Trust Your Eyes; Mason Cole is Better Than Garrett Bradbury

Photo: Jeffrey Becker – USA TODAY Sports

Well, it’s official. Center, Garrett Bradbury, has been activated and is ready to be re-inserted into the Minnesota Vikings offensive line. That means the former #18 overall pick will be available to Mike Zimmer and Klint Kubiak for this weekend’s game vs the Green Bay Packers.

But does that mean Bradbury should be immediately crowned as the starting center once again? Well, not if it means benching Mason Cole.

Cole vs Bradbury

If you’ve watched the Vikings’ offensive line play all season then you may have noticed a difference in blocking up the middle over the last couple of games. That’s because Kirk Cousins hasn’t had interior defensive linemen immediately punching him in the face during every other drop back.

Even last week, Cole’s worst as a Viking according to Pro Football Focus, Kirk seemed a lot more comfortable than what we’ve seen when it’s Bradbury blocking in front of him. Their PFF grades show the difference as well. In all three grading categories (Pass Block | Run Block | Offense), Mason Cole is better than Garret Bradbury.

Bradbury Regret

Cole’s grades may not be great. But they’re still head and shoulders better than Garrett Bradbury, who’s been a major disappointment since the Minnesota Vikings drafted him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

In his three seasons wearing purple, the NC State alum is yet to post a PFF pass block grade above a 41.4, which he notched as a rookie. Since then, he’s steadily regressed (2020: 38.8, 2021: 36.0) as a blocker for Kirk Cousins, who struggles big time when pressured up the middle.

How do you regress from a rookie pass block grade in the low 40’s? Nobody’s quite sure but Garrett somehow found a way.

Is Mason Cole’s Play Sustainable

Mason Cole isn’t an over-the-hill veteran. In fact, he’s just 25.5 years old, which is actually younger than the 26.5-year-old Bradbury. But unlike his fellow center, Cole has gotten better with age, improving all of his Pro Football Focus grades as his career has gone on.

Cole’s playing time is certainly something worth keeping an eye on though. He has struggled more in years where he’s been forced into a bigger role. But 2021 has been, so far, the best of his career even as his playing time has risen.

Remember, it’s difficult to find good ways to judge the offensive line, beyond using your own eye test week in and week out, which is a dangerous barometer to rely on. PFF gives us another tool to help us verify what we see each game.

Option C – Bench Oli Udoh

Option C means playing both Mason Cole and Garrett Bradbury, in favor of Oli Udoh, who’s gotten progressively worse at left guard since the 2021 season has played out.

Last week, it was as if he committed a penalty on every drive. His PFF grades have fallen off a cliff as the season’s gone on, too. If the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff is bound and determined to play Garrett Bradbury then sitting Udoh would be another way to keep Mason Cole in the starting lineup.

Bradbury played most of his college career at guard and Cole has played there throughout his NFL career. Hopefully, Zimmer and Kubiak would be smart enough to play Cole at center. Option C would also be another way they could attempt to salvage the career of their former 1st round pick.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan