No matter who is the future quarterback of the Bills, Buffalo will need some offensive lineman to protect him.
Third-year players Eric Wood and Andy Levitre have played like future above-average starters and should compose two-thirds of the inside of the offensive line, with Wood best-suited for center. With Ryan Fitzpatrick on the run for a majority of the year and offensive linemen dropping like flies, with injuries, the Bills will need to find at least one future starting offensive lineman in the draft, if not more.
The Bills will likely be looking for offensive lineman who are powerful and mobile, which best suits their offense and would open up lanes for last year's first-round pick C.J. Spiller and veteran Fred Jackson. With that in mind, these are five likely options that should be on the Bills radar after the first day of the draft.
1. Derek Sherrod: The Bills will be hoping that Sherrod drops to the second round and no one trades up to the Patriots spot in that round to claim him. Sherrod would slide in on day one into one of the starting tackle spots, preferably on the left side. The Bills need a leader on the line, and Sherrod would provide that. He was named team captain at Mississippi state for a reason.
With a hardworking attitude and the skills to match, Sherrod has all the intangibles to succeed in the NFL. Sherrod's success will lie in his ability to pass protect. He's handled speed rushers as well as anybody in college and does a great job staying in front of his man. In the run game, he is best at blocking off the edge. His problem lies against defenders with superior strength. He must work on his hand placement against these type of defenders, but until then, utilize his mobility to his advantage.
2. John Moffitt: Moffitt brings just as many intangibles as Sherrod, but his strength lies in his nasty playing style, which Sherrod lacks. Moffit also brings the same leadership abilities as Sherrod, and his teammates at Wisconsin could assuredly tell you he showed those abilities vocally.
Leading Wisconsin's rushing game by helping John Clay run wild all season, Moffitt's quickness off the snap, along with his mean streak will likely allow him to become the type of player Bills' fans love. His speed may leave something to be desired, but a combination of him with a finesse player like Sherrod could fit perfectly in Buffalo's offensive scheme.
3. Lee Ziemba: Ziemba would offer the Bills versatility on the offensive line, although some say he is best suited to play guard in the NFL. Like Moffitt, his strength is in run-blocking, and he consistently moves defenders back when he quickly fires off the snap. His weakness comes in pass-blocking, especially against speed rushers in the 4-3 defense. He will clearly never be a left tackle in the NFL, but his ability to run-block will earn him a spot somewhere on the offensive line.
At Auburn, Ziemba obviously was a major reason for Cam Newton's ability to increase his rushing yard total. A 51-game starter, he has helped Auburn's running game in general, and if he can become an average pass-blocker, may have the skills to start at right tackle in the NFL. At the worst, he can kick into guard and be a solid starter down the road.
4. Jason Pinkston: Pinkston, like Sherrod, has great athleticism and agility for an offensive tackle. He is nimble on his feet when asked to get out to the second level and block downfield. Unlike the previous three players, he would have little chance of succeeding as a day one starter as he has to work on multiple facets of his game, including his footwork and conditioning. However, the athleticism and pass-blocking potential he showed at Pittsburgh could give the Bills a reason to groom him as their future right tackle.
5. James Brewer: Brewer will strictly be playing right tackle as a pro as he was exposed in pass protection consistently at Indiana. However, if he spends some more time in the weight room, his quickness and awareness could get him on the field. With a high football IQ and good footwork, he could be a steal in the middle rounds.
No matter who the Bills select in the first round, they will have to find an offensive lineman or two in the next two rounds. If they select a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick or Andy Dalton in the second round, then there is little doubt that they'd like to protect them as soon as possible and would almost assuredly spend the third round looking at players like Brewer and Ziemba. Either way, there should be an overhaul of the offensive line before the NFL season begins.