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The center position remains one of the Jets' biggest needs following the departure of Spencer Long in the offseason. While the Jets opted to re-sign Jonotthan Harrison and claim to have been encouraged by his progress in his eight starts last year, he's not widely viewed as a starter-level performer. The Jets will therefore be keen to find an upgrade, both in the long and short term.
As usual, there are only a few NFL-ready center prospects that could be immediately installed into the starting lineup. With no second-round pick, there's concern among the fanbase that all the potential rookie starters at the position will be off the board by the time the Jets make their first selection in Round 3.
They may instead decide to prioritize the position and target Garrett Bradbury, who is considered by most experts to be the center most likely to come off the board first. If they trade back, is this a viable strategy?
Projected pick: Potential top 20
College (career): 39 straight starts, only allowed four sacks in four years
Combine: 4.92 seconds in 40-yard dash, 34 bench press reps
Bradbury jumped ahead of the other top interior offensive line prospects in this draft with his outstanding performance at the combine. His explosiveness numbers were good, and his speed, strength and agility numbers were outstanding. This performance established Bradbury as a likely first-round pick with the potential to get selected in the top 20.
This athletic ability is apparent on film as Bradbury blocked well on the move in the Wolfpack's outside zone-heavy blocking scheme. He looks polished as he exhibits good footwork, an understanding of angles and an ability to play with leverage.
With Frank Pollack having been hired as the new offensive line coach, the Jets are also expected to operate a run-blocking system with plenty of zone runs. Bradbury could therefore be the ideal anchor to spearhead such a running game.
In addition to his impressive film, Bradbury has a lot of leadership qualities to bring to the table. He displays toughness, competitiveness and effort and is regarded as having a very high football IQ, which enables him to make pre-snap adjustments and line calls. He also displays good awareness in blitz pickup and has a strong sense of whom to help when operating as the spare man in pass protection.
The only major concern with Bradbury is his comparative lack of size and length. This can cause him to give ground at the point of attack and to occasionally surrender penetration. He quelled some of the concerns over his functional strength with his bench press at the combine though. Scouts may feel his suitability is limited to teams that operate zone-blocking systems, but that won't affect the Jets, who aren't expected to run many man/power looks. Also, the Jets now have Kelechi Osemele to run behind if they ever need a people-mover.
Beyond that, it's difficult to find glaring weaknesses in Bradbury's game. For example, he has, on a few occasions, had some issues with the shotgun snap. Also, sometimes his hand placement is less than ideal, which can cause him to lose leverage. However, he's reportedly been working hard at fixing that aspect.
Bradbury would be a low-risk pick to provide a clear upgrade at a key position. However, drafting Bradbury in the first round could mean the Jets cause themselves to miss out on drafting a potential difference-maker at a more impactful position, when they may have been able to find a broadly equivalent starting center later on.
Most experts believe the Jets would like to come out of this draft with a potential starter at the center position. Ideally, they'd probably like to end up with a blue-chip defender in Round 1 and wait until the third round to address the center position. This is risky, though, because the potential starters that fit the system could all have been selected by then.
Targeting Bradbury in a trade-back could be one way to eliminate the risk of coming up empty-handed. While Adam Gase has in the past said he ideally likes his interior linemen to be strong at the point of attack to eliminate quick pressure, the growing trend for smaller interior linemen with quickness may give him cause to rethink that stance.
When the Jets urgently needed a franchise quarterback last season, GM Mike Maccagnan didn't hesitate to pull the trigger on a trade-up to ensure they got their man. Faced with the opportunity to do the same thing at the center position, albeit this time via a trade-back, it will be interesting to see if that's what they decide to do.