Only one more Fan Friday after this prior to the draft, and Jason Peters trumps everything so we start there. I’m going to be in full scramble mode answering all your pre-draft questions this week. Let’s get started.
ESPN is reporting that Peters was traded for a 1st(28th overall) and Philly’s 4th round pick this year as well as a undisclosed 2010 pick. Now that this is a done deal which tackle do you see Buffalo taking at #11?
CB: First Kevin, nothing is done until either of the teams confirms it. But to entertain your question, should this trade indeed come to fruition I would say that the chances of Buffalo taking an offensive tackle increase somewhat, but not significantly. Here’s why.
I think the Bills will move Langston Walker to left tackle and plug Demetrius Bell in at right tackle. Bell came a long way in the past year and is very, very athletic. Asking him to step in at left tackle right now however, is too much to ask of a second-year player with no NFL starts on his resume.
If you remember the Bills started Jason Peters on the right side when he first played tackle in a game filling in for an injured Mike Williams back in ‘05. I think doing the same with Bell is not out of the realm of possibility. If that’s the course they choose to take, then I think the Bills can still target a premier pass rusher, like Everette Brown at 11, who I have liked all along.
Then at 28 they could scoop up a top flight center like Alex Mack (Cal), OLB/DE Connor Barwin (Connor Barwin) or Larry English (No. Illinois) or tight end Brandon Pettigrew (OK State) if he happens to still be on the board. Personally I think Pettigrew will be gone by 25 to Atlanta or 26 to Baltimore.
I’m not saying that an offensive tackle like Michael Oher (Ole Miss) isn’t a possibility at 11, but I don’t think it means they’re forced to take one there. Heck they could even get a solid right tackle prospect in Eben Britton (Arizona St.) at 28 if they wanted.
But this organization has a lot of faith in Bell’s long term potential and after successfully developing Peters, who wasn’t an offensive tackle until Buffalo moved him, I believe they feel they can develop Bell into a dependable starter.
I guess we’ll all know better in about a week.
2. Hey Chris,
I know the Bills have all but announced Hangartner the center for next season, but could it be a smoke screen and could the Bills be eying up someone like Alex Mack in the draft? Then moving Hangartner to guard?
CB: I wouldn’t rule anything out at this point, but Hangartner has said his best position is center and I get the sense the organization is committed to him playing in the pivot. You want to put the players in positions where they can best succeed, and for Hangartner that’s center, in his opinion and the opinion of the organization.
3. Chris, just about everyone in the Bills community including yourself keeps saying that the team’s greatest need going into 2009 is to improve its pass rush. But isn’t it a fact that the Bills had the # 13 defense in the NFL last year against the pass? If that’s true, isn’t improving the pass rush more of a luxury than a necessity, especially given the fact that the offense ranked near the bottom of the league in just about every important category? Shouldn’t landing a first-rate TE and Center trump acquiring a situational pass rusher who plays mainly on third down? Last year we insisted on getting “value” from our first round pick by drafting a CB and ended up not getting the kind of TE we desperately needed, when we could have traded down and drafted John Carlson. I hope that doesn’t happen in 2009, leaving the offense shortchanged once again.
CB: While I understand the point you’re trying to make, the ranking of the pass defense in 2008 (13th) is a bit misleading. The reason why is because teams still had fair to good success running the ball against Buffalo when all was said and done. The Bills finished 22nd against the run and surrendered over 120 yards per game on the ground.
When teams run that well against you they don’t have to throw as much reducing the yards a defense gives up passing thereby improving the ranking against the pass.
Some might say that run defense figure means they should get another defensive tackle, but any hope of getting B.J. Raji at 11 is a pipe dream. He’ll be gone by the sixth pick.
As for the pass rush here’s why myself and the majority of fans I’ve spoken with feel the pass rush has to be addressed. Over the past two years Buffalo has a total of 50 sacks. Combining 2007 and 2008 that ranks 29th in the league, with only Cleveland, Cincinnati and Kansas City with lesser production over that span. The pass rush has to be addressed early if you wish to get a player that can help you right away.
Just read your blog on S. Carolina TE Cook. I can see where interest in this guy is growing and Nelson/Cook could be neck and neck. I don’t agree however with your assessment that with the addition of T.O. the Bills need for a TE is reduced. Personally I believe the addition of a real TE is of paramount importance. That along with improving the OL interior to me should be of primary importance to the Bills. I know you believe the Bills should go after a DE with their first pick to improve the pass rush, but I believe making the offense significantly better is the real key. Our struggles last season were offense related.
CB: Perhaps I didn’t state my opinion on the tight end well enough. When I said that the need for a playmaking tight end was reduced by the signing of Owens, I meant for 2009. This year, if you don’t have a playmaking tight end ready to make plays and have an instant impact on your offense you’re not dead in the water.
I still maintain that the pass rush is priority number one. I think tight end can be addressed in rounds two or three depending on what players the Bills covet most at that position. That player can come in as a rookie in 2009, get his feet wet without the pressure of making tons of plays. Then the following year when Owens is probably gone he and James Hardy can step up and fill the void in the passing game together.
I agree offensive line is a need area too. In my ideal draft Buffalo gets a premier pass rusher in the first (Brown?), a solid interior lineman in the second (Wood?) and a pass catching tight end in the third (Coffman?). If this reported Peters trade happens, then pass rusher first, OL bottom of first, pass catching TE in 2nd.
5. Hey Chris,
I wanted to get your opinion on Oregon OL Max Unger. In doing some player research I have developed a man crush on Unger and would love to see him in a Bills uniform. I love his versalitility as he can play center, guard, or tackle plus he brings top notch intangibles and experience to the table. I think he would be a great add with our second round pick, if he lasts that long. Anyways, your opinion would be greatly appreciated.
CB: I think Max Unger would be a good pick. Yes, he is versatile having played some tackle. Though he’s never played guard, I think he could handle it.
Personally I prefer Alex Mack and Eric Wood to Unger. Mack and Wood have a little more nastiness and tenacity to their game, while Unger is more of a technician.
Don’t get me wrong I respect Unger’s game a lot and wouldn’t be upset if he wound up with the Bills. I just like Mack and Wood a bit better.
Tags: Alex Mack, B.J. Raji, Brandon Pettigrew, Chase Coffman, Connor Barwin, Eben Britton, Eric Wood, Everette Brown, Fan Friday, Geoff Hangartner, Jared Cook, Jason Peters, Larry English, Max Unger, Michael Oher
Posted in Inside the Bills
By no means are these all the bench press numbers for the OL and TE positions, but here are some of the ones I’ve got courtesy of NFL Draft Scout.com.
Texas Tech guard Louis Vasquez had the high count of the day with 39 reps of 225. Other offensive linemen that fared well were Washington C Juan Garcia (34), BYU guard Travis Bright (34), UTEP C Robby Felix (33)Baylor OT Jason Smith (33), Penn State C A.Q Shipley (33), Ohio State OT Alex Boone (33) , South Carolina OT/G Jamon Meredith (31) and Oklahoma C Jon Cooper (31).
Ranked among the top centers Max Unger had 22 reps, one of the top tackles Eugene Monroe had 23 reps, Michael Oher had 21.
At tight end James Casey was impressive with 28 reps and was matched by Wisconsin’s Travis Beckum (28). WNY native and Maryland TE Dan Gronkowski had 26 reps. Cal’s Cameron Morrah (24), North Carolina’s Richard Quinn (24), South Carolina Jared Cook (23) and Brandon Pettigrew (22) all had respectable showings.
Perhaps the most impressive performance however, was that of USC kicker David Buehler. At 6’2″ and 219 pounds, Buehler put up 25 reps. Congrats fella.
Tags: Brandon Pettigrew, Dan Gronkowski, James Casey, Jamon Meredith, Jared Cook, Jason Smith, Louis Vasquez, Max Unger, NFL Combine, Travis Beckum
Posted in Inside the Bills
Mel Kiper speaking on a national conference call Wednesday had a couple of comments on the top centers in the draft. Cal’s Alex Mack and Oregon’s Max Unger are widely considered the top two centers. Unger didn’t have a great Senior Bowl week, but Kiper doesn’t see it hurting him much in the draft.
“Max Unger is a center and I think that’s his best spot even though he’s played all the positions. He didn’t look as good as Mack did down at the Senior Bowl, but I think he’s possibly a second round draft choice,” said Kiper. “Mack had a great career at Cal and can play center or guard. I’ve got him going to Pittsburgh at pick 32.”
Talking to some NFL scouts, it sounds as if Mack would be a better fit for the Bills. While Unger is more mobile and get pull and get out on the edges on toss and sweep plays better, Mack is more adept at holding his ground inside against the big DTs.
That’s far more important a quality to have if you’re going to play in the AFC East against the big boys inside in New England, New York and Miami. Unfortunately if Kiper’s mock is right Mack won’t be there for the Bills to consider in round two.
Gotta give it up to Mel Kiper yesterday. He did a two hour conference call with the media on Wednesday. Two hours is almost unheard of. Most conference calls go an hour tops.
Tags: Alex Mack, Max Unger, Mel Kiper, NFL Draft
Posted in Inside the Bills