There are two distinct philosophies when it comes to the NFL draft. Some teams opt for the player they have rated as the best available regardless of position, while others select strictly according to need.
The Minnesota Vikings didn’t have to choose which one to follow in the first round this year.
They got both in NC State center Garrett Bradbury.
“Garrett was the perfect fit for what we were looking for because of his natural ability and the strength he plays with,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said in a post-pick press conference Thursday. “He fit everything from the criteria standpoint, not only positionally and schematically, but the character, the passion for the game, the smarts … everything we look for as we build this offensive line.”
Spielman indicated that he rejected multiple trade offers to move down in the first round, saying that taking Bradbury with the 18th overall pick was “a unique opportunity to get a very good football player.”
It was the kind of commitment that made Bradbury want to strap on a helmet and begin playing right away than waiting an entire summer for the start of preseason camp.
“Talking to the coaches today, learning about the system, I can’t wait to get into the playbook and learn the install,” said at his formal introduction in Minneapolis, a day after becoming the first Wolfpack player to come off the board this year.
Linebacker Germaine Pratt became the second a few hours later Friday when he was taken in the third round by the Cincinnati Bengals.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Bradbury said. “I’m just trying to soak it all in.”
Bradbury is something of a late bloomer who came to State as a tight end and was moved to defense before finally finding a home on the offensive line. He started at guard as a sophomore before switching to center for his final two seasons and becoming one of the team’s most respected leaders.
As well as he played with the Wolfpack, his rise into to first round was solidified with strong performances at both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.
Although the 6-foot-3, 306-pound Charlotte native figures to play center for the Vikings, his versatility and willingness to adjust leave open the possibility that he could just as easily begin his NFL career as a guard.
Either way, he said he’ll be happy.
“My biggest attraction (to playing offensive line) is that you don’t come off the field,” Bradbury said. “I don’t want to come off the field. I love to play football. Wherever it is on the offensive line, I don’t care. I just know what we don’t rotate.”
Both Spielman and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said that because of Bradbury’s talent and personality, he projects to become a leader for the team just as he was with the Wolfpack. But the newly minted first round pick isn’t in any rush for that to happen.
For the time being, at least, he plans to let his play do most of his talking for him.
“You’ve got to earn the guys’ respect first,” he said. “No one’s going to listen to a rookie coming in, barking orders trying to lead anyone. So I’m just going to come in and work. That’s what I’ve always done, just figure out my role and try to maximize it to the best of my ability.”
Spielman said that Bradbury has been on the Vikings’ radar since the GM saw him play in person against Wake Forest on Nov. 8.
“He really stood out on the field,” Spielman said.
It’s a trend that continued every time the team’s scouting department watched him on film, right up until draft day.
“I knew once we got through the Combine, he was the type of player we wanted,” Spielman said. “Then when we went into our draft meetings the last couple of weeks, there was no question that we got a heck of a football player.”