This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the Bills have apparently been very interested in two very athletic linebackers. Sources have said that the organization has been enamored with Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker since last fall. The outside backer left school a year early, as he is expected to be drafted somewhere in day two of the NFL Draft. I have watched a few games of his, and his official 4.53 forty-yard dash helps him cover some green in zone, and he can lock down most offensive players with his man cover skills. He gives a defensive coordinator options, as he can cover wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs, and can own the spy role a la former Buckeye (now Jets linebacker) Darron Lee. But he really has disappointed me with the lack of physicality and ‘hunt’ drive that I typically like to see in linebackers. I will be scouting Baker more and will have a report available soon.
The other linebacker of interest is Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch. He is a player that aced the combine by measuring 6’4″, weighing in at 256 pounds, posting a 33 7/8″ arm length and 4.65 forty-yard dash. He’s a rare breed of linebacker and one that shows a knack for the ball against the run and the ability to pattern match deep routes from the Mike linebacker position, a skill that Cover 3 teams covet. However, blitzing is important for Bills linebackers, and he left a lot to be desired in that department.
Upgrades at linebacker are coming, and I’m sure that these two will not be the last names we hear about.