Guards that Fit the Bills’ Archetype

Another in a series of articles that will attempt to match the Beane-McDermott archetypes with the players who may declare for this year’s draft.

The Need:  The Bills used more power or gap schemes in 2015 and 2016, and OC Rick Dennison and OL coach Juan Castillo brought in more zone blocking schemes (ZBS), which often use heavier linemen. They’ve since reverted to using a hybrid mix of blocking schemes, favoring more athletic linemen. It’s safe to say that the big, athletic, dancing-bear type of guard would thrive in a hybrid blocking scheme. Why do the Bills need guards? Left guard Richie Incognito is 34, tied for oldest on the team with Lorenzo Alexander and Kyle Williams. Right guards John Miller and Vlad Ducasse both rank near the bottom of PFF’s guard rankings. Ryan Groy took over Center for the last 7 games of the 2016 season when Eric Wood was injured, allowing no sacks. He was named the Bills’ “Secret Superstar” for his efforts. He may be the heir apparent at C, possibly sooner than later, as Wood is 31 and gets $8.6M in 2018. This would imply a need for two Guards, either in free agency or in the NFL Draft. Many teams may reach for OL this year, as the need around the league exceeds value offered in this draft. Fifteen DraftTek Analysts report that guard is a 2nd- or 3rd- priority draft need. No Guards were picked in RD1 of last year’s draft, but there are two this year that might be Top 32 picks. Three players identified as guards or centers were chosen in round 2 last year: Dion Dawkins (Bills), Taylor Moton (Panthers), and Ethan Pocic (Seahawks). All three are now listed at OT.

The Archetype: Some descriptors of current Bills guards Ryan Groy (6-5, 320), Richie Incognito (6-3, 320), Vlad Ducasse (6-5, 329), and even Dion Dawkins (6-5, 320) might be useful in identifying guard prospects in the draft. I’ll also add Andrew Norwell (6-6, 325) and Pro Bowler Trai Turner (6-3, 315) of the Panthers, both brought in by GM Brandon Beane, to the mix. Additionally, I’m adding Taylor Moton (6-5, 325), drafted the year Beane left, because he was identified as a Guard at the time of the draft. It’s safe to say that McBeane’s archetypal guard is 6-5, 320. Listen to Pro Football Focus’s description of Dion Dawkins:  “Big, strong, powerful guy that can block anyone man on man in power run blocking“, “Nice explosion“,  “Showed continued improvement for three straight years“, and “Solid showing in the Senior Bowl game as he transitioned to guard”. How about these adjectives for Moton? “power-packed“, “work ethic“, “comes to work with his lunch pail every day”, and “broad shouldered, tremendous lower-body strength”, “a smart man”. On Turner’s draft profile: “size and run-blocking potential in a power-running scheme”. We have our archetype for a Guard on the Buffalo Bills.

 

Which players in the 2018 NFL Draft are the best fits for The Process? Some Potential Fits:

Quenton Nelson  OC/OG   Notre Dame (RD1#21 on my Big Board)
6-5, 325, 5.23
Nelson is the best guard (and center) prospect we’ve seen in years. Mel Kiper says he could go in the Top 10, giving Nelson “one of the best grades for a guard that I’ve given out in [his] 35 years of doing this”. A three-year starter for the Irish, he is both the best guard and best center in this draft. Physical and with a nasty streak, Nelson loves to make pancakes. Sounds like Richie. Built for the smashmouth game at 325 lbs, Nelson can also turn defenders effortlessly with his prodigious upper-body strength and impressive lateral agility.  Nelson has shifted from G to C this year because he’s a team player with versatillity. Box checked. The guy takes Taekwondo, which only adds to the “physicality and toughness” archetype.  Possessing a notable football IQ, Nelson checks every box but one: Nelson has one more year of eligibility left. Bills’ scouts have been to two Notre Dame games, likely watching McGlinchey and Nelson as they spring Josh Adams for another long one.
Fit For The Bills: A++


Billy Price   
OC/OG Ohio St  (RD2#35 on my Big Board)
6-3, 315, 5.19
While Price is a tad undersized for McBeane’s 6-5, 320 archetype, he checks so many other boxes that he has to be included as a top-shelf guard or center choice for the Bills, especially since Buffalo has two RD1 and RD2 picks. The experience at a high level is there for the fifth-year senior and four-year starter. He’s a returning first-team All-American and All-Big Ten Conference choice who spent almost 3 years at guard and one year at center. Price moved to center when Vikings RD3#70 pick Pat Elflein moved to the NFL. He has been a locker room Yoda for less-mature players and, as Team Captain, he’s been the single most-influential player passing the culture down the O-Line. Matt Miller has Price as the “Most NFL-Ready” and “Best Run Blocker”, both of which are needed by the Bills, who need “pop-in-and-go” guards. By the way, Miller also named Price the “Best Pass-Blocker” and “Best Potential”, so he’s a safe pick and a smart one.  The Bills have scouted Ohio State once this year. 
Fit For The Bills: A+


Taylor Hearn 
LG  Clemson  (RD4#134 on my Big Board)
6-4, 330, 5.43
While Hearn has two years of eligibility left, he checks all the other boxes. Currently playing LG, Hearn is so athletic he could be your backup punter  and fullback, too. Hearn teams up with Tyrone Crowder (see below) and OT Hyatt as part of a “Championship Caliber” OL, and they get to face NFL RD1 talent DL Christian Wilkins and future RD1 EDGE Clelin Ferrell in practice. Hearn’s work ethic earns him a McBeane McMention, as does his toughness. Hearn’s previous HC gushed, “He’s as tough a football player as I’ve ever coached – not just physically, but mentally.” McDermott will be drawn to Hearn’s competitive nature and the fact that he’s a gym rat — a 330-pound gym rat. The Bills have scouted Clemson once this year.
Fit For The Bills: A+

 

Bradley Bozeman OC/OG Alabama   (RD4#111 on my Big Board)
6-5, 322, 5.37
Crimson Tide center Bradley Bozeman replaced eventual NFL RD1#18 pick Ryan Kelly this year after backing Kelly up for two seasons as Guard and Center, kind of like Ryan Groy has done for the Bills. If Groy assumes Eric Wood’s spot at center, then they’ll again need that “OG/OC” guy, possibly Ragnow, Bozeman, Scott Quessenberry, or Alex Officer. Bozeman was a solid force in the middle, accurately making the line calls for the Tide that would spring Scarbrough and Harris (a sick 7.7 ypc vs AP-ranked teams). Bozeman’s ideally-sized for the position, vaulting him up the McBeane-O-Meter, and his attention to technical detail will syncopate with McDermott. Bozeman has the reputation for always going full-out in practice — another box checked. Scouts have been to two Alabama games recently.
Fit For The Bills: A+

 

Frank Ragnow OC/OG Arkansas  (RD3#88 on my Big Board)
6-5, 319, 5.17
PFF’s top blocker and First Team center before he ended his 2017 season with a high ankle sprain, Frank Ragnow possesses the prototypical height and weight McBeane is looking for. Ragnow’s Razorbacks haven’t been scouted this year (officially), so this is a longer shot, especially with Ryan Groy as the rightful heir to the Wood throne (Ragnow is more likely the Center who could play Guard than vice-versa). Ragnow does offer appeal as a solid run blocker, as Arkansas has averaged an impressive 5.31 ypc on run plays through either interior gap. The Bills used to run well up the middle, remember? Ragnow offers the plus of speed to the second level. His ankle’s most likely healed for a Senior Bowl appearance, where Bills scouts will evaluate him for the first time.
Fit For The Bills: A

 

 

Other Good Position Fits, Likely Day 3:

Cody O’Connell OG Washington St   (RD5#162 on my Big Board)
6-8, 344, 5.56
O’Connell is one of the more interesting choices the Bills could make, especially if the zone blocking system is here to stay. O’Connell is a huuuuge man; his nickname is “The Continent”. O’Connell was a backup last year who also played on special teams, and is now a unanimous All-American as a redshirt junior. Yep, he has another year to grow. Scouts use “F” words when describing his play: focused, fundamentally-sound, fully-aware. If the Bills choose to wait on a QB, then O’Connell could be protecting Falk’s blind side at the next level. Scouts have been to two WSU games.
Fit For The Bills: A

 

Brendan Mahon Penn St   (RD6#187 on my Big Board)
6-3, 315, 5.06
James Franklin said two things about Mahon that he’s likely to say to McBeane: “When he hits ya it’s like getting hit with two cinder blocks”, and “has got the ability to be one of the most physical offensive linemen in the country. When he does it, the rest will follow.” So would Saquon Barkley. Terry Pegula will like a cinder-block blocker from his alma mater, and scouts have been there twice. Mahon’s a redshirt senior.
Fit For The Bills: A+

 

Alex Officer  OG OC Pittsburgh  (RD7#258 on my Big Board)
6-3, 335, 5.38
A redshirt senior, Officer’s 36 consecutive starts is a giant check mark. Familiarity with Peterman is a second. Officer has done a lot of inside zone blocking, incorporating other elements, so he’s a fit for the Bills’ current scheme. Officer has the heft that Mahon doesn’t, but lacks Mahon’s speed. His OL has blocked for 3 straight 1000+ yard rushers. Officer has made 2 Rimington Lists so far as OC, but he can easily be your OG, as well, which he’d likely be on the Bills to begin with. With Bills Man Of The Year Eric Wood, you’d have an officer and a gentleman (sorry). He’s someone to consider as a later-round gem who most likely got a look last year when they scouted Peterman. Brandon Beane’s boys haven’t seen him this year.
Fit For The Bills: A

 

 

 

 

 

 

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