Should the Bills take an offensive tackle 9th overall?


General Manager Brandon Beane has certainly stacked his cards correctly this offseason. The second-year GM filled several glaring holes on his roster but also added depth to a team that has lacked it over the last couple of years. One of the biggest overhauls this offseason has been along the offensive line. Beane added six new players to the group, all of whom will be competing to start.

So a case can be made that the Bills’ offensive line has been upgraded enough to bypass an offensive lineman early in the draft, but I am not so sure that is the case. Specifically, when you look at the premium position of offensive tackle, it still has a certain level of unknown when looked at long term.

The Bills added Ty Nsekhe to presumably hold down the right tackle position for at least the upcoming season, but let’s not forget he is 33 years old and will turn 34 in October. Starting left tackle Dion Dawkins came on strong in his freshman campaign but suffered a sophomore slump after losing his running mate at guard, Richie Incognito. As far as I’m concerned, he still hasn’t proven that he can protect Josh Allen’s blindside consistently.

So what if the Bills invest in an offensive tackle with their 9th overall pick? The likelihood of it occurring is slim, but recently Tony Pauline of stated that he expects the Bills to take a “long hard look” at drafting Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard. Pauline could simply be connecting the dots because offensive line coach Bobby Johnson reportedly ran the position drills at Dillard’s pro day.

But there could be an underlying reason why the Bills would request to run Dillard’s, and even likely day two player, right tackle Kaleb McGary’s, pro days.

Maybe it’s due diligence, or maybe they are actually in the market for a starting tackle in this draft. Let’s examine some of the reasons that GM Beane may still be looking to add talent in the trenches.

The offense’s struggles through the air last season had a lot to do with their rookie QB, but they also had to do with the blocking up front. Allen was under pressure on 43.4 percent of his dropbacks, but what’s more concerning is where those pressures came from.

According to SportsInfo Solutions, a majority of the pressures on Allen were from alignments over the tackles. 15.5% of all pressures surrendered in 2018 came from the 9-technique alignment.  The second highest pressure percentage came from 3-technique defensive tackles at 9%. The third highest percentage of pressures came from 7-technique alignments. The Bills’ offense surrendered 8.6%  of their pressures from pass rushers that lined up out in a 7-technique. Seven-techniques or edge rushers typically aligned to the open side of the formation, created the most pressure per rush at 17.1%. Next were 9-techniques at 13.6% and 5-techniques was third at 10.1%. So the Bills tackles were under an enormous amount of stress in 2018.

This doesn’t mean all of these pressures fall on Dawkins and right tackle Jordan Mills, but it does give you an idea of where the Bills were susceptible. According to Pro Football Focus, Dawkins surrendered seven sacks, two QB hits, 25 QB pressures, and pitched in 13 penalties. That’s nine more penalties than his rookie year. Jordan Mills had similar pressure numbers, giving up five sacks, five QB hits, 25 QB pressures, and nine penalties.

So while many fans think drafting an offensive tackle at ninth overall isn’t a likely scenario, you can see that maybe it isn’t totally off the table. Selecting a starting tackle, especially a blue-chip prospect like Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, Alabama’s Jonah Williams, or even Dillard, isn’t all that farfetched. Pauline also stated in his latest podcast episode that he is hearing some “medical concerns” have popped up for Taylor, “which has raised some red flags for a number of teams.” Those specific concerns are still unknown, and Pauline and will follow up with that news in the coming days. It may just be a rumor floated to hoping to cause Taylor to slide. Nonetheless,  that could help Dillard’s stock rise as the draft inches closer. Reports are that he is a top-15 pick, so maybe he is high on the Bills’ board, or maybe they are just doing their homework for a trade back. Either way, given the absence of longterm placeholders at tackle at this time, a case could be made for a tackle to be drafted by the Bills.