Bills’ NFL Combine Measurables: Trends in the interior offensive line

03/04/2023
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As you’re watching the NFL Scouting Combine this weekend, you’re probably wondering if that player who jumps out of the gym, runs like lightning, and can bench press his own car fits in with the Buffalo Bills. There are a range of factors to evaluate when it comes to determining if a college prospect fits your favorite team. Things like need, scheme fit, play strengths and weaknesses, culture, and medical history are all important considerations. Some of those we don’t have access to, like medicals, and some we depend on film analysis from Cover 1’s draft team and other experts for. But numbers are never sexier than during the NFL Combine.

This series will bring you those sexy Bills’ historical measurables by position. Now that we are getting in the .40 times, shuttle times, height, and hand sizes, we can compare whether or not this future pro is in line with the physical attributes the Bills have rostered during the McBeane era. “Rostered” is a critical word because the data is built from the measurements of each year’s roster, not just the draft. Most of what you’ll see below is accumulated from the combine or pro day sessions, but there is also another number that many of you are familiar with by this point, but maybe not all of you – RAS.

Components

RAS stands for Relative Athletic Score, and it was created by Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb). RAS combines a player’s combine results and uses position-specific formulas to convert them into a score that can be compared between athletes. RAS uses a scale of 1-10, and a score of 10 is considered perfect. You’ll see a RAS column to the right of the chart.

The Range lines are the far extremes, plus or minus, that the Bills have rostered. The lightest IOL they have ever rostered weighed 301 lbs (Greg Mancz, 2022) and the heaviest weighed 332 lbs (Vlad Ducasse, 2017-18). I apologize for reminding you that Vlad Ducasse existed.

The chart below also has some other numbers which you won’t really find anywhere else. Each year listed shows the average for the Bills from that position for that season. The Bills’ yearly averages are then aggregated across the McBeane Era, the 2017-2022 seasons. The “SD” means Standard Deviation, which is simply a measure of how often and to what degree have the Bills varied from that average. The bell curve below visualizes the dynamic.

The center mean line is what is listed as the average. The first lines outside of the centerline are the first standard deviation, forming the majority of the curve and representing 68% of all the players the Bills have rostered, meaning that player’s score fit within the average score and the amount added or subtracted by the deviation. When we add in the second deviation in both directions, we’re now encompassing 95% of all the players the Bills have rostered in the McBeane Era. There will of course be outliers, but that is even more interesting because it means the Bills saw something in that player to either ignore scores that were below what they typically seek out, or scores that were so much better that they minimized other potential concerns.

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The IOL Chart

Today, we’ll look over the interior offensive line. Bills’ fans are scouring IOL prospects again this year in what has become a ritual that reminds us of our suffering. If a prospect doesn’t meet these numbers, it doesn’t mean the Bills would never draft that player. There are way too many other more important factors to consider, but this chart does let us compare our new draft crushes to who the Bills have actually acquired, which can add fuel to your fire.

The Bills’ average IOL in the McBeane ERA scores pretty well in RAS in aggregate, which might be surprising considering the lack of investment, outside of Mitch Morse.

It’s already been stated several times that these measurables are not the be-all/end-all of your draft evaluation, not even close, so why bother with the exercise at all? While it doesn’t tell us who Beane and Bills will or won’t draft, it can provide clues for players to evaluate further or possibly spend less time on. The validity of the method is also reinforced by RAS’s own comparables.

Jack Anderson was the Bills’ seventh-round pick in 2021. A seventh-round pick is not the most relevant of selections, but it makes explicit the alignment between the exercise and real picks.

Conclusion

Over the next several days, you’ll get measurables charts for the rest of the position groups. Beyond that, once the combine and pro day data are mostly complete, we’ll evaluate most prospects against the standard deviations to find most players who are most in line with the physical attributes the Bills have acquired since 2017, and their Bills Relative Athletic Size. Enjoy the combine and be sure to check out everything Cover 1 is bringing on the draft to make you fall for the right crush this year.

You can find Chris on Twitter (@lowbuffa), getting dirty in #MafiaGardens, or watching football. Go Bills!

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