The Buffalo Bills currently hold the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and while their are some stud prospects that could fill some obvious holes throughout the roster, the offensive line is in no better position now than it was at this point last year.
Guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre have proven themselves as solid interior linemen, and Demetrius Bell was decent in his pass protection last season.
However, when bringing in veteran right tackle, Cornell Green, formerly of the Oakland Raiders, proved to be a failure, the Bills weren’t able to keep the offense on the field.This slideshow is part two of a seven part series over viewing the state of the Buffalo Bills roster, and several options for the Buffalo Bills will be displayed, from free agency, to the draft, to trades
Demetrius Bell: A former seventh round draft pick, Demetrius Bell is coming off of his first full year as a starter, and performed decently, considering the talent that he went against. He seems to have the faith of the Bills’ coaching staff, and his starting role is secure for now.
Mansfield Wrotto: Mansfield Wrotto started seven games last year, and was recently resigned to a deal two weeks ago. At 6’3″ 313 pounds, Wrotto has strength to hold his own at the point of attack, but his lack of experience doesn’t make him an optimal choice.
Erik Pears: Erik Pears is an interesting prospect at right tackle, as he was a two year starter in Denver, and was picked up by the Bills midseason. Standing 6’8″, he has the length to hold off pass rushers, and will be in competition with Wrotto for the starting job.
Ed Wang: We didn’t get to see much of 5th round draft pick Ed Wang last season, as he missed most of the year due to an injury suffered in offseason workouts. However, the Bills worked him at various positions on the line, and will be a versatile player that adds depth.
Eric Wood: Eric Wood was a first round selection by the Bills in the 2009 NFL Draft, and is continuously developing into a solid run and pass blocker. At 24 years old, his ceiling his still high, and I think moving him to center, his natural position, would be an upgrade over incumbent starter, Geoff Hangartner, and bring Kraig Urbik or Chad Rinehart to the right side.
Andy Levitre: Andy Levitre was selected the same year as Wood, and is also a solid interior linemen. He has quick feet and strong arms that keep defensive linemen at bay.
Kraig Urbik: Buddy Nix recently made a statement saying that in the 2008 NFL Draft, he had Eric Wood and Kraig Urbik as the two top rated guards in that draft class. Now, the Bills just need to get him on the field. A mammoth at 6’5″ 323 pounds, he has the strength to hold his own with the top tier nose tackles like Vince Wilfork or Paul Soliai that he will face off against multiple times a year.
Chad Rinehart, Cordero Howard: Both Rinehart and Howard were given playing time down the stretch last year, but the lack of experience will keep them as serviceable backups.
With the NFL Players Association decertifying yesterday, it’s unclear how free agency will play out this offseason, but as of now there are quite a few proven prospects that the Bills could add to further bolster their line.
Tyson Clabo of the Atlanta Falcons has started all 53 of his games and is an excellent run blocker and pass protector. At 6’6,” 331 pounds, he would add the bulk and physicality that Coach Gailey is seeking.
Signing Tony Ugoh of the Indianapolis Colts would be a bit of a gamble, and he is very inconsistent. The 6’5,” 301 pound, 27-year-old out of Arkansas has great strength, and a natural knee bend that you look for in a pass blocker.
However, more often than not, he tends to stay too high, allowing pass rushers to get leverage on him.
His footwork is inconsistent at times, and he is more of a finesse tackle than a power-type guy who will drive defenders down the field.
Drafting An Offensive Lineman In Round One
It has recently been reported that the Bills are set to meet with Wisconsin tackle, Gabe Carimi, who most scouts see as a great fit at the right tackle position.
However, with the Bills holding the No. 3 draft, there aren’t any offensive linemen worth taking that high. If the Bills decide to trade down and stockpile a mid-round pick, I could see them selecting Southern California’s Tyron Smith, who has been racing up draft boards.
Nate Solder out of Colorado or Anthony Costanzo from Boston College could also be serviceable mid- first round selections.
What Would You Do?
What do you think Buffalo should do to address the need at Offensive Tackle?
Drafting a prospect puts Buffalo in yet another boom or bust situation, but picking up a proven starter off the free agency market could quickly terminate the need for offensive lineman, and would allow the Bills to pursue another position player of better talent than they would initially get.