightly, but is almost never overwhelmed and gives inches slowly, not feet. Does a great job keeping his base proportionate and recovering when he faces an unexpected rush. - John Ledyard, TDN
- Likable foot cadence to gain depth out of his snaps and angle into an assistance role in the pocket. Has a bit of a soft anchor and as a result struggles to gain his footing against head up nose tackles in protection. Most effective in slide protection. - Kyle Crabbs, TDN
- Effort is terrific. Has good results in long reach blocks thanks to hustle, short area quickness and second effort. Physical play strength is adequate but not an asset, nor is his ability to drop the hips and absorb power rushes in one on ones. - Kyle Crabbs, TDN
- Physical and tough to finish every rep strong. Works his tail off to get to targets in space and at least get a piece of them. Has had a few opportunities to get downfield and throw blocks and always shows maximum effort. Looks for work when uncovered and will hammer interior defensive lineman in pass pro support. - John Ledyard, TDN
Last, here is a link to a nice scouting report on Bradbury by former defensive end Stephen White.
Below is some tape on the NC State offensive line the past season. Bradbury is #65.
How will Garrett Bradbury do in the NFL ?
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