Bills’ Best Bets at Interior OL in 2019 NFL Draft

First, a quick look at the Bills’ interior guys currently on the roster as of September 27:

Ducasse: 6-5, 329
Bodine: 6-4, 311 (Eric Wood’s numbers)
Teller: 6-4, 314
Groy: 6-5, 320
Miller: 6-3, 315
Sirles: 6-6, 315
The range goes from is 6-3 (Miller) to 6-6 (Sirles), and from 311 lbs (Bodine/Wood) to 329 (Ducasse).

The Bills’ Interior Line Situation: As former Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison should have seen earlier, based on the personnel on the interior line, we had the makings of a power-blocking system (PBS), already successful and intact from the year before. Just by switching back to the PBS, the Bills should rebound nicely, and the hope was that run-blocking power guards like John Miller could reclaim lost ground. By signing Jeremiah Sirles in late September, though, I’d say the jury’s still out on whether the best five linemen are on the team!

What Will The Bills Look For? Bills guards and centers have to be adaptable. Brian Daboll has promised they’ll do a bit of everything based on the opponent that week. Some weeks, an outside zone or pin-and-pull schemes would be part of the game plan, while inside zone or split flow run concepts might work better on other weeks. This requires smart linemen who are quick learners and quick processors. Since the Bills want to re-establish their Top 5 ranking in rushing, expect powerful run-blocking linemen. For example, Teller is a powerful run-blocker (9th in PFF), and is a weight room junkie (30 reps bench) despite having long arms (remember Physics? a longer arm requires more force to lift a weight). Teller also has an elite explosion factor; Teller had the best broad jump and three-cone drill times among draftable OGs. Finally, Teller had four years of PFF overall grading between 86.0 and 89.3. The upcoming college season, plus the Combine and Pro Days will go a long way to narrow down this preliminary listing of interior line fits for the Bills, but I think these are some early candidates that’ll be fun to watch on Saturdays this fall. I’ve added DraftTek’s OL Analyst Longball’s insightful comments.

Who are the best fits at Interior O-Line for the Bills in the 2019 NFL Draft?
(Disclaimer: Players are not listed in the order I think they will be drafted (look here for Guards and look here for Centers), but rather the level of fit with the Bills’ archetypal cornerback) 

Michael Deiter, Wisconsin
6-5, 328 5.3
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Best NFL Position: OC OT OG
Michael Deiter played in LT Ryan Ramczyk’s (RD1 Saints) spot in 2017, and slides inside this year to Guard for the Badgers, and he’ll be a force there. However, I suspect his best position might be one more slot over: at Center. Deiter’s versatile enough to play all five positions, and he’s durable, having played 95% of the Badgers’ offensive snaps over the last three seasons. To start his rookie season in the NFL, he’ll have to improve his footwork, balance, and leverage this year, but his long-term prognosis is sky-high. Longball: “I have him graded at OT and OC, but he certainly could slide inside . . . I love Badger linemen. Deiter can be guilty of waist-bending, which would need a season of squats weight training to be effective at OG.  We’ll see this year, as they’re planning to slide him inside.”  Fit For Bills: A+

 

Alex Bars, Notre Dame
6-5, 312 5.29
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Best NFL Position: LT RT LG RG
Bars is a 5th-year graduate student and a teammate-elected Captain for the golden domers, so it’ll come as no surprise that he has the maturity and charisma to be an anchor on any offensive line, both on and off the field. He’s so versatile that his best NFL position might be “What Do You Need?”.  He’s more of a finesse blocker than mauler Quenton Nelson (Colts’ 2018 RD1#6). Bars will occupy Nelson’s LG spot this season, but the versatile Nashville native has also started at RG and RT over 25 games. While Notre Dame has no running back like Josh Adams (Eagles, UDFA) to spring loose this year, you’ll be sure to notice Alex Bars –he’ll be wherever they need him. Longball: “Bars is the Swiss-Utility-Knife type of prospect that you’re looking for . . . and he can be had in RD4.”  Fit For Bills: A+

 

Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin
6-5, 317 5.2
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Best NFL Position: LG RG
Benzschawel, the Wisconsin RG, skipped the 2018 NFL Draft to “finish the job”; that alone gives him the right-mindfulness so in keeping with the McBeane Zen. Few are as knowledgeable, and that’s also a plus; Benzschawel played in 8 games as a freshman. He suffered a right leg injury in September 2017, but he’s back now, and will need a healthy season to be considered. He’s a great run blocker, using awareness, hand use, and blocking angles more than most listed here, and he pulls well, something we’ve seen with Ike Boettger. Benzschawel’s plenty tough.  Fit For Bills: A

 

Tyler Biadasz,  Wisconsin
6-3, 322 5.28
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Best NFL Position: OC
Pronounced “bee-AH-dish” Biadasz is the Badger’s starting center, who some have as the top interior linemen eligible for this draft. I don’t think he’ll declare for this draft, but he’s in the top echelon if he does because of his high ceiling. He fits the Bills’ archetype because he’s a gym rat and a hard worker. Michael Deiter calls him a “sponge” because of his desire to know everything there is to know about a play or concept, and that will appeal to Daboll and OL Coach Castillo. His play has allowed the Badgers to slide Michael Deiter to LG and to LT when David Edwards returned from injury.  Fit For Bills: A

 

Dalton Risner, Kansas State
6-4, 300 5.08
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Best NFL Position:  RT, C
Risner allowed 1 sack in 2016 and 0 sacks in 2017. That’s solid. So is the fact that Risner allowed just 23 total QB pressures on a total of 1,116 pass-blocking snaps over 3 years. His length of experience will appeal to McBeane, and so will his projected positions for an NFL team. The Bills are weaker at Center and Right Tackle, per PFF.  A pair of injured shoulders in his career drops him one click.  He’s Captain of the team, shows passion in his on- and off-field work, and is a great guy. Risner’s quickness is unmatched in this class, and he has speed to pull to the second level. Fit For Bills: A

 

Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama 
6-4, 303 5.34
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Best NFL Position:  C, OG
After being a three-year starter at Guard  for the Crimson Tide, Pierschbacher will likely be moved to Center to replace senior Team Captain Bradley Bozeman (2018 RD6, Ravens). Pierschbacher’s the most football-savvy of Saban’s choices, and Center is where he always puts his veteran. Four linemates have left, and there’s a new OC, Mike Locksley. The fifth-year senior helped ‘Bama rush for 250.6 yards per game, second-most in the SEC, and he’ll get to open holes for Senior Damien Harris this year. Smaller than you’d like at Guard or Left Tackle, Pierschbacher’s best position in the NFL might be Center. Pierschbacher’s fine anywhere; he’s all about The Process: “I’m just working to try to make the team better and each day I’m learning new stuff.” Daboll knows him, but the Bills’ blocking scheme favors heavier guys. Nevertheless, position flexibility, athleticism, and good footwork may make Pierschbacher a consideration.
Fit For Bills: A-

 

Hjalte Froholdt, Arkansas
6-4, 311
Best NFL Position: LG
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“YELL-da”, it almost rhymes with Delta, but all my Danish friends say that doesn’t fly.  While Hjalte wouldn’t have to declare for this April’s draft, Froholdt is already considered one of the draft’s best pass protectors. A native of Denmark, Froholdt  is already Chad Reuter’s top interior OL guy, and it’s only August. He’s versatile, athletic, strong, and has a tenacious work ethic. Froholdt was effective at LG as a sophomore, where he showed off his mobility, strength, and toughness (think Frank Ragnow, the Lions’ RD1#20 in the last draft). Moreover, in the 747 snaps Froholdt played, he didn’t give up a single sack in pass protection.  Froholdt started on the DL as a freshman where, per Coach Weinke, he wreaked havoc. Longball: “I’m not as high on him as you are, and he’s strictly OG . . . Froholdt will be changing from Bielema’s PBS to Chad Morris’s ZBS and spread offense.  If he displays the footwork to make that change, I might move him up.” Given the positional group and where Froholdt will likely be picked, he might be a fit for the Bills. Fit For Bills: A-

 

Max Scharping, Northern Illinois
6-6, 320 5.32
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Best NFL Position: RG LG RT
Scharping has nice speed for a 320-lb behemoth. Back in 2015, Scharping ranked third in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency (97.1). The following year, he rose to first (98.9), and matched this level of efficiency in 2017, finishing first again with a 99.2. While he’s taller and heavier and a better pass-blocker than Froholdt, Scharping’s not as strong at run-blocking, but that’ll likely come with an NFL weight room and better coaching. Longball: “I really like Scharping . . . but a dollar to a donut says he will play OT (and probably won’t start until his 2nd or 3rd year).”  Fit For Bills: A-

 

Nate Herbig, Stanford
6-3, 336 5.55
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Best NFL Position: LG
A big Stanford Guard blocking for Heisman hopeful, Bryce Love –we’ve seen this movie before. Big, tough, and strong, Nate Herbig has great feet for his size. He actually reminds me of the Bills’ De’Ondre Wesley. “The Hawaiian Hogmolly”, also referred to as “The Big Island”, had 6 starts as a freshman and has experienced no losses since being inserted. In Herbig’s games as Stanford’s LG, he helped Stanford average a preposterous 344 rushing yards. Herbig was ESPN’s Freshman All-American at the Guard position, and was named All-PAC-12 as a soph. He needs to replace fat with muscle, and improve his pass protection technique. He’s not likely a pulling guard, but there’s always room on Day 2 for a mauler type.  Longball: “Herbig’s another big boy . . . he’ll need to work on his pass protection footwork at the next level.”  Fit For Bills: A-

 

Lukayus McNeil Louisville
6-5, 335 5.4
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Best NFL Position: LG, RG
McNeil was the best blocker on Lamar Jackson’s line, which had Football Outsiders’ top rank in adjusted line yards in 2017. He played tackle, but with his heft, McNeil’s most likely a OG in the NFL. An all-conference basketball player, defensive lineman, and shotputter in high school, McNeil’s an athlete first and foremost. He decided he could become a better all-around player with another year in college, to “perfect his craft”. That growth mindset’s going to sit well with McBeane. Longball: “McNeil is similar to Gray [below]. . . if you want heft for the middle and go strictly power-blocking scheme, they would be fine.”  Fit For Bills: B+

 

Derwin Gray, Maryland
6-5, 330 5.25
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Best NFL Position: LT or LG
Playing LT in all 12 Terrapin games this year, Gray helped Maryland tally 161.7 rush yards of in 2017. He’s second to the Big Ten’s top pass blocker, teammate Damian Prince, in PFF grade (80.0), but the durable Gray has had more snaps by far. Gray’s 5.25 forty at 336 lbs is going to catch some buzz at the Combine, and so will his explosion scores: Gray has blocked a field goal. His ceiling is starter LT. At the very worst, Gray would be a first-string pulling Guard. Longball: “I don’t know if he fits your profile . . . he had a mobile QB which helped his sack totals and I think his teammate (Damian Prince) may be a better pro.”    Fit For Bills: B+

 

Martez Ivey, Florida
6-4, 303 5.15
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Best NFL Position: LG, RG
Ivey played at Left Tackle for the Gators in 2017, but he’s more likely an NFL Guard with those feet. In fact, Ivey played LG his first two seasons before moving to LT last fall.  Ivey has had the privilege (and disadvantage) of having three different line coaches in his three years (31 starts).  Still, he made a good decision to return to school. He’s had injuries along the way, and missed off-season training in winters and summers as a result. This year, Ivey’s work in the training room and weight room, combined with his improved work ethic,  will help Ivey take advantage of his decision. He’s likely the LT to start the year. Cece Jefferson on Ivey: “He’s a great, genuine guy, works hard, doesn’t complain about anything. Those are the types of the guys you want on your team.”  Fit For Bills: B+

 

Tyler Bowling, Tulsa
6-5, 325 5.37
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Best NFL Position: LG
Here’s another grad student on an impressive AAC offensive line, which has been ranked 14th in rushing over the last 2 years with an insane 247.2 yards per game.  This 325-pound LG from Yukon, Oklahoma enters the 2018 season having started 26 consecutive games, playing in a whopping 38, and that level of experience makes the arrow on the McBeane-o-Meter go up. He’s married and has a daughter, so he’s mature. Watch his 2017 games against Oklahoma State, Louisiana,  and Memphis; he’s number 72.  Fit For Bills: B+

 

Cole Minshew, Florida St
6-4, 338, 5.3
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Best NFL Position: RG
Should they stick with power-blocking as their bread-and-butter scheme, the Bills may be looking deeper into the 2019-2020 drafts for a big, tough, run-blocking mauler type. If so, they’d do well to look at RG Cole Minshew, whether he declares for the 2019 or 2020 NFL Draft. Florida State wasn’t a top-level line in 2017, and it’s been a rough start this year (see loss to Syracuse), but Minshew’s play continues to stand out.
Fit For Bills: B+

 

Bobby Evans, Oklahoma
6-3, 312 5.23
Next Game       Read
Best NFL Position: RT
Here’s another mauler to consider. Evans is smaller than Minshew, but he has the experience at a position of need for the Bills: RT. Evans replaced Orlando Brown (RD3, Ravens), has started every game at RT during 2016 and 2017, and the redshirt junior swings over to LT this year.  Evans is one of offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh’s best-ever tackles, and he has a plethora of greats.
Fit For Bills: B

 

Others I’m looking at right now: Damian Prince

Longball: “I’m wondering why you didn’t mention Connor McGovern (Penn State). He has position flex, athleticism with good footwork, and has to have good work ethic based on the schools they’re attending.”

 

6 Replies to “Bills’ Best Bets at Interior OL in 2019 NFL Draft”

  1. Depending on where they draft and what their other needs are, the Bills would do well to get any one of the Wisconsin offensive linemen eligible for the 2019 draft, but they may have to use a first round pick to get one.

    • Travis Frederick of the Cowboys is my favorite Badger currently playing in the NFL. If we get that level of return for OL rookie (16 games in 4 consecutive seasons, Pro Bowl each of the last 3 years), I’ll do it!

  2. Dennison was an awful O-line coach—he didn’t the scheme to the personal he had–he tried fitting a square peg in a round hole… I’m glad to see OG Miller back on the field instead of being in purgatory.

    OL could be high on the wish list. They will grab someone after final cuts to fill out the practice squad or for added depth.

    • I love Boettger and De’Ondre Wesley for their upside. One or both could be Practice Squad designations. I expect that Boettger will get some time with the twos tonight at Guard, and Wesley will be given every opportunity to succeed at OT. He’s huge with Jason Peters feet.

        • Boettger played RG with the twos. He had some nice blocks alone, also in tandem with the RT (Wesley, I think), and had one bad play where he bounced off the DLineman. Anyway, I’m still impressed with Boettger.