Position Fits: Interior Defensive Line

Which players in the 2018 NFL Draft are the best fits for The Process?

This is my first in a series of articles that will attempt to match the Beane-McDermott archetypes with the players who may declare for this year’s draft. Since Marcell Dareus was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and because Kyle Williams turns 35 before summer camp (and signed a one-year contract), we’ll start off with the optimal interior D-Line fits for the Bills.

The Archetype: GM Brandon Beane spent 2000-2017 helping to set up the Panthers’ draft boards. He was an eager and willing learner, doing lots of his own film study. Players like NT Star Lotulelei (2013’s 14 pick) and 3-tech Kawann Short (the 44th pick in the same year) might be suitable archetypes of what Beane will look for in an interior D-lineman. The archetype is 6’2-6’3 in height, weighs 299-311 lbs, has long arms to fend off blockers (33 5/8″ to 34 3/4″), has strong 9 3/4″ hands, stayed for his senior year (logging 36 or more straight games), demonstrates versatility at two or more positions, garners postseason awards, and displays toughness in some way (Short fighting through an ankle injury, Lotulelei returning to the game after early challenges in JUCO).

Some Potential Fits:

  • Christian Wilkins,  DT3/NT,  Clemson
    6-3, 310, 5.04
    The Bills have officially scouted one Clemson game so far this year. Currently going #13-#14 in DraftTek’s recent mock, Wilkins was one of  five finalists for the Nagurski Trophy in 2016, when as a sophomore he recorded 48 tackles, 13 TFL, 3.5 sacks, and 10 passes batted down. Three of those finalists, Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, and Jabrill Peppers, went in round 1 last year. Wilkins plays some DE for Clemson, but he’s best-suited for the three-technique inside. He can’t be a Marcell Dareus and be the NT right away, as Wilkins over-relies on his upper body right now, and that won’t fly in the pros. He’ll need an NFL workout regimen and a whole lotta wings to build his leg strength and weight to withstand blocks from beefy guards and tackles. I think of him as an Adolphus Washington type with much the same trajectory, a platoon 3-tech. Another misfit is the fact that he’s already gone before the Bills’ very first pick, and if the Bills move up, then it’ll most likely be for a playmaker on the other side of the ball.
    Position Fit For Bills: B-

 

  • Vita Vea,   NT/DT3,  Washington
    6-4, 332, 4.80
    “VIE-tay VAY-uh” is a versatile, strong playmaker who possesses an ideal combination of bulk and speed. He has another season of college eligibility, but should he declare, he’ll be likely drafted much higher than our #68 Big Board ranking by the time the NFL Combine’s done. Vea opted not to declare for last year’s draft, while his teammate, Elijah Qualls, decided to jump early for the NFL. Sean McDermott wants penetrating, pressuring, havoc-inducing linemen in the middle who give 110%, and that’s Vita Vea. PFF has seen 61 career pressures from Vea on 480 rushes, and McD likes pressures. Having Vea as a NT who can move to the 3-technique may be more attractive to Beane than a 3-technique moving over the nose. Offensive coordinators need to factor in this guy’s whereabouts on every play. Even if you know where he is, a 346-pound defensive lineman who runs a 4.8s forty is unpredictable, and that’s McDermott’s dream scenario. Bills scouts have not journeyed to any Washington games, officially, at least. That soon may change; Washington faces Oregon next, and on November 18, Utah plays at Washington. We’ll check to see if any Bills scouts get credentialed for those match-ups, especially since the next guy will be in the same game.
    Position Fit for Bills: A-

 

  • Lowell Lotulelei,  DT3/NT,  Utah
    6-2, 310, 5.08
    This name will sound very familiar to Beane and McDermott. Beane put together the board that brought Lowell’s brother, Star, to McDermott’s Panthers defense with the 14th pick of the 2013 Draft. Lowell’s more likely a late RD2 pick; he goes in the #52 range right now on our mocks. Hey, if the Bills want two Lotuleleis, they could bring Star in as a free-agent signing. Both are versatile DTs who can get low without pancaking themselves, but they are more space-eaters and block-occupying types than penetrators. While the name is a fit, the player is less of one. As a side note, Filipo Mokofisi, who also plays inside for Utah, is also worth watching in the Washington-Utah contest. At 6-3, 290, 5.04s forty, he’s worth a gander.
    Position Fits For Bills: B-

 

  • Maurice Hurst, DT3  Michigan
    6-2, 282, 4.93
    If the Bills decide to take both a 3-tech AND a 1-tech between Free Agency and the draft, then Hurst is a good candidate at DT3. He doesn’t have the beef, but he has the motor — think Kyle Williams in his get-off. It’s impressive how often Hurst affects the play despite being double-teamed  — again, like Kyle Williams. PFF projected Hurst as a RD1 pick back in August 2016; DraftTek has him gone in the late-RD1 to early-RD2 range. Hurst’s an optimum fit for attacking 4-3 defenses like the Bills or Eagles employ. Bills scouts have been at two Michigan games.
    Position Fit For Bills: A- as a DT3 only

 

  • Dre’Mont Jones,  DT3  Ohio St
    6-2, 295, 4.96
    You’ll hear more and more about Dre’Mont Jones. Current mocks have him in the #150 range, but he’ll end up within the range of Hurst. One scout calls him “the best DL in college football, in the Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington model”.  His disadvantage is the same as Hurst’s: he’s a 3-technique. His advantage is the same, too: quickness and explosion off the snap. He has two advantages that fit the Buffalo Bills’ defensive scheme: Jones has savvy in reading offenses pre-snap, and Jones practices vs OG Billy Price, my second-favorite guard in the upcoming draft. I see the Bills readying for life after Kyle Williams by bringing in the same intensity, explosion, and savvy. Watch a jumping Beane if he hits RD2.
    Position Fit For Bills: A for DT3 only

 

  • Daylon Mack,  DT3/NT  Texas A&M
    6-0, 320, 5.04
    Bills scouts have been to Texas A&M once; it’s worth scouting for WR Christian Kirk and S Armani Watts, but also to see another versatile lineman who will remind some draftniks of Aaron Donald (a little). The size/speed combo plate makes you forgive and forget the six-foot-even height. Mack doesn’t offer the tall wall in front of a QB, but the explosion and resulting pressure he shows on Saturdays could very well translate to Sundays.
    Position Fit For Bills: B+
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