When Tremaine Edmunds signed with the Chicago Bears, a pterodactyl-sized hole opened up in the Buffalo Bills’ defense. Brandon Beane did not really address the absence at middle linebacker through free agency, and while Matt Milano might be the answer, it seems more likely that the All-Pro WLB stays put, and the Bills try to find an answer in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Building on the work we did for the Bills’ measurables, it’s time to start comparing this year’s draft class to the physical traits of the players the Bills have rostered. “Rostered” is an important distinction here because those 2017 and 2018 teams still had numerous players on the roster that were rollovers from the previous administration, and some of those players’ measurables distort the average. “Rostered” also does not include players who were cut before the season started but were drafted. Ultimately, we’re looking for how this year’s draft class stacks up against who has played for the Bills.
Bills’ Relative Athletic Size: Linebacker
We’ve talked a lot about RAS, to the point that you should have a cursory understanding of Kent Lee Platte’s work. What we’re looking at now is similar, just minus all the intelligence and leg work. To boil down all the measurable data we get on prospects from the combine and pro days relative to those of the players the Bills have rostered, I created the Bills’ Relative Athletic Size, colloquially known as BRA Size because I am forever a 12-year-old boy and it makes me giggle.
The chart below gives you the measurables that are currently available for each 2023 NFL draft prospect. Their scores in each column have been formatted according to the one standard deviation from averages of the McBeane Era Bills by position. For example, the average Shuttle time for Bills’ LBs in the McBeane Era is 4.35, with a standard deviation of 0.13, so any time within 4.22 – 4.48 falls within one standard deviation. One standard deviation accounts for ~68% of all players the Bills have rostered. A second standard deviation accounts for ~95% of all players, but really you can just look at the range because of how far out a second deviation goes.
Some explanation about the chart below – Results that are worse than one standard deviation than the Bills’ average are in red. Results that are within the range are yellow. Results that are better are in green. So, a linebacker prospect who weighs less than 224.45 lbs is in red for weight. Say that same prospect ran a 10-yard-split that was under 1.56. That result would still be in green because in that category, lower is better.
To determine BRA Size, a player is given one point for each yellow category and 1.5 points for each green category. No points are removed for red – like the old baseball scout adage goes, “Once a player has demonstrated a skill, they own it,” so we won’t be subtracting from a 40-time because their hands are small, etc. The players you’ll see in this chart are only from the combine for brevity’s sake. If you want to see all prospects and pro days results, use this link:
Fair warning, the totals can take a minute to load, so be patient if it’s not processing immediately. Also, the dark black line separates the combine results on top from pro days. Some names will be duplicated because they were both in the combine and participated in a pro day.
Notes on LB:
- Jack Campbell’s combine performance was outstanding, and his 12.5 BRA Size was the best for the 2023 LB class. Bring him home Brandon.
- For as undersized as this class feels, there are not that many red boxes in the weight column. There were far more reds in Arm Length (71) and Height (110) than Weight (55). Given the class size, 203, more than half the class fell in red in Height (54.2%) and 34.9% was red in Arm Length. Replacing Edmunds’ combination of size and mobility will not be easy, especially in this class.
Please know that I am fully aware these spreadsheets don’t replace any of the work on evaluating prospects from their film, medicals, interviews, etc. I would argue with you if you said it does. This is simply information to put prospects into a McBeane context, and no one else was doing it. Trust me. I looked everywhere. The Bills could very well draft a player who doesn’t rank highly in BRA Size, but that gives us information as well. There would have to be components to his game on film that encourage the Bills to overlook their tendencies.
**This work is not possible without the combine and pro day spreadsheets by Alex Katson (@alexkatson on Twitter). Give him a follow if this work lights your fire.