Over the last several weeks, NFL Draft prospects have been poked, prodded, and interviewed by evaluators across the country. Each player entering the NFL Draft has some sort of measurable data now on record, and if they don’t, then they will by the end of their Pro Day. Physical attributes such as weight or arm length carry more value to some positions than others. The same can be said of the timed drills, such as the 40-yard dash or the three-cone drill. While film rules all, these data allow evaluators to paint a picture of the athlete. With an athletic profile created, general managers and personnel can now interpret and project that player into their coaches’ offensive or defensive system.
General Manager Brandon Beane and Assistant General Manager Joe Schoen have a ton of experience scouting college and pro players. Beane helped GM Dave Gettleman from 2013-2017 to construct the Panthers’ draft boards. Schoen helped evaluate players for the Dolphins in 2013, where he served as the director of college scouting, then in 2014-217 as the director of player personnel. So while neither front office executive was making the decisions, their roles were critical to their general managers’ overall philosophy when it came to college and pro players.
Cover 1’s Fernando Schmude and I rounded up all of the players that these three men have helped sign or draft and generated the athletic profiles that they tend to look for. This will possibly help us narrow down targets that the Bills may be looking at ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft. Today, we are going to analyze and interpret the guard position. Based on the front office’s history, we found averages across all measurements. The offensive line has been made over this offseason, but I believe that they still need to build for the future, and locking down the interior offensive line positions next to Mitch Morse is key. So I used the average measurements of past Beane, Schoen, and Director of Player Personnel Dan Morgan signings and picks in the following areas to narrow down possible targets. First, I started with one of the more important Combine drills for the position, and that is the 20-yard short shuttle. For the shuttle, I used 4.84 seconds. The second measurement I used was arm length because it seemed to be a steady indicator for the position, and for that threshold I used 33-inches.
With the data sorted, Nate Davis is an archetype fit and coincidentally has an official visit to Buffalo scheduled soon. Davis wears #64 in the following clips.
Davis’s athletic profile matches an offensive guard that the Seattle Seahawks took in the third round of the 2016 draft, and one whose profile was utilized to formulate the archetypes for guards.
As you have heard me reference, Head Coach Sean McDermott has preached establishing the line of scrimmage and winning up front since coming to Buffalo, and guard Nate Davis is the type of guy that will help him get that job done. Davis played most of his career at guard at the University of Charlotte, but in 2018 he was bumped outside to right tackle. He held his own, but when you look at him you know he’s a guard. The Ashburn, Virginia native has started 37 games of his 40-game career, and he is what I would call a people mover. His short, stout frame and powerful base help him move guys.
Try filling his gap with an undersized linebacker and he will wash him down and put him into the turf.
Davis plays with such a wide base and heavy hands that when he puts his hands on a defender, they feel it. He fits up blocks well, keeps his hips coiled until he gets his strong hands on a defender, and easily re-establishes the line of scrimmage, sometimes driving players 5-10 yards downfield.
What really gets me excited about Davis is when he is running power concepts. Davis takes perfect angles on ‘deuce’ blocks, and his power often helps widen or open holes. Here he fits up the defensive tackle as his teammate gains positional leverage with his hands. Davis must be the ‘driver’ and drive that tackle inside, then climb to pick up the backside linebacker. The defensive tackle does a great job of dropping to a knee to anchor, and Davis’s teammate falls and is unable to sustain his block as Davis releases to the second level.
The redshirt senior is so good at drive blocking on these power runs because of his tremendous leg drive. If the defensive tackle is unable to hold the point of attack with his size or technique, Davis is likely to widen the hole for the running back.
He is not only great at the point of attack on double teams or combo blocks, but he also has good enough range to pull and lead on blocks to the perimeter or short pulls inside. Here we see Davis execute a short pull right down the pike. Look at how balanced and explosive he is on contact. He latches on, lifts on contact, and executes a series of ‘drive-catch’ steps to create displacement.
There will be times where Davis doesn’t quite have his hips over his knees and lunges in order to get those legs churning, and that can lead to him being thrown off-balance. So that is something that new offensive line coach Bobby Johnson will have to focus on. But if drafted by the Bills, Davis would not be the only lineman to have that weakness. Newly signed Jon Feliciano suffers from the same technical flaw. You will see Davis get thrown to the turf on this play (right tackle), but he still stays in the fight.
Davis has the look of a mauler, and he indeed fits that stereotype, but look at how smoothly he executes this reach block. This is a block on which most coaches would simply tell their lineman to just drive him on the angle that you found him, so whatever angle contact is made, Davis would more than likely just drive him on a 45-degree angle towards the sideline. But on the snap, he takes a perfect angle toward the play-side shoulder of the defender, locks on, swings his hips through, and seals the perimeter for the running back. This is a fantastic showcase of athleticism and technique. His ability to execute a variety of blocks in a phone booth and out in space would fit the diverse run game I expect from Bobby Johnson.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Davis’s work in pass protection last season, and a lot of it had to do with his footspeed. He will struggle to get the proper depth in his kick slide versus NFL speed, but I commend the selflessness that he showed last season by switching to right tackle.
Charlotte’s pass protection schemes when Davis was at guard will resemble what I believe OL Coach Johnson is going to install. Davis executed more jump and angle sets meant to maintain the depth of the pocket. Johnson will want his interior linemen to finish as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. This will aim to minimize interior pressure by fighting the battle close to the line of scrimmage. It minimizes the number of moves a pass rusher can execute. You see Davis ‘jump’ the pass rusher here, throw a punch to dictate the fight, and then lock the pass rusher down as his plan of attack is stymied.
As a guard, Davis showed a solid foundation of technique and understanding of these sorts of pass sets — sets that aim at expanding the pocket and building a wall for the quarterback. On this play, you will see Davis execute an angle set and recognize that the defender is executing a power rush, so Davis re-fits his hands inside, drops his hips to anchor, and stunts the rush.
Davis has a solid set of skills and technique that offensive line coaches at the next level can absolutely build upon. He can drive defenders off the ball as a run blocker, whether 1-on-1 or on ‘deuce’ blocks. But he also shows the ability to flip a switch in the passing game to go from a patient, mirroring type pass blocker to an aggressive dictator. Overall, I have Davis as a third-round pick who will best fit in a gap, power running game with a passing game that utilizes a lot of jump and angle sets. He does have some positional flexibility having played guard and tackle, but his best fit is definitely at guard. Davis does have a strike against him because he was suspended the first four games last season for an undisclosed NCAA violation. This is likely why the franchise is bringing him in for a visit. I think Davis would be a great fit in Buffalo. There would be no need to rush him into the lineup; he will have time to adjust to the speed of the game while refining some of the skills he already possesses. His game resembles one of our favorite offensive linemen in Richie Incognito, and that is the type of attitude this offense needs.