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Garrett Bradbury is a Sure Thing

By Jim Johnson
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The 2018 Rimington Trophy winner has nothing left to prove.

NC State’s Garrett Bradbury was the best center in college football last year. The Rimington Trophy on his mantle is as deserved as it is surprising.

He joined the Wolfpack in the Class of 2014, not as an offensive lineman, but rather a 6’3, 240 lb. tight end, his only other offers from Colorado State and Charlotte, respectively.

That freshman season was spent redshirting, still working with the tight ends, before moving to guard ahead of the 2015 campaign. The transition was hampered by some tough injury luck that saw him miss spring practice, and then further impeded when he was sidelined for a few weeks in the season opener.

Nevertheless, he started game one of his sophomore year at left guard and held the job for the remainder of the season, helping the Wolfpack to a top ten adjusted sack rate, whilst learning and developing opposite All-ACC selection Tony Adams.

As a junior, Bradbury made the move to center and played nearly every meaningful snap all year. Once more led by Tony Adams, coupled with the emergence of Will Richardson, Terrone Prescod, and Tyler Jones, Dave Doeren’s offensive line was again amongst the best pass blocking units in all of college football, finishing sixth in adjusted sack rate allowed.

Then, last year, though he did not have to deal with a position change for just about the first time during his NC State tenure, Bradbury did move into more of a leadership role. Prescod and Jones were back, too, but replacing the likes of Richardson and Adams is no small task.

Regardless, the group was as good as ever, ultimately finishing fourth in the FBS in allowed sack rate. And while the team did struggle to move the ball effectively on the ground, it was not for a lack of effort up front. According to PFF, Prescod and Bradbury finished the regular season first and second in the ACC in run block grade, and the former was actually tops in the nation.

NC State may well have had the best guard and center in America, in 2018. Prescod was unjustly, and borderline offensively, left off any of the four All-ACC teams, while Bradbury and Jones each got first team nods, but the numbers speak for themselves.

In some ways, it’s remarkable that Bradbury did get the credit he deserved, becoming just the second center in a decade, from a non-traditional power, to take home the Rimington Trophy.

He also racked up his fair share of off-the-field designations -- the 2014-15 ACC Academic Honor Roll, the Bo Rein Award for a vital contribution in an unsung role, and the Earle Edwards Award for top GPA on the team, twice.

Now, his sights set squarely on the NFL, Bradbury’s meteoric trajectory has not wavered.

At the senior bowl, he dominated the practice sessions, was named the week’s best offensive lineman, and earned team captain honors for his efforts.

His rise up draft boards continued at last week’s NFL Combine. His 4.92 40-yard dash was third amongst this offensive line class, and in the 97th percentile, historically. His 34 reps on the bench were second, and in the 93rd percentile. His 7.41 second three cone drill was first, and in the 91st percentile, and his vertical and shuttle were in the 84th and 87th percentiles.

Based on his size, strength, explosiveness, and short area quickness measurables, some comparable recent centers include Roberto Garza, who played for 15 years, Scott Wells, who had an eleven year career and was a pro bowler in 2011, and three time All-Pro Ryan Kalil, a former All-American himself.

Coming out of NC State’s outside zone heavy offense, Bradbury could step in right away and start in a similar scheme. However, he is not just a system player. Given how far along he is technically, with surgical precision to match his top end athleticism for the position, despite such relative newness to the role, he is clearly a quick study. Pinpointing his best attribute is as challenging as it was for ACC interior defenders to try to outmaneuver him in pass sets, his weaknesses few and far between.

The primary knock, prior to the combine, was probably his apparent play strength, but 34 reps of 225 later, developing that functional power doesn’t seem like a problem.

He adapted quickly to multiple different roles at NC State and grew into college football’s top center, within their scheme. Against some of the other best players in the country, at the senior bowl, he proved that his success was more than just his setting. And at the combine, he showed off the special sort of athleticism that puts him in the sort of company where a low-end comp played for over a decade in the league.

Simply because of positional value, Bradbury is unlikely to be the first offensive lineman off the board, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t prove to be the best. He has all the makings of a day one starter with pro bowl potential down the road. And if not the best, he may well be the most sure thing of this class of blockers, inasmuch as anyone can be.

If his road to the pros has been any indication, until proven otherwise, it’s safe to assume that there’s nothing Garrett Bradbury can’t do.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP