Vikings take Garrett Bradbury with No. 18 pick in NFL Draft

The Minnesota Vikings appear to have gotten their top target with the No. 18 pick in the NFL Draft Thursday night, and helped fortify their offensive line in the process.

North Carolina State's Garrett Bradbury came into the night the consensus top center in the draft, winning the 2018 Rimington Trophy. He’ll be wearing a Vikings’ jersey next season, and he’ll provide much-needed position flexibility for the offensive line. All 6-3, 300-plus pounds of him.

“I can’t put into words how excited I am. This has been a dream of mine for a long time. I can’t explain how crazy this is,” Bradbury said via conference call Thursday night.

Bradbury is the first offensive lineman the Vikings have drafted in the first round since 2012, Rick Spielman's first season as general manager, when they took Matt Kalil fourth overall.

When the Vikings were on the clock with the 18th pick, only Alabama tackle Jonah Williams and Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom had been taken among offensive linemen. That left Spielman and company to choose at 18 between Bradbury, Andre Dillard, Jawaan Taylor and Cody Ford.

It turns out Bradbury was the top target when the draft started.

“Garrett was the perfect fit for what we were looking for. As we went through the draft meetings over the last two or three weeks, this was one of the guys that we had targeted because of his natural athletic ability, his strength that he plays with,” Spielman said.

The Vikings took trade calls for the 18th pick, Spielman said, but nothing was enticing enough for them to move from the spot.

The Vikings’ front office is aiming to improve the team’s run game, which finished 30th in the NFL last season. The Vikings also had just two 100-yard rushers last season, with Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook each rushing for at least 100 yards once. With Gary Kubiak brought into help the Vikings' rushing offense and Rick Dennison to coach the offensive line in the offseason, Bradbury seems like an ideal piece to add, whether it's at center or guard.

The Vikings struggled to run the ball most of last season, not being able to create a push along the line of scrimmage.

Spielman also felt a need to protect Kirk Cousins, who is entering the second year of a three-year, $84 million fully-guaranteed contract. Cousins was sacked 40 times last year, the second-most in his career.

Bradbury left N.C. State a consensus All-American and earned First-Team All-ACC honors. He was a semifinalist for the 2018 Outland Trophy, and the only center to make the list for the top interior offensive lineman in college football.

He’s also durable. Bradbury played every snap in his final season at N.C. State, 679 of them, before sitting the final 13 snaps of a 52-10 win over Louisville. He didn’t allow a single quarterback pressure in 1,026 snaps last year for the Wolfpack.

He played every game at center last season, switching from left guard two seasons ago, where he played 13 games. He also played in 1,000 of a possible 1,022 snaps as a redshirt junior.

“This is a guy that’s been on our radar for quite a while. Gary Kubiak had an opportunity to, all fall, evaluate a lot of college football players and this was one of his favorite guys with the offensive group,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday night.

He’ll join fellow Vikings offensive linemen Pat Elflein and Josh Kline that can play either center or guard. Bradbury said Thursday night he doesn’t care where he plays, he just wants to be on the field.

“I just want to play offensive line and help the team win,” Bradbury said.

Barring any trade moves, Minnesota has the No. 50 overall pick in the second round and the No. 81 pick in the third round Friday night.

Bradbury will travel to Minnesota Friday and address the media at a 3 p.m. news conference.