Retired defensive end Stephen White knows it’s hard for a center to stand out on film. NC State’s Bradbury did just that, repeatedly.
The Minnesota Vikings picked Garrett Bradbury 18th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Here’s what Stephen White had to say about the North Carolina State center ahead of the draft:
When it comes to first-round offensive line prospects, most of the time people focus on the offensive tackles. Sometimes there are guards in the conversation, but a lot of times those “guards” are actually college tackles who project to kick inside on the next level. In fact, there have been at least two offensive tackles taken in the first round in every draft since 2007.
You know the offensive line position that people seem to overlook when talking about first-round prospects?
Hey man, I get it. Centers seem like they always have help on every play, so how valuable could they possibly be, amirite? Well, I would say just ask that question to teams that don’t have a good center, and I bet they would fill you in on just how valuable the position can be.
It’s true not many centers are selected in the first round — just nine since 2006, and one of them, Frank Ragnow, who was selected 20th overall last spring by the Lions, actually played guard as a rookie. But there have been some outstanding centers who were in the last 10 years.
Nick Mangold, Alex Mack, Eric Wood, the Pouncey twins, and Travis Frederick, to name over half of them, have been difference-makers in the NFL since they came into the league. After watching his film, I think Garrett Bradbury could have a similar impact for the team that drafts him.
As I said in a previous post, I love watching film. However, it’s been a long time since a center jumped up and grabbed my attention the way Bradbury did watching his tape. Like, I usually jot down notable plays that I know I might want in my breakdown as I watch a prospect’s film, but with Bradbury’s I had so many that it was extremely hard to whittle down the list to the GIFs that would actually make it into this column.
What I wish is that I could actually go through his film and give commentary damn near play-by-play so that you, the reader, could get the same sense of how good this kid is as I did watching it alone. There are so many things he consistently does well that you just don’t see many centers, college or pro, being able to do.
Bradbury’s blocks are on another level — see for yourself!
For instance, Bradbury was terrific with his reach blocks. In fact, it took about my third time watching before I really appreciated how special he was at getting outside leverage on a defensive lineman who was already aligned outside of him.
Normally a center being able to reach a one-technique, which is a defensive player who is aligned on the outside edge of either his left shoulder or right shoulder, is no sure thing. Even most centers who are able to reach one-techs on a regular basis usually have to give some ground and risk getting pushed back into the running lane when they do so.
Bradbury, on the other hand, was so quick that most of the time the one-techs were reached before they even realized he had already snapped the football.
It became such a common occurrence on Bradbury’s tape that I kept having to remind myself it was not normal. You watch other college centers’ film and you aren’t likely to see those kinds of results repeatedly.
Hell, you can watch some NFL centers and you won’t see it, either.
Hold on, I’m just getting started, though.
Bradbury didn’t just do well reaching one-techs. This dude was reaching defensive linemen aligned in 2is (inside shade of a guard) and three-techniques (outside shade of a guard) like it was nothing, too!
To make it plain, usually the wider defensive linemen are aligned, the harder it is to reach them. It’s one thing to reach a defensive tackle on your outside edge, but to be able to reach one all the way out on the outside edge of the dude standing next to you?
Those are the kinds of blocks that separate a good center from one who likely has some Pro Bowls in his future.
This guy HAD to have been a wrestler at one point.
In addition to those impressive reach blocks, I thought Bradbury’s scoop/combo blocks in coordination with his guards were outstanding. Basically on those plays, Bradbury and one guard would be assigned to block one defensive player on the line of scrimmage and a defensive player on the second level.
Those blocks can be difficult for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that both offensive linemen have to be on the same page throughout the course of the play. If one comes off early, or if they both think they have the guy on the second level, that could lead to a disaster.
On the other hand, when scoop blocks are executed well they can open up really nice running lanes right up the gut.
When they are blocked as well as Bradbury and his cohorts did time and time again in the four games that I watched, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot a defense can do to stop it, either.
That is another thing I noticed after watching his tape a few times: how often NC State’s running backs were cutting off his blocks on some of their best runs.
You know the saying “running between the tackles?” With NC State, the running backs made a lot of hay running between the guards, and Bradbury was a huge part of that.
I really can’t remember seeing a center get as many pancake blocks as Bradbury did in those four games, either. That dude was trying to finish everybody.
I’m not talking about pancakes off double-teams, by the way — although he did have a few of those too for good measure.
No, I’m talking about Bradbury taking dudes one-on-one and burying them over and over again.
I would bet anything he was a wrestler at some point in his life because you could see the power in his hips when he would torque a defender right before he dumped them on the ground.
Give this man a full head of steam and whoever is in his path is gonna catch that wreck.
Mind you, Bradbury isn’t the biggest offensive lineman you will see at 6’3 and 306 pounds, but his functional strength is ridiculous and it jumps off the screen when you watch his tape. It doesn’t hurt that he also had 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench at the combine, either. However, that only served to support what I’d already seen on his film.
For that matter, Bradbury’s testing numbers confirmed how athletic he looked in those four games, too. With a 4.92 in the 40-yard dash and a 4.53 in the short shuttle, Bradbury put up better numbers than Christian Wilkins (5.04 40, 4.55 short shuttle), if you want some added context to his athleticism.
His 31-inch vertical leap also bested Wilkins’ 29.5 as well, and reflected the explosiveness I witnessed when Bradbury unleashed on second-level defenders.
Now, the one thing that is usually hard to judge when it comes to centers is how well they will do as pass blockers because they usually either get help, or have to give it on passing downs. There were a few plays where Bradbury and one of his guards got split by a defender who ended up putting heat on the quarterback, but those plays definitely were not the norm.
There were also quite a few plays where Bradbury did have to block a guy one-on-one, and I thought he held up very well for the most part.
No offensive lineman is going to win every one-on-one encounter, especially centers who have the added responsibility of snapping the ball first. However, on the whole Bradbury looked quick and steady in pass protection.
He also looked good passing off pass-rush games.
He even managed to pancake a few guys on passing plays, as well.
In short, Bradbury is everything you could want in a future NFL center.
What I wish I saw more of in those four games was Bradbury pulling out in space. There were only two times in four games where he pulled on a run play, and one of those was a RPO that ended up being a pass, and on the other he didn’t make a block. His running looked fine both times, but I would have liked to have seen him have more opportunities to show what he could do as a puller.
Centers who can pull outside and actually block somebody well don’t come along every day. Everything about Bradbury tells me he can do it, but I didn’t get to actually see whether that’s true.
NC State also only ran one (!) screen in those four games. And, oh by the way, that one screen actually ended with an incompletion, so I didn’t actually get to see Bradbury block on that play, either. Again, I think he would actually be great blocking in space like that, but actually seeing it would have erased any doubts.
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have many doubts about Bradbury, however. He did have two bad snaps in four games — which is about two too many — but I don’t think that is a major issue. Otherwise he was remarkable at just about everything else.
When you can stand out on film from the center position, that says something in and of itself. Garrett Bradbury looks to have the total package of what you would look for in a center. He has good size, great functional strength and quickness, and he plays with a salty edge to him. He makes difficult blocks look routine, and he always seems to be under control. He will kick ass in any running scheme known to man, and he will look like a vet in pass protection from day one.
That, to me, screams that he’s a center worthy of being taken in the first round.
Bigger than where he’s drafted, however, is what kind of pro he’ll be. I believe Bradbury is going to be dominant from the center position on the next level. That, my friends, is what really matters most of all.
For the purposes of this breakdown, I watched former NC State center Garrett Bradbury play against Virginia, Boston College, Florida State, and Texas A&M. Those represented the fifth, sixth, ninth, and 14th games on NC State’s schedule last season, respectively.