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Minnesota Vikings: Centering around Garrett Bradbury

Purple Pain
Garrett Bradbury
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Originally posted on Purple Pain Forums by MidwinterViking

Minnesota Vikings fans,

Before we get into anything else about the Vikings’ center – Garrett Bradbury or someone else – let’s say this simple thing: Vikings fans would prefer a good center over a bad one. In fact, we would prefer to have an All-Pro at every position. But we know that’s not possible as there are 22 first-team All-Pros versus 32 teams, so that means there’s less than one per team. So if we can’t have what we want, what players will produce the most wins?

How did the 2021 Minnesota Vikings compare to playoff teams?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

This piece was started by looking at Garrett Bradbury with a basic question. How bad is he? Or more specifically, how much worse is he than what the Vikings need to be a Super Bowl contender?

The first assumption started with something that seems so trivial that it shouldn’t have to be stated. Teams with good players will win games. Teams that win more games make the playoffs. Teams with good players make the playoffs.

The following chart is the Pro Football Focus ranking for the best player at each position on every playoff team. It’s just to make sure reality is in fact, real.

Yep, just as expected. A lot of green and blue! The best player at each position was pulled, so some positions like receiver, tackle, cornerback and edge rushers get extra credit since they have more than one per team. This tells us a lot of things that may have been expected.

Good quarterbacks are well-represented, as are good receivers and edge rushers. Teams can get by without an elite tight end. The only real surprise is that cornerback was lower than probably expected (but this may have more to do with PFF rankings where only eight cornerbacks had grades greater than 80 versus 14 receivers). Maybe it’s just harder to play cornerback?

The Vikings were also added for comparison to see how far off they are. There is nothing here really unexpected. The Vikings could still improve at tackle and they need better play from their linebackers.

Related: Jim Harbaugh opens up about Minnesota Vikings interview

Centers on 2021 playoff teams weren’t exactly great

This same general trend should hold at the center position, right?

Whoa! What happened? This is horrible!

Centers are rated terribly across the board for playoff teams. It’s not an exaggeration to say that centers were, by a wide margin, the worst position on playoff teams. The Packers and Bengals were both highly-successful with terrible centers.

It’s even worse than that when you look at the centers that stood out in a positive way.

Creed Humphrey, Kansas City Chiefs: He was the best one (by far) and was a second-round rookie. This was likely not the plan to have him come in and dominate the position. It’s nice to be sure, but the Chiefs won more games in 2020 with Austin Reiter, who was rated at 70.9. That’s right. Their center rating went up by a massive 21 points and their wins went down by two.

Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles: Kelce has been a rock for a long time. Did his being a rock help the Eagles look like they belonged at the big boy playoff table while the Bucs had the Eagles behind the woodshed? It did not.

David Andrews, New England Patriots: Sure, he was good. After 10-7, how did the Patriots season end again?

What about bad teams?
Sometimes it’s fun and interesting to look at the opposite position of analysis to see if the original case holds water. Were centers even worse on bad teams? Not really. The Chargers had a great center in Corey Linsley and were one of the most disappointing teams in the league.

Good protection from Chase Roullier didn’t make Taylor Heinicke look like an NFL starter for the Washington Commanders. Connor McGovern at center was the highest-rated player for the Jets (which is really sad).

Related: Top NFL free agents of 2022: Looking at the best 200 players available

Should the Minnesota Vikings replace Garrett Bradbury?

garrett bradbury
William Glasheen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Here was the motive for writing this. To look at the Vikings’ free agent dollars and draft picks – and wondering if they need a defensive end, cornerback, linebacker. And how in the heck do they replace Bradbury?

Now we’re left asking a different question: Why do the Vikings replace Bradbury?

Let’s go back to the question we started with.

If we can’t have what we want, what players will produce the most wins?

When adding players, resources are generally considered free-agent money and draft picks in the first three rounds. It’s unwise to expect much from the fourth round and later. Although, gems are sometimes found.

So if you look at this list. Defensive end, cornerback, linebacker, guard, and center – and a succession plan for receiver, safety, and quarterback.

Really good defensive ends show up on a lot of playoff teams. Cornerbacks are particularly hard to find, and teams play three at a time.

Right now, the Vikings are well below their playoff peers at linebacker. Centers? Well, bad ones are everywhere and playoff teams figure it out.

The Vikings have limited resources. Three picks in the first three rounds and maybe money for one or two free agents above minimal value. That’s five chances to fill in those gaps. So what position(s) should the Vikings spend those resources on?

Related: Minnesota Vikings add Jordan Hicks to linebacker corps

Realities of the Minnesota Vikings offseason

NFL: Combine
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Garrett Bradbury was not good, but he was better than the center for four of the 14 playoff teams (including one Super Bowl team). Let’s go through some choices:

Choice 1: Keep Garrett Bradbury – add free agent cornerback – draft defensive end/linebacker early

Choice 2: Spend big on a center – draft a cornerback early – roll with D.J. Wonnum/Chazz Surratt

Choice 3: Draft Tyler Linderbaum – play Harrison Hand/Kris Boyd big snaps – sign an edge rusher

The preferred choice is Choice 1 – and without hesitation (feel free to flip the free agent/draft picks in any scenario)

This was originally supposed to be a post about who the Vikings could sign or when to pick a player to fix what was assumed to be a huge need. When diving into the playoff teams to see where they got their guy at center, if/when they drafted him, and whatever other clues there were – the dive shows that the reality of wins, losses, and making it to the Super Bowl don’t justify replacing Bradbury unless there is a great opportunity (i.e., the Chiefs with Humphrey in the second round).

The point of all of this: If the Minnesota Vikings keep Garrett Bradbury and use their free agent dollars and draft picks on other positions, things can still be fine. Fear not, Vikings fans: Center is not the position to point at and say, “Bradbury stinks! We’re doomed!”

If you enjoyed this piece, please consider hopping over to Purple Pain Forums and debating with other Minnesota Vikings fans about this topic and so much more!