While Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell affirmed the team’s center job was up for grabs last week, a prominent voice in the Vikings community believes the incumbent Garrett Bradbury still has a firm grasp on the starting gig.
Paul Allen, who calls all Vikings games on the KFAN radio network, provided the theory on Tuesday as some have speculated free-agent Chris Reed could usurp Bradbury at center. On his daily show, Allen said about Bradbury’s trajectory to start at center in 2022, “I can ride the instincts that have been good for me with this team over the years, and I think Bradbury is a stone-cold cinch to start in the Green Bay game.”
And a “stone-cold cinch” is close to a guarantee in Allen’s vocabulary.
The Vikings drafted Bradbury in 2019 to anchor the middle of a struggling offensive line once and for all. The plan didn’t work. In 2021, Bradbury ranked third-worst in the NFL among all qualifying centers per Pro Football Focus pass-blocking metrics with a 43.7 grade. The former 1st-Rounder ranked 21st in run-blocking with a 67.0 score, so his skillset is somewhat commendable in plowing running lanes for Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison.
Still, Minnesota employs Kirk Cousins, whose pocket presence is among the weak spots of his toolbag. The Vikings have failed to adequately protect Cousins for four consecutive seasons, leading many onlookers of the organization to wonder if the new general manager would make a change at center.
According to Allen’s theory, that change won’t happen early in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s tenure.
Because of Bradbury’s 1st-Round draft selection, Minnesota could’ve solidified his placement on the 2023 roster with a fifth-year option, but Adofo-Mensah declined that expensive choice in the spring. Ergo, 2022 is truly a make-or-break year for the 27-year-old. And depending on his performance in the preseason, the rest of training camp, and Weeks 1 and 2 of the regular season, the Vikings could have a quick hook at center.
In free agency, Adofo-Mensah signed reservist center Austin Schlottmann from the Denver Broncos and jack-of-all-interior-OL-trades Chris Reed from the Indianapolis Colts. If Allen is incorrect or if Bradbury flounders in the next six weeks, new head coach Kevin O’Connell could pivot to one of those players.
Bradbury’s overall PFF grades rank him 28th, 25th, and 29th, respectively, among centers from 2019 to 2021. No center was drafted higher since the Patriots drafted Damien Woody in 1999 with the 17th pick.
In 32 days, Vikings enthusiasts will determine if Allen is correct about Bradbury when the Vikings host the Green Bay Packers to start the season.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).