After much deliberation with my mock draft co-GM Dan Van Wie, we have decided to select Bryan Bulaga, offensive tackle from the University of Iowa, with the ninth overall pick.
Bulaga, to many expert scouts, is the most NFL-ready tackle in the draft. At 6'6'' and 312 pounds, he's got the ideal franchise left tackle build that can anchor a line for years to come, though he'll undoubtedly bulk up when he signs with an NFL team.
During his time in Iowa City, Bulaga demonstrated elite skills in pass protection and, during his junior season as a Hawkeye, improved vastly in run blocking. He's nimble enough to continue his advancement in the run game, and his long reach can stymie the aggressive and speedy edge rushers—just ask Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan.
Morgan, a potential top-20 pick that's shooting up draft boards, was overmatched in all of his showdowns against Bulaga in Iowa's victory over GT in the Orange Bowl this year. Bulaga also had no issue reaching the second level when the Hawkeyes needed to run out the clock late.
Coming from the Big Ten, he'll accentuate the blue-collar demeanor on the offensive line that was formulated when Eric Wood and Andy Levitre were drafted last year. The youthful line could finally put an end to the trench trouble that's plagued the Bills for some time.
We also carefully considered the top-ranked quarterbacks, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame, as you can probably imagine. Our rationale in selecting Bulaga over these two signal callers stemmed from the belief that solidifying an offensive line holds higher priority over nabbing a quarterback who won't be protected.
Clausen and Bradford are still recovering from injuries, and the acknowledgment that they won't throw at the combine kept us away. Too many question marks. Grabbing a quarterback in the mid-rounds seemed to make more sense.
When selecting ninth, a pick that'll receive a fat paycheck, you want a sure thing. At this point, Bulaga seemed to have the smallest risk with the biggest upside.
The Bills trading down may be the most intelligent choice in this scenario, but, without those capabilities in our mock, Bryan Bulaga is our guy.