EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings selected North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury with the 18th overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, using their first-rounder on an offensive lineman for the first time in seven years.
With the front five again their position of greatest need, the Vikings could hardly have had the board fall to them any better. Alabama tackle Jonah Williams, who could wind up as a guard in the NFL, was the first blocker off the board at No. 11 to Cincinnati. Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom went to Atlanta at No. 14.
Then the Vikings had their pick of the rest, with Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor, Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford and Washington State tackle Andre Dillard all available.
With the 6-foot-3, 306-pound Bradbury, the Vikings got a mobile anchor and a natural fit with the zone-blocking scheme they’ll be favoring to try to generate more of a running game and keep the pressure off quarterback Kirk Cousins. Pat Elflein, who has been the starting center since being Minnesota’s third-round draft pick in 2017, becomes a strong candidate to move to guard, his primary college position.
The Vikings did not go with another cornerback. General manager Rick Spielman even joked this week at his pre-draft news conference that his wife told him not to come home if the Vikings were to use that precious first-rounder on another player at the head coach’s favorite position, where Mike Zimmer has helped develop several draft picks into standouts over the last five seasons.
Last year, the Vikings passed on a deep class of interior offensive linemen to take cornerback Mike Hughes out of Central Florida with the 30th overall pick. Hughes showed plenty of promise, returning an interception for a touchdown in his NFL debut, but he tore the ACL in his left knee six games into his rookie season.
With Hughes coming off his injury, Holton Hill suspended for the first four games this year and Trae Waynes entering the final season of his contract, cornerback wouldn’t have been an indulgent selection. But the need up front, after a so-so first season under Cousins, was too glaring to ignore.
The only other time in the 13 drafts the Vikings have had with Spielman that they made an offensive lineman their first pick was 2012, when tackle Matt Kalil went to them at No. 4 overall. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but his five-year tenure with the team was mixed at best. That was the first draft with Spielman as the final decision-maker. When he was vice president of player personnel before his promotion, Spielman shared authority with the head coach.
The Vikings have only used a first-round selection on an offensive lineman three times in the past 30 years: Kalil, Bryant McKinnie (2002) and Todd Steussie (1994). They were each picked for at least one Pro Bowl. Two of the three others taken in the first round in Vikings history, Randall McDaniel (1988) and Ron Yary (1968), are Pro Football Hall of Fame members.