Mike Renner recently broke down all 32 teams’ biggest draft blunders in the past five years on Pro Football Focus. While Rick Spielman and the Minnesota Vikings have drafted well recently, taking 13 more Pro-Bowlers than any other organization in the last decade, they have also had some major blunders.
Before Justin Jefferson‘s incredible rookie season, which landed him both a second-team All-Pro selection and a Pro Bowl nod, the last first-round pick by the Vikings to make the Pro Bowl was Teddy Bridgewater as an alternate. Despite nailing his selections in the mid to late rounds, Spielman’s Day 1 draft decisions have left him open to criticism.
Using a first round pick on Laquon Treadwell in 2016, for example.
Surprisingly, Renner determined that Treadwell was not the biggest draft mistake the Vikings made in the last five years. Instead Garrett Bradbury received that honor.
“The Vikings’ selection of Bradbury has layers of mistakes packed into it,” writes Renner.
It torpedoed the career of Pat Elflein, whom they drafted the year prior as he was far more suited for the center position. He also is more than likely going to continue to put them in that no man’s land for years to come. That’s because he’s good enough in the run game to not be replaced, but a liability in pass protection. He has earned pass protection grades of 41.4 and 38.8 in his first two seasons. The icing on the cake is that the next two centers drafted, Elgton Jenkins and Erik McCoy, are two of the best interior linemen in the NFL.
He’s right: Both Jenkins and McCoy are better pass protectors than Bradbury. But I take issue with almost everything else he stated.
Renner did not factor in Elflein, who earned an overall grade of 66.6 in his rookie season but struggled in his second year. Offseason ankle and shoulder surgeries sidelined him for the first three weeks of his sophomore season, and he allowed four sacks and was flagged seven times — earning a 41.9 PFF grade.
For context, Dakota Dozier finished with a 44.6 grade this season.
Elflein was already showing flaws while playing the center position, and picking Bradbury allowed him to move to guard to get a fresh start.
Renner isn’t totally off base in his assessment of Bradbury’s pass blocking. An anonymous former Vikings offensive lineman broke it down on a recent Purple PTSD podcast.
“I have no reason to think Bradbury will necessarily be a bust, but he is playing very poorly right now. Bad footwork, no anchor in pass pro, off-balance constantly. The most shocking thing is the lack of awareness. Looks lost on the field a lot,” the lineman told Joe Johnson.
“When I say bad footwork, too, I mean it’s loose. He can move his feet but he’s taking massive steps on reach blocks and play-action sets and making it so he literally can’t take a second step. Showed up over and over again against Tampa.”
Weirdly enough, Bradbury received a 77.9 pass protection grade in Tampa Bay, one of his better games as a pass protector.
While his pass blocking has been poor in his first two seasons, he hasn’t had stout linemen beside him. In his first two seasons, Bradbury has had to play alongside Elflien, Dozier, and Dru Samia, all of whom have been criticized by the fans and media alike for their exceptionally poor performances. While the Vikings need better pass blocking this season, it would be unfair to blame Bradbury when he has had no support from the people alongside him.
While Renner’s criticism of Bradbury’s pass protection woes are valid on some level, calling him the biggest draft blunder for the Vikings in the past five years is just wrong considering that Treadwell was taken in the first round.[h/t Heavy, PFF]