The wait is almost over for NC State’s Garrett Bradbury

NC State’s Garrett Bradbury is the best center in the NFL draft

NC State's Garrett Bradbury, who played tight end in high school, switched to offensive line when he came to the Wolfpack. The senior might now be a first round draft pick in the NFL draft.
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NC State's Garrett Bradbury, who played tight end in high school, switched to offensive line when he came to the Wolfpack. The senior might now be a first round draft pick in the NFL draft.

As much success as N.C. State has had in the NFL draft recently, it hasn’t produced first-round picks in consecutive years since 1979 and ‘80.

And 1980 is the last time a Wolfpack offensive linemen, the great Jim Ritcher, went in the first round.

Charlotte’s Garrett Bradbury figures to knock off both milestones on Thursday night at the NFL draft. The athletic N.C. State center (6-foot-3, 306 pounds) is projected to be a first-round pick and the first center off the board.

With defensive end Bradley Chubb going No. 5 overall last year, that would give N.C. State back-to-back years with first-round picks. That hasn’t happened since running back Ted Brown, the ACC’s all-time leading rusher, went to Minnesota (No. 16 overall) in 1979 and a year later the Buffalo Bills made Ritcher the No. 16 overall pick.

Bradbury, who began his career as a backup tight end and finished as an All-American blocker, figures to be the first of six N.C. State players taken over the three-day extravaganza.

Receiver Kelvin Harmon and linebacker Germaine Pratt are expected to go on Friday in either the second or third round. Quarterback Ryan Finley, receiver Jakobi Meyers and tackle Tyler Jones are projected to be taken on the third day of the draft (rounds No. 4-7) on Saturday.

NC State wide receiver Kelvin Harmon, who had back-to-back 1000 yards seasons with the Wolfpack, is ready for the NFL draft.

Last year’s seven-man haul, led by Chubb, was the most by an ACC team last year and the most in school history. N.C. State’s three-year draft total (13 picks in 2016, ‘17 and ‘18) ranks third-best in the ACC behind only Clemson (18) and Miami (17).

The matriculation of Bradbury will be another draft success story for N.C. State coach Dave Doeren. Bradbury, like Chubb, was a three-star recruit in the class of 2014.

In his four years at N.C. State, Chubb developed into an all-American, the top defensive player in the country and a first-round pick.

Bradbury, after redshirting his first season, switched from tight end to the defensive line. With four future draft picks on the defensive line, Bradbury was moved back to offense to guard and then finished his career at center.

A three-year starter, Bradbury helped three different running backs rush for 1,000 yards the past three seasons. Finley threw for 3,789 yards in 2018 while Harmon (1,186) and Meyers (1,028) both cracked the 1,000-yard barrier.

There’s a reason Bradbury has caught the attention of NFL scouts.

“He has all the tools,” Doeren said. “He’s strong and super athletic and he understands football at a high level. He wants to be a coach, so he really gets into Xs and Os. He doesn’t just learn them, he understands why people do what they do.”

Bradbury never worried about where his career started or his star rating out of Charlotte Christian. As much as he enjoyed rushing for a touchdown this season, he also was never worried about any of his individual accomplishments or awards.

“Every player out here thinks they are the best at what they do,” Bradbury said. “I truly believe that’s how you have to go about your training. If you don’t think you’re the best out here, what are you doing? Why are you competing?”

The Los Angeles Rams, at No. 31, are a popular landing spot in mock drafts for Bradbury. The Carolina Panthers signed Matt Paradis to a three-year contract in March. That likely eliminates a return home for Bradbury.

“(Charlotte) would have been nice for my parents but for me, I could care less,” Bradbury said. “I just want to go play football somewhere.”

After a lot of work, and a lot of waiting since the end of the 2018 season, Bradbury’s about to find out where he’ll begin his pro career.

NC State quarterback Ryan Finley, a three-year starter for the Wolfpack, is ready for the NFL draft.