With four consecutive draft picks in as many rounds, the Minnesota Vikings followed a near referendum of their fan base to draft the athletes that balance the talent of the team on both sides of the ball.
The Minnesota Vikings wanted Garrett Bradbury and he was there at pick 18. Now a natural center will play at that position and move Pat Elflein –if he passes muster with his new coaching staff– back to the guard spot.
Elflein’s performance in 2018 was a world away from his rookie campaign and offensive line coach Rick Dennison doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who likes to hear excuses.
Bradbury has the size, character, and talent to lead his new unit by spirit and example. What Vikings’ fans saw in Elflein in 2017, when an upgraded offensive line held its own in many crucial battles, has just gotten real wings in the North Carolina senior.
Bradbury’s college coach, ex-NFL center, Dwayne Ledford, calls Bradbury a true “plug and play” center who knows how to watch film, find what he’s looking for, and make all movement and protection calls on the field. Ledford also says that Bradbury plays with great leverage, athleticism, and “hat speed.”
Garrett Bradbury, without question, a tough guy.
Pick two remained on the offensive line. Irv Smith, Jr., a very talented tight end from Alabama.
While Smith’s college highlight reel may feature him catching long passes, the tight end also has a trail of coach testimonies praising his commitment to the blocking game. Yes, Smith was drafted primarily to use his athleticism and strength to give the Vikings’ what they lacked in speed from the end position, but with a zone running scheme now in town, his pedigree as the son and nephew of former NFL players should prepare him to deliver line punch from the edge, in motion sets, and downfield into opposing defenses’ second levels.
Power In The Hole
With a third-round pick that surprised some (but not this writer), Minnesota tapped five-foot-eleven and 221 pound Alexander Mattison, a one-cut downhill runner back from Boise State. Mattison has good hands, is extremely durable, and has solid power at the point of contact, carrying most of his weight in his legs.
Coming from a wrestling family, Mike Zimmer likes wrestlers. Mattison, a senior wrestling state champ at 195 pounds at San Bernadino High in California, is a very good one.
Why the interest? Anyone who has had to dig deep at the end of the third period of a wrestling match and find the strength to pull a move that makes or breaks the contest might know that answer.
At Boise State, in the Mountain West Championship Game, Mattison ran 40 times for 200 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos’ victory. In three seasons, the junior running played 40 games, carried the ball 581 for 2829 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Boise now joins Dalvin Cook in the Viking backfield. Maybe he’ll get a break, but not likely. Inside the new conglomerate playbook that will be finalized by Kevin Stefanski, Gary Kubiak, and Rick Dennison, Mattison will be the guy that will be asked to acquire most of the tougher yards that the team needs in 2019.
And Now, Some Real Attitude
Finally, with their fourth pick, after a twirl of position swaps, the Minnesota Vikings jumped up to pick 114 and selected Dru Samia, another offensive guard with experience at the tackle spot.
At six-foot-five and 305 pounds, Samia may need some time due in the Viking weight room, but in his four years at Oklahoma, has shown both the technical and athletic prowess to play at a high level. Coming from possibly the best college offensive line in the country, Samia has not only improved his game in each of his four years at Oklahoma, he also developed a reputation as a guard with a severely focused mean streak against opponents to go alongside the laurels of All-American status.
To summarize: a dominating center, a long and athletic guard with a nasty streak, a powerful blue-chip tight end, and a hard-hitting one-cut back. To say this draft is unlike anything we’ve seen in a while is an understatement.
Offensive line. Talent. Push. Punch. Power.
Rick Spielman’s wife may have told him not to come home if he picked another corner in the first round, but she was just one of the many fans that spoke just as loud to the front office of the Minnesota Vikings about 2019.
We’re tired of being knocked around!
With a sundry of athletes in this draft’s collection to look over in the next weeks and months, it’s really nice to see that the imperative vulnerabilities of this football team were indeed addressed with what looks like a series of excellent decisions.
Toughness. There’s no substitute.