To get their target in Round 1, the Buffalo Bills had to move up. In Round 2, they went the other way with a trade down and still ended up with a nearly ideal second-round selection in Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
If you’ve been following the Bills leading up to the draft, you probably saw this choice coming. The Bills hosted Kouandjio, whom I projected as the Bills’ No. 41 overall selection, as one of their 29 predraft visitors. He was the best player available in this scenario at the team’s biggest area of need, offensive line.
What you probably didn’t see coming is that Buffalo would trade down, add a fifth-round selection (No. 153 overall) from the St. Louis Rams in the process and still end up with Kouandjio, making his value in Round 2 all the better.
Coming into the draft, the Bills had a major need to upgrade their offensive line, especially at right tackle and left guard. By drafting Kouandjio, the Bills landed a player who could potentially end up being a starter at either of those spots, though the Bills drafted him with a clear plan in mind.
First and foremost, Kouandjio has exceptional size. At 6’7” and 322 pounds with 35.625” arms, Kouandjio is a behemoth who will, even at the next level, tower over opponents and be able to engulf them with his length.
The new Bills blocker effectively translates that size into power. With the length of his arms, you can ignore his underwhelming combine performance of 21 repetitions in the bench press; Kouandjio has little trouble controlling a defender at the line of scrimmage and driving him away from a play.
As he builds upon those traits, run blocking is where Kouandjio’s impact on the Bills should be especially noticeable.
Traditionally viewed as the power side of the offensive line, the Bills had a consistently weak push going outside to the right with Erik Pears at right tackle this past season. Kouandjio should be an immediate upgrade in that capacity and have the capability of opening up wider running lanes for running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
Where Kouandjio is likely to have growing pains if he starts at right tackle is in pass protection.
He has subpar lateral quickness for an offensive tackle and was exposed at times in his collegiate career by outside speed-rushers. If he is going to overcome his limited foot skills and stay on the end of the line at the next level, he has to become more consistent with his pass-blocking technique.
When Kouandjio is able to get his hands on a defender, however, he rarely loses the battle. His size and strength make him a very difficult blocker to move back, and he is able to envelope a defender with his wide wingspan and keep his opponent from working his way outside of him.
Do Kouandjio’s strengths and weaknesses sound like a scouting report you’ve heard before? That’s probably because many of the same concerns were raised about Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn in 2012, when he fell to the second round of the draft amid expectations that he would have to move inside to guard. Despite those doubts, Glenn has quickly emerged as one of the NFL’s best young players at his position.
The Bills have a clear profile for what they look for at the offensive tackle position—massive linemen who can win with power.
That should raise hope that Buffalo, whose head coach, Doug Marrone, is a former NFL offensive lineman himself, can maximize Kouandjio’s potential and help him become a capable starting right tackle who can generate movements. Should he struggle to overcome his flaws as a pass-blocker, he could likely be moved inside to excel at guard.
All measurables courtesy of NFL.com.
Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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