Bills’ Best Bets at DT 3-tech in 2019 NFL Draft

The Bills might need a prototypical defensive tackle at 3-tech to succeed the inimitable Kyle Williams (6-1, 303) when he hangs up his cleats. They can replace the position, but they can’t replace the player: Kyle’s played in 162 of 167 games, notching 43.5 sacks and logging 366 tackles over the past 12 seasons. Williams is on a one-year contract, and June 10th was his 36th birthday, if you’d like to send a lame belated-birthday card. Star Lotulelei was signed to a 5-year contract, but he’s purely a 1-tech.

Rookie Harrison Phillips figures into the DT3t need if he slides over when Kyle retires. “Horrible Harry”, one of four players we nailed in these pre-draft articles last year, has been so successful at the 1-tech (read Stephen White’s detailed report) that he led ALL FBS D-Linemen in tackles despite playing the NT position in a 3-4. Phillips is so strong (42-rep bench press at the Combine), he’s best pushing the pocket straight back and occupying two O-Linemen from there.

Who’s behind Kyle at the 3-tech? A RD3 pick of Doug Whaley’s, Adolphus Washington (6-4, 295) isn’t a free agent until 2020. However, in the offseason, he was arrested for “improper handling of a firearm”, but  was cleared of any wrongdoing in August. Over 15 games/10 starts in 2017, Washington has had only 1 sack (which is “improper handling of Tom Brady”) and 22 total tackles.

There are 9 defensive ends in camp, but there is a dearth of 3-techs.

It looks like DT is an early (Day 1-2) draft priority, and if Horrible Harry slides over to 3-tech next to Lotu,  it’s at least a Day2-3 need.  Looking at early 2019 Draft Big Boards, I see three, and as many as five defensive linemen in the Top Ten of the draft this year.  Who are “The Process” 3-tech defensive tackles to watch over the college season and in the upcoming draft?

The Best:

Ed Oliver    Houston
6-3, 291
24 games over 3 years
Sacks Per Game Played: 0.44
TFL Per Game Played: 1.60
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Oliver’s a junior with another year left of eligibility, but he’s already declared for the draft. McBeane tends to draft DTs early, and Oliver’s going to be drafted in the top three. He has a 39.5 tackles for loss in 25 career games despite being a NT in 3-man front. That’s reminiscent of Horrible Harry’s output from the NT. Ed Oliver is versatile, allowing for McDermott and Leslie Frazier to mix it up. Oliver’s explosion out of the gate and nimble lateral range may be unmatched by interior DLs, especially when combined with his massive strength. Oliver’s work ethic, relentlessness, and hustle are all tops on the McBeane-O-Meter. Oliver can be found running sprints with the WRs and RBs just to challenge himself. He already has an impressive array of pass-rush moves, allowing him to contribute from Day One. He can get skinny, forklift a Guard, fool the OL on a delay, bull-rush a tackle …you name it and Oliver can do it. My comp for him is Aaron Donald.  Fit For Bills: A+

 

Raekwon Davis      Alabama
6-7, 306
17 games over 2 years
Sacks Per Game Played: 0.56
TFL Per Game Played: 0.65
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Davis has been more productive in the sack department than Ed Oliver, but, being on Alabama, he’s had much more help over the years. At 6-7, 306, Davis is a fit size-wise for the Bills’ 3-tech position; you can’t throw over him.  Like Oliver, Raekwon doesn’t need to stay in one position before the snap. In fact, as a sophomore moving around the DL, Davis racked up 69 tackles, 10 of them for losses, and 8.5 sacks. That versatility is going to appeal to McBeane. Part of the Bills’ defensive strategy is to stop the run by gumming up the middle; Davis can help Lotulelei and Phillips immensely. Bills’ OC Brian Daboll is familiar with Davis; he had to play against him every day in practice last year.   Fit For Bills: A+

 

Christian Wilkins     Clemson
6-4, 300
40 games over 3 years
Sacks Per Game Played: 0.26
TFL Per Game Played: 0.66
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Wilkins is able to play any position along a defensive front, and versatility is a McDermott and Frazier watchword. “Smart” is another archetypal quality on the Bills’ defense, and Wilkins is a substitute teacher while he works on his Masters Degree. Early in his career, I saw Wilkins take plays off, but not recently; he’s held himself and his teammates to a higher standard lately. Wilkins: “Even when I’m tired, I push through it and just be the example when times get tough”. Sounds like The Process to me. With 193 tackles, 26 of them for a loss, 10 sacks (half of them in 2017), and 1 forced fumble in his three years, the production is palpable. Experience counts with McBeane, too, and Wilkins also has the second-highest Average Games Played Per Year. That’s significant because only 5 draft-eligible DTs have averaged over 12 games per year (Geary over 4 years, Wilkins over 3, Gary, Kaufusi, and Simmons over 2 years). Wilkins is strong, athletic, affable, and owns a football IQ borne out of smarts, film study, and experience.  Fit For Bills: A+

 

Rashan Gary      Michigan
6-5, 280
25 games over 2 years
Sacks Per Game Played: 0.24
TFL Per Game Played: 0.66
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Mo Hurst is off to the NFL (pick #140, Raiders), and former top recruit Rashan Gary can be a better pro than him. Hurst has the better get-off, but Gary has the better motor and pass-run defensive balance, as well as the nonstop effort. Gary has the stats to be drafted early: 11.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks. McBeane will be attracted to the athletic body of Gary’s as well as his body of work. Over 2 years, Gary is another of the 5 draftable DTs to play >12 games/year. He’s also more versatile than Hurst, being able to play inside and out. On some plays, Gary has played a Lorenzo Alexander role, and they’ll need a new LoZo pretty soon –like Kyle, he’s age 35. I like his football savvy and play diagnosis, coupled with his lateral range. Besides, after drafting the biggest QB and LB last year, how will Beane resist the #1 selection on this year’s list of “Football Freaks” ?   Fit For Bills: A+

The Rest:

Daniel Wise     Kansas
6-3, 290
31 games over 3 years
Sacks Per Game Played: 0.39
TFL Per Game Played: 1.0
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McBeane will be looking for Kyle Williams’ outstanding leadership, tremendous work ethic, and magnetic  personality. That’s just exactly how head coach Daniel Beaty describes Daniel Wise. Wise has the second-most TFLs Per Game (Ed Oliver is first), which tells you something about Wise’s consistency. 31 games, 31 TFL. He’s picking up steam, too. Of his 53 tackles in 12 games last season, 16 of them were for a loss. He added seven sacks, as well. To be sure, Wise has been in part the beneficiary of having Dorance Armstrong on the edge (RD4, Cowboys), but 33 of Wise’s tackles this year were solo.  He’s an All-Big12-First-Team selection. He’s known for his “on-field performance, strong work ethic, and charismatic personality”, so he’s a great human Beane.  Fit For Bills: A+

 

Youhanna Ghaifan      Wyoming
6-4, 290
22 games over 3 years
Sacks Per Game Played: 0.45
TFL Per Game Played: 0.91
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Josh Allen’s teammate at Wyoming, Youhanna Ghaifan, just dominated the Mountain West with 1.29 tackles for loss per game last season, making First Team All-Conference. The Bills currently have two players on the squad from the Mountain West, Allen and Boise State LB Tanner Vallejo (RD6, 2017), so Ghaifan wouldn’t be alone. He “attacked his rehab” from a nagging turf toe injury in 2017, so that’ll impress McDermott. When his teammates had injuries, he used the extra snaps as an opportunity to improve his technique. Sounds like a BillsMafia guy with his head on straight. He was a 2-way player in high school, having also played TE and Punter duties (is that a 3-way player?).  There’s not a plethora of film yet, but he’s one to watch in the Mountain West beginning this September.   Fit For Bills: A+

 

Ricky Walker      Virginia Tech
6-1, 310
32 games over 4 years
Sacks Per Game Played:  0.19
TFL Per Game Played:  0.63
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Watch 3 games of film before you write off Walker due to height. He’s been the “bell cow” of that cowbell Virginia Tech defense, and yes, I know Tim Settle (RD5, Redskins) was on his team. Walker has elected to return for one last college season after producing 41 tackles, 12.5 for a loss (which ranked 9th in the FBS), and 4.5 sacks in 2017.  A year earlier, Walker was an injury replacement for DT Nigel Williams (UDFA 2017 Buffalo Bills preseason cut), and he acquitted himself well. Walker started 4 games and made 24 tackles, 6.5 TFL, and 1.5 sacks. He uses a quick get-off to knife through linemen to make backfield tackles, Walker also makes my short list because he was Tremaine Edmunds’ teammate, and scouts were there. Now, add in the fact that he’s been named a Bednarik Award (Defensive POTY) candidate. Do you need more cowbell?   Fit For Bills: A+

 

Will Geary      Kansas St
6-0, 300
50 games over 4 years
Sacks Per Game Played: 0.22
TFL Per Game Played: 0.51
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Geary has played the most games of any draftable defensive lineman. He makes my list first and foremost because he’s a NHSCA championship finals wrestler like “Horrible Harry”, Harrison Phillips (2018 RD3, Bills). Geary was undefeated against three other state-ranked wrestlers.  Like Ricky Walker above, Geary’s on the short side, which becomes a factor when the 3-tech has to disrupt a QB’s vision on pass plays (but must I remind you how tall Kyle Williams was?). Watch his Baylor game (two sacks) and his “King of the Game” performance vs Oklahoma State (1.5 sacks) to see if he was disruptive at his height. Like Phillips, Geary is a gym rat with prodigious arm strength and he has a tremendous work ethic.   Fit For Bills: A+

One Reply to “Bills’ Best Bets at DT 3-tech in 2019 NFL Draft”

  1. Ed Oliver may be the best player in the 2019 draft (he is for my money). If he isn’t drafted with one of the first three picks, he won’t fall far. Since I expect the Bills to be better than a lot of the experts think (maybe not a playoff team, but not the worst team in the NFL either!), I doubt that the Bills will have a chance to take Oliver. Which means I’ll have to watch the others on this list more closely this season to see who looks most ready to take his game to the next level.