The Buffalo Bills will be entering the NFL draft as one of those teams that the fans just aren't sure what they are going to do. There has been talk, like this tweet from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, of them wanting to trade up.
However, Peter King of Sport's Illustrated's The Monday Morning Quarterback wrote in his mock draft this week that "GM Doug Whaley is very much open for business here, and could trade down."
One of the reasons it is tough to get a read on the team's plans is that for the first time in a very long time, the Bills roster does not have any glaring weaknesses. They are in a position where they can let the draft come to them and pick the player they feel most comfortable with, whether that means staying at No. 9 or trading somewhere in the first round.
While there are no major holes in the roster, there are two positions that are weaker than other areas: offensive tackle and a big pass-catcher. It is fairly clear that this is a focus for the team as 11 of the 29 prospects who took pre-draft visits to Buffalo fall into one of these two categories. It is also important to note that the last four first round picks for the Bills all visited the team before the NFL Draft.
Of those 11 prospects, one player stands out to me as the most likely candidate to be selected by the Bills in the first round, and that is Texas A&M's Jake Matthews. There is a chance he could slide to them at number nine but it could also mean moving up in a draft day deal, which is something that Doug Whaley has not shied away from. If this is the case, Buffalo should not be afraid to make the move and solidify that position for years to come.
Weight: 308 lbs.
Arm Length: 33 3/8"
Hands: 9 7/8"
|NFL Combine Results|
|40-yard dash||Bench||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||3 Cone Drill|
|5.07 sec.||24 reps||30.5"||105"||7.34 sec.|
If there is one thing that stands out about Matthews more than anything, it's that he can step in as a starter on Day 1 and solidify the right tackle position. An offensive line with Cordy Glenn on one side and Matthews on the other would really help in providing EJ Manuel a clean pocket to work from. This will give Manuel time to make the right read and find the open wide receiver.
The reason that Matthews could start right away is because of how technically sound he is at playing offensive tackle, especially in pass protection. Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated wrote about Matthews's pass protection in his scouting report:
As a pass-blocker, he is fluid and consistent in his kick-slide, and he establishes a solid arc of protection back to the pocket with his footwork and low base. Gets his hands inside a defender’s pads and generally keeps them there — he’s very tenacious.
Everything that Farrar mentions in his scouting report, from the footwork to the low base to him being able to keep his hands inside, allows him to hold his block for a long time. This is especially important for a mobile quarterback, like Johnny Manziel.
In 2012, Jake Matthews started at right tackle for Texas A&M with last year's second overall pick Luke Joeckel manning the left side. As it is evident from the video, Matthews does a good job of holding his block and giving Manziel time to make plays, whether through the air or on the ground.
While Manuel is not on the same level as Manziel when it comes to making plays with his legs, he does have the athleticism necessary to make plays on the ground if need be. The experience Matthews gained blocking for a scrambling quarterback like Manziel is only one more reason why Matthews is the right pick for the Bills, as Farrar also mentions in his scouting report.
The run blocking is not on the same level as his pass protection, but it is still very good. This is one area the Bills offense would benefit the most from a pick like Matthews.
Last year, Pears graded as one of the worst offensive tackles according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) when it came to run-blocking in the NFL, finishing with a rating of minus-15.2. Pears' struggle in the run game is one of the reasons that this position is a need for the Bills heading into the draft.
The run game is very important to the Bills offense, as they relied heavily on it last year. The team finished with the most rushing attempts last year in the NFL, and this most likely won't change with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson still on the roster. Doug Marrone and the coaching staff understand the best way to protect a young quarterback is with a strong running game.
The Bills right now have a veteran center in Eric Wood and a rising star in Cordy Glenn, and by adding Jake Matthews to the right side, it would give them one of the best offensive lines they have had in a long time. It would help open running lanes for Spiller and Jackson.
The biggest beneficiary of the move though would be EJ Manuel. It would give him time to read defenses and make the right read, which is invaluable for a quarterback at this point in his career. On Thursday night, Jake Matthews could step up to meet Commissioner Roger Goodell when his name is called and step off the stage as the starting right tackle for the Buffalo Bills, which is exactly why he seems to be the likely pick.
*Stats courtesy of NFL.com.
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