Thomas Sweeney Jersey

Every year, there are talented prospects who slip through the cracks and don’t hear their name called during the NFL Draft. Whether it’s due to athletic concerns, character concerns, or straight up being overlooked, some players who end up making an impact in the league don’t get drafted.

That applies to the 2019 NFL Draft as well. There are plenty of undrafted free agents who were quickly signed to teams and will now get their chance to show why they should’ve been draft picks all along.

Based on their college performances and how they fit with their new team, these are eight players who weren’t selected in this year’s NFL Draft who can produce early in their careers.
Buffalo Bills: David Sills V, WR, West Virginia

In 2018, Buffalo wideouts combined for 11 receiving touchdowns. In 2018, Sills caught 15 touchdown passes in 12 games for the Mountaineers. This was a decline from his 2017 season, when he sprang for 18 touchdowns and proved he was capable of rewriting his history as a scuttled prep quarterback.

The Bills went through their 2019 draft without adding a single wide receiver, though they did select a pair of tight ends in Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney. That gives Sills plenty of room to join a depth chart that includes 2018 standbys Zay Jones and Robert Foster, along with recent free agent additions John Brown and Cole Beasley.

If Sills can build a connection with Josh Allen, he’ll have a real chance to not just make the Bills’ 53-man roster, but open the year in Buffalo’s receiver rotation. While he may lack the top-level athleticism of his peers, the West Virginia wideout has proven to be a real asset for a spread offense — especially in the red zone.
Carolina Panthers: Elijah Holyfield, RB, Georgia

Elijah Holyfield was projected to be drafted before he ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Unfortunately, he followed that up with a 4.89-second 40-yard dash at Georgia’s pro day. Those times, combined with other unfavorable testing results, plummeted his draft stock. Despite that, Holyfield still has the chance to make an impact for the Panthers. He was one of the most productive running backs in the entire draft. The Panthers have been looking for a reliable backup to spell Christian McCaffrey since the moment they drafted him in 2017. Now they’ll have two options in Holyfield and fifth-round pick Jordan Scarlett.
Chicago Bears: Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri

Chicago is leaning hard into a field-spreading offense under head coach Matt Nagy. Adding Hall gives the Bears another weapon to frustrate safeties vertically. The former Missouri standout averaged nearly 21 yards per catch while teaming with Drew Lock, giving the Tigers a badly needed extra dimension and matching up well against some of the SEC’s top secondaries.

The bad news is that vertical speed was kind of a one-trick pony for Hall. That lack of a route tree — and the injuries that limited him to 32 games in four years of college — pushed him from a potential Day 2 prospect and into the overlooked masses of the UDFA ranks.

He’ll pair with a budding young quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky, who utilized both Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller as deep threats in his breakout 2018 season. Robinson is only signed through 2019, which could give Hall a chance to shine in 2020 and beyond. The Bears already have a potent uber-athletic group of playmakers in Tarik Cohen, Trey Burton, and Miller in the lineup. Hall can take that lineup to the next level if he can pad out his game and be the game-breaking threat he was at Missouri once more.
Cleveland Browns: Jamie Gillan, P/K, Arkansas-Pine Bluff Gillan may just be the most interesting man in 2019’s pool of eligible players. He played only five games of high school football (and two all-star games) in Maryland after coming to the United States from Scotland, then accepted a scholarship to Arkansas-Pine Bluff sight unseen after a friend of his posted his game tape to the Golden Lions’ Facebook page.

The Inverness native was a potent threat in all three phases of special teams for UAPB. He averaged 42.5 yards per punt while pinning opponents inside their own 20 more than a third of the time. He connected on 20 field goals as a senior and has the range to hit 70-yarders in practice.

And he’s a workout fiend, having ripped off linebacker-esque numbers — a 38-inch vertical leap and 4.6-second 40 time at 6’2 and 210 pounds — at his pro day.

The Browns need a punter to push Britton Colquitt for the top spot on the depth chart. Gillan, who can do a little bit of everything when it comes to both kicking, punting, and wrecking returners who dare range near him.
Kansas City Chiefs: Gary Johnson, LB, Texas

The Chiefs needed some depth at linebacker, but they didn’t take one during the 2019 NFL Draft. Instead, they waited until after the draft by signing speedy Texas linebacker Gary Johnson.

Johnson had a strong senior season for Texas, racking up 90 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. He profiles as a weakside linebacker for new Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. Johnson has the speed and agility to be a coverage weapon for Kansas City if he can find his way onto the field as a rookie.

Entrenched starters Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens should be better fits for the Chiefs’ new defense, but they don’t have the speed that defenses have been trending toward over the past few years. Johnson has a chance to get reps in nickel and dime sets to give the Chiefs more athleticism to defend the pass.
New Orleans Saints: Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR, Texas

The Saints need wide receiver talent to pair with Michael Thomas, but with only five picks in the 2019 draft, they weren’t able to address that position. Instead, they dipped their toes into the undrafted free agent market by signing Lil’Jordan Humphrey from the University of Texas.

Humphrey has more than a cool first name — he was a really productive receiver during his final season at Texas. Last year, Humphrey recorded 1,176 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns, including the game-winner against Texas Tech.There isn’t exactly a ton of competition for Humphrey in New Orleans, outside of Thomas, No one should be surprised if he ends up seeing snaps as a rookie.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss

With DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries moving on to new teams this offseason, the Buccaneers needed to bring more competition to their wide receiver group. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin should be one of the top receiving duos in the league, but a talented third receiver could really help Bruce Arians’ offense take off.

DaMarkus Lodge was one of the three of Ole Miss receivers who entered the draft this year. He didn’t have the explosive measurements that his teammate D.K. Metcalf did, but he did put up better numbers than Metcalf during their college careers.

Lodge is a refined route runner who should be able to feast on the cornerback talent he’ll see with Evans and Godwin commanding so much attention from defenses.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Nate Trewyn, C, Wisconsin-Whitewater

Trewyn was a Division III All-American and the 2018 Rimington Award winner as the division’s top center. He also has NFL size at 6’4 and 315 pounds, but mostly I’m here to stan for the Warhawks, who routinely turn undersized and overlooked talent from Wisconsin and Illinois into a Division III dynasty.

Trewyn was the linchpin of that dynasty in 2018, clearing the space for an offense that averaged nearly 250 rushing yards per game en route to the national semifinal. An angry blocker who never took plays off — including when I saw him live in a 67-14 playoff win over Eureka College this November (Whitewater averaged 13.9 yards per carry that day. I don’t care who you’re playing, that’s pretty good).

He’s a project, sure, but the Buccaneers have time to let him develop and continued needs across their offensive line. Ryan Jensen is signed through 2021, but if his level of play slips after 2019 he can be released without any dead money on Tampa’s cap sheet. If Terwyn can find a way to stick around, he could be the next man up in the middle for the Bucs — even if he’s got a lot to prove to get there after ragdolling 220-pound pass rushers in southern Wisconsin.

Dawson Knox Jersey

Dawson Knox wasn’t going to spend any more time in college.

Knox graduated from Ole Miss in December and still had a year of eligibility left. He could have returned to campus for one more season but declared for the draft instead.

He was overshadowed at Ole Miss playing in an offense with receivers D.K. Metcalf (second round pick), A.J. Brown (second round pick) and Demarcus Lodge (signed with Tampa Bat post-draft). It made sense to stay another year. In fact, Knox never even caught a touchdown in college.

Despite the lack of certain college statistics, the Bills were more than happy to take a chance on Knox’s potential.

The Bills grabbed Knox with the No. 96 pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft by trading picks No. 112 and 131 to acquire a second third-round pick. A former walk-on at Ole Miss, Knox has now been compared to the likes of two-time Pro Bowl selection Kyle Rudolph and some scouts believe he has the opportunity to cement himself as a long-time starter for Buffalo.

“A lot of guys don’t have to go into college knowing that they have to earn every single thing,” Knox said. “And I just had to go in with the mindset that I am going to outwork everybody because no one was going to give me anything.”

The 6-4, 257-pound frame he has today was not nearly the same as when he entered Ole Miss.

Knox played quarterback in high school. He had offers to play quarterback from Air Force, Austin Peay and Cornell, but he wanted to play at a higher level. He knew going to Ole Miss would force him to play tight end.

There was only one problem – he was just 210 pounds.

“I walked on having never played a down of tight end in my life,” Knox said on One Bills Live last week. “I was trying to block SEC defensive linemen and that was an eye-opening experience. I had no idea what I was doing”

Not only did Knox not have the size, he had major competition at the position. Evan Engram, a former first round pick now with the New York Giants, was a first-team All-American during his freshman year.

Knox failed to see the field in his first season and was redshirted. In his redshirt freshman year in 2016 he appeared in six games – strictly on special teams.

While learning the finer points of his new position on the field, Knox went to work in the weight room off the field. He added over 30 pounds to his frame. He believed his work with Engram for two seasons helped hone his craft.

Over the next two seasons as a starter, Knox hauled in 39 passes for 605 yards and a gaudy 15.5 yards per catch.

In 2017, he produced a single-season best 24 receptions for 321 yards and was nominated for the Burlsworth trophy – an award given annually to the nation’s most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on. The following season he was nominated for the Mackey Award for the best tight end in the country.

NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlein called Knox a “workout freak-daddy.”

“Talent wise there wasn’t much difference between he and T.J. Hockenson who went number eight overall to Detroit,” said Jim Nagy executive director of the Senior Bowl. “Dawson can block, he’s a really tough kid, he’s got a great body type for the position.”
Knox planned to play in the Senior Bowl in January but was forced to pull out of the game due to an injury.

Knox doesn’t believe it is his physical attributes, like his 4.57 forty time, sets him apart from other tight ends. He feels his best edge comes on the mental-side of the game.

“Playing quarterback was one of my biggest advantages,” Knox said. “Because you just read the defense differently, you have to look at what everybody’s doing. You try to look at the entire concept and changes from each person’s role.”

Knox knows how long and far corners and linebackers will drop into coverage. It aides when he’s trying to run routes different ways. He understands quarterback progressions and Knox says it really helped his learning process.

“He’s one of the guys that I was able to see live this year,” general manager Brandon Beane said. “And he showed enough stuff that I think will translate to our game. I do think he’s a dual player. He’s not just a pass receiver. He’s not just a blocker. I think he’s a guy that will improve.”

Darryl Johnson Jersey

Darryl Johnson watched the NFL Draft on TV at his home near Savannah, Ga., surrounded by his extended family. He waited until the last round on the last day before he heard his named called.

Johnson, a 6-foot-6 defensive end from N.C. A&T, had left school early and was picked late, going to the Buffalo Bills with the 11th pick of the seventh round Saturday afternoon, the 225th overall selection.

Where he went didn’t matter, Johnson said. That he went, well, that mattered a lot.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, I knew I was going to get a shot to play football. I was excited that I got drafted. That’s a dream come true, to hear your named called. I knew God had a plan for me. I kept my faith high, and things worked out.”

The MEAC’s defensive player of the year and an FCS All-American, Johnson gave up his final season of college eligibility when he signed with Charlotte-based sports agent Robert Walker in January, a month after the Aggies won their second consecutive Celebration Bowl.

It was risky. Johnson has NFL-caliber speed for a defensive lineman, but he’s small by pro standards. The average NFL defensive end is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 279 pounds.

“When I left school in January and started training, that first day I was 232 pounds,” Johnson said. “So, I’ve put on a lot of weight, a lot of muscle. It’s good, man. I’m still just as fast, but I’ve worked on my lower body and I feel more explosive. I feel like I can do a lot more, that I’ve added to my arsenal. There’s more weight behind me, and I’m a lot stronger.”

At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Johnson weighed 253 pounds. He showed off his strength there in the bench press with 20 reps of 225 pounds.

But he didn’t participate in any other drills, creating more questions than he answered.

“I did a lot of interviews at the NFL Combine,” Johnson said, “but I had tweaked my hamstring, so I didn’t do a lot of the workouts. … It just wasn’t meant for me to perform there, not part of God’s plan for me. I’d never tweaked a hamstring before in my life. I waited it out, and Pro Day came.”

Even on Pro Day, all his results were labeled “unhealthy” because he was still healing.

“I still wasn’t 100 percent,” Johnson said, “but I put up some solid numbers that kept me in the game. I ran the 40 (yard dash) in the high 4.7s (seconds), but I’ve run a 4.65 before, and they knew that.”

Johnson said the Bills were the most interested team on that pro day.

“I’ve been talking with the Bills on and off,” Johnson said. “The coach who called me to tell me they were drafting me was the same guy (linebackers coach Bob Babich) who worked me out on Pro Day. He took me out to eat that day, and we kind of built a relationship there. We learned each other’s stories about where we came from. I could tell he liked me then.”The next call Johnson got on his draft day was from a former teammate and current Chicago Bears All-Pro Tarik Cohen.

“Tarik was hype, man,” Johnson said. “He just said he’s proud of me, and proud of all of us, really. He told me to get to work, that the job isn’t done. When I get there, go to work and show them what HBCU football is all about, what A&T football is all about, what Aggie Pride is.”

In his last year at A&T, Johnson was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award for the FCS defensive player of the year. He tied for eighth in the nation with 10½ sacks and ninth with 19 tackles for losses. His 50 tackles ranked fourth on A&T’s No. 3-ranked defense and were the most by any Aggies defensive lineman.

But all of that means nothing now, Johnson said.

“I’m starting all over again,” he said. “It’s like being a freshman again, learning everybody’s name, building relationships with my new coaches and teammates. I’ve got a new playbook to learn. I want to find a veteran I can get up underneath who can teach me the ropes of how everything works.

“Most of all, I want to prove to everybody that I can play and that I deserved to be here.”

Jaquan Johnson Jersey

The Buffalo Bills exited the 2019 NFL Draft with eight new faces. Most of the first two days were devoted to the offense, but day three flipped the switch to defense. The current Bills front office has typically found some defensive steals in later rounds and undrafted players. In round six the Bills hoped to add to this growing resume by selecting defensive back Jaquan Johnson, the former Miami Hurricane. Relegated to backup duty for his first two years in Miami, Jaquan Johnson’s numbers don’t jump off the screen. He was inserted into the starting lineup for his junior year and took off. Johnson racked up more than 90 tackles the last two years and was named team MVP in his 2017 junior year. In that same two-year span he had six interceptions and one more touchdown than his new teammate, tight end Dawson Knox. If you’re not sure how many that is, then check out our Dawson Knox coverage here, here or here.

This is usually a paragraph about red flags and injuries and for Johnson it’d be nearly blank. Missing two games with a hamstring injury is about it. So let’s flip it around and discuss how Jaquan Johnson sounds like a perfect Sean McDermott culture pick. Johnson was a well-respected leader on and off the field, with repeated notes describing a person who leads by example. Johnson notably delivered a speech that was credited for inspiring a comeback victory over FSU during the 2018 season. Nothing about this chart is remotely inspiring. Jaquan Johnson profiles as undersized and not incredibly athletic. The broad jump and bench press look promising but only in comparison to his other numbers. Both are pretty representative of his position group. This is a good time to remind everyone that there’s more to a player than raw numbers. Despite the poor testing numbers, Jaquan Johnson is praised for acceleration and burst. A physical tackling style is universally recognized in his game. Johnson is said to play smart as well, wrapping up when his lack of size plays against him. Johnson does well in the open field and looks to create big plays by stripping the ball. There’s no shortage of praise for Johnson’s ability to read and react to run plays. Johnson’s size projects to be a major factor at the NFL level. At 5’11” and with a shorter-than-average wingspan and weight, there is plenty of concern he’ll be bullied by tight ends. A common refrain is that Johnson’s anticipation and instincts are a weakness. The words “slow” or “late” are not uncommonly used in reference to Johnson’s ability to pick up receivers.

Per Lance Zierlein, Jaquan Johnson has a chance to become an NFL starter (grade of 5.61). Zierlein’s player comparison is Budda Baker. Bills fans would be ecstatic if Johnson followed in Baker’s footsteps, being named All-Pro in his rookie season. The size comparison seems apt, but Baker profiled more positively in terms of athletic ability. Rafael Bush might be a more apt comparison. Bush currently sits at about 13 lbs heavier than Johnson per Pro Football Reference. It’s not out of the question that Johnson will add a little weight and close that gap. Buffalo’s zone-based defense and affinity for nickel formations are likely a good fit for Jaquan Johnson. Though his limitations may need to be worked around, the 2018 Bills thrived by using specialized packages based on opponent. It wouldn’t be a surprise for them to find a use for an aggressive defensive back who knows how to tackle.

Vosean Joseph Jersey

Though we were not able to snag our normal expert ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft, OnlyGators.com is here to take a closer look at the Florida Gators who could be selected from Thursday-Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee. And this year, there’s a ton of them.

Below are evaluations for the eight Gators available in the draft. All could potentially be selected, but Florida is likely looking at five or six being chosen and two or three moving on to be undrafted free agents.

Offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor (junior)
Projection: Round 1 (top 15 pick)
Analysis: The talent is there with Taylor. Though his weight will always be an issue worth monitoring — he was over 400 pounds in high school before slimming down throughout his collegiate career — he is a true road grader outside and is excellent in pass protection. He will need to improve in the running game, but teams believe they can teach that in a single training camp. Taylor will be a starter from Day 1 and should go in the front half of the first round on Thursday.

Safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (junior)
Projection: Round 2
Analysis: Gardner-Johnson can do it all, which will have teams interested in him at a variety of positions. Most will project him as a high safety, due in large part to his slower-than-optimal reaction time. Gardner-Johnson makes up for that with his athleticism and overall talent. He will get the opportunity to start right away or be a frequent contributor to a secondary — all depending on the rest of the team’s talent.

EDGE Jachai Polite (junior)
Projection: Round 3
Analysis: Depending who you ask, Polite may have had the worst NFL Combine performance of all-time due to his interview sessions. Some teams apparently took him off their boards entirely. Still, talent wins out in the end, and after a stellar college career, it has been surprising to see Polite projected as a third-round selection. Polite had a nation-best six forced fumbles last season with 17.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks … all despite not playing as many snaps as starters on the team. This is pass rushing talent, and he should probably be a second-round pick.

Linebacker Vosean Joseph (junior)
Projection: Round 3
Analysis: Athletic and talented, Joseph led the Gators last season with 98 tackles. He can pass rush, play coverage in the passing game and stop the run. The reason he will not be drafted higher is because he does not yet excel in any particular area, and this is a draft heavy weight linebackers and EDGE talent. Still, being a Day 2 selection is nothing to sneeze at.

Running back Jordan Scarlett (r-junior)
Projection: Round 6
Analysis: Most actually have Scarlett listed as an undrafted free agent, but all season I thought he would go in the fourth round. So I’m splitting the difference here, assuming a team sees his highlights from the 2018 season and realizes that Scarlett has many of the key traits — size, strength and quickness. If he can become a bit more decisive, you’re talking about an NFL starter (though perhaps one who needs an injury to get that opportunity).

Offensive lineman Martez Ivey
Projection: Round 6
Analysis: A long-time starter at Florida, Ivey just simply never developed the way coaches or fans expected. The former five-star recruit was supposed to be a three-year starter at left tackle who jumped early to the NFL as a projected first-round pick. Instead, his lack of lateral mobility and inconsistency cost him. Still, he’s been one of the top linemen in the SEC over his career, and that alone will ensure he is selected on Day 3, perhaps earlier than projected here.

Defensive lineman Cece Jefferson
Projection: Round 6 to undrafted free agent
Analysis: Similar to Ivey, Jefferson is a former five-star recruit who was expected to be a dominant three-year player for the Gators. That did not work out for him either. Instead, Jefferson will be hoping to catch on with a team in Day 3 or immediately after the draft concludes. It may be better for him to sign somewhere as a UDFA as he can pick his opportunity to potentially get on the field quickly.

Devin Singletary Jersey

The Buffalo Bills added another shifty running back to the backfield on day two of the 2019 NFL Draft with the third-round selection of Devin Singletary.

Here are five things to know about the newest Bill.

They call him ‘Motor’

Devin Singletary has never been someone to slow down. Singletary who has the same moniker as his father tore up the C-USA in his three years as a Florida Atlantic University Owl.

Singletary was a touchdown machine despite only standing at 5-foot-7. In his career he finished with 66 rushing touchdowns. In 2017 he led the nation with 32 rushing TDs, tied for the most carries in the nation with 301 and ranked fourth in the country with 1,920 yards. His sophomore season culminated in a second-team AP All-American notice.

He followed that season up with 261 carries for 1,348 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns making him a first-team all C-USA selection.
He makes guys miss

In 2017, Pro Football Focus marked that Singletary finishes No. 2 nationally in missed tackles forced on carries and No. 2 in total breakaway yards among returning FBS running backs with 917 yards gained on breakaway runs.

NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein noted his strengths as the first defender rarely gets him down, he has twitchy footwork for instant stops and starts, and he has instant acceleration after short-area cuts to avoid tacklers.

Part of his elusiveness is from his smaller stature at 5-7 and he can shrink even smaller to sneak in and out of creases between the tackles.
Motivated by lost friend

Singletary’s motor and motivation comes from the prospect of living out his NFL dream that his high school teammate and mentor never could.

Singletary vows to play for Greg Bryant, who died in May of 2016 after he was shot.

“That was my big brother,” said Singletary of Bryant, who was a senior and one of the nation’s most sought-after recruits when Singletary was a freshman with the Stallions. “Before every game, I say my prayer. I ask my grandmother to watch over me, and then I ask GB to play through me. I know if he was still here, he would still be in the league.”

Bryant was a mentor for Singletary as he transitioned to one of the top high school players in South Florida. Bryant was a five-star recruit who went to Notre Dame before transferring to UAB.

“I know that Greg was definitely an inspiration to Motor, and it’s awesome to see that he’s going to have an opportunity to live out the dream that Greg would’ve been able to,” said his high school coach Doug Socha.

He breaks records

Singletary tore up the record books for running backs at FAU and completely rewrote them.

Singletary is the career yards leader at 4,289 yards passing former NFL running back Alfred Morris who had 3,529 in his four-year career. Singletary also has the single season career at 1,920 yards, 500 more than Morris.

He also holds the top four highest single-game rushing performances in FAU history. His 2016 game against Rice he put 254 yards on the ground to set the current record.

Singletary also holds the most career touchdowns, single season touchdowns and most in a single game with 5.
“Heisman in Paradise”

FAU launched the Heisman in paradise campaign at the conclusion of Singletary’s junior season. Labeled a dark-horse for the trophy he ran for 22 touchdowns and was named to both the Maxwell and Doak Walker watch lists this past season.

“I think it is a big honor,” Singletary said. “It’s great for me, but more importantly, it is a team and family accomplishment.”

Cody Ford Jersey

The Buffalo Bills picked Cody Ford 38th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Here’s what Stephen White had to say about Ford ahead of the draft:

I will admit it took a while for Cody Ford to grow on me.

See, not that long ago it used to be that left tackles were supposed to be the “finesse” guys, while right tackles were supposed to be your “maulers.” A lot of that stemmed from the fact most teams wanted a guy at left tackle who could pass block out on an island all by himself against what was usually the opposing defense’s best pass rusher.

On the other hand, because most teams favored running the ball to their right, they usually looked for a “road grader” type run blocker for their right tackle, knowing that they could help him out with tight end bumps and running back chips when it came time to throw the ball.

Obviously times have changed.

The NFL is undoubtedly a passing league now, and more and more teams are starting to open up their playbook. That means more guys out into routes, and fewer guys staying in to help with pass protection.

Couple that with the fact we are living in somewhat of a golden era of pass rushers who like to line up on the defense’s left edge, and it’s clear that your right tackle better be able to hold his own as a pass blocker or your quarterback had better be some kin to Houdini.

What took me a while to come around on Ford was the fact I still have somewhat of that old-school mentality when it comes to right tackles, and I had to check myself on it. He is a big guy at 6’4 and almost 330 pounds, but Ford was not a physically dominating presence when it came to run blocking, and initially that was somewhat of a disappointment.

Which is not to say Ford was a bad run blocker.The truth is, assignment-wise at least, he looked at least solid, if not spectacular. However, he just didn’t have the same initial “pop” on contact that jumps off the screen as, say, a guy like Jawaan Taylor.

Ford also didn’t drive a lot of guys off the ball, either. Mind you, he rarely lost ground after he engaged with a defender, but there just weren’t a lot “explosive” run blocks on his tape.

But you know what, after reflecting on it, I don’t really care all that much about whether or not Ford was pancaking fools left and right. Yeah, that would’ve been nice, but I can live with him being just an “OK” run blocker, because when it came time to throw the ball he was putting clamps on these dudes.

Ford wasn’t flashy, but damn if he wasn’t effective as hell at shutting down edge rushers of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. It all started with how consistent he was with his footwork.

He was always able to get just the right amount of width and depth on his initial kick step, and Ford rarely overset no matter how wide the edge rusher lined up.

That consistent kick step of his allowed Ford to intercept speed rushers before they could turn the corner. It also allowed Ford the ability to recover if that edge rusher tried an inside move instead.

After he got that initial kick step in, Ford was good at mirroring his opponents.

He was able to shuffle laterally quickly without crossing over his feet, and wherever the edge rushers went, Ford stayed on them like their shadow. He was also efficient with his movements, always staying under control and on balance so that he could easily change directions.

In addition to Ford’s impressive footwork, he was also great with his hands. He was patient with his punch, choosing only the most opportune times to strike with them.

When he did get his hands on his opponents, Ford usually locked onto them like he had vise grips for fingers and refused to let go. Whenever Ford was able to grab hold of a guy, the play was pretty much over for him. Trust me, nothing is more demoralizing for a pass rusher than being stuck on a block you can’t get off of.

In the four games of his I watched, I saw plenty of frustrated pass rushers try, and fail, to loosen themselves from Ford’s clutches once he got his hands on them.

But it wasn’t just Ford’s punch or grip that impressed me about how he used his hands in pass protection. He also has already learned how to chop down on a pass rusher’s arms before that pass rusher can try to do a power rush, like a bull rush or a long arm, on him.

The first time I saw him do it I had to rewind the tape a few times just to make sure I wasn’t tripping. There are starting NFL offensive tackles who either don’t know how to do that, or aren’t comfortable enough with the technique to try it in a game. Yet here was this kid mixing it into his regular repertoire, and looking quite good while doing so.

I was also very impressed with Ford’s ability to pass off stunts and pass-rush games. He never seemed to be taken off guard when pass rushers tried to switch lanes, and he almost always smoothly transitioned into blocking the next guy when it happened.

Ford’s remarkable mix of premium talent and technique was accentuated by the fact that he plays like a savvy veteran. The guy looked like he was born to pass block, and he was only beaten two times in four games.

By the way, this sack against Alabama was not one of them. Ford had his guy blocked pretty well, but the quarterback just basically ran himself right into the sack.

But I digress.

Both of the times he did get beat were on moves where the defender was able to swat his hands away. That is going to happen sooner or later, even to the best of blockers; however, only one of those two plays resulted in an actual pressure for the defender.

In four games the only pressure of any kind Ford gave up was the other sack in the Alabama game that wasn’t really a sack. The quarterback managed to stay off the turf as the replays showed, but the refs had already blown their whistles, which means it went down as a sack anyway, unfortunately for Ford.

Regardless, only giving up one pressure in four games is still kind of amazing.

In this day and age, you can’t stick a right tackle out there to protect your $20 million-per-year quarterback if he can’t pass block. The offenses are too wide open, and, as I mentioned before, the dudes rushing off the left edge are too good. Going by that criteria, Ford is probably more ready to start right now than Taylor, even though Taylor showed more flashes of dominance.

Let me go back to Ford’s run blocking for a second, though. He may not have been dominant, but he wasn’t some slappy out there, either. He was more of a position blocker, and he was pretty good at making sure the guys he was blocking couldn’t get where they wanted to go.

While it’s true that he didn’t rack up a bunch of pancakes, Ford was routinely what I would call a “just enough” guy. He would get just enough push on the defender to give the ball carrier a lane to work with. Those kinds of blocks aren’t as exciting to watch, but as long as they’re effective, that’s all that truly matters.

I also want to point out that while Ford wasn’t freight-training guys on the second level like Taylor, once he got on somebody at linebacker depth, he usually stayed on them for the duration.

As a matter of fact, some of his best blocks were out in space where his athleticism was able to shine through yet again.

Oklahoma definitely tried to put that athleticism to good use in the run game. The Sooners had him pull across the formation an astounding 22 times over the course of four games.

I rarely see guards with that many pulls in four games.

But a tackle? Damn near unheard of.

But here’s the thing … he wasn’t really all that good at it.

I mean, he was quick enough and fast enough to get across the formation, usually, but once he actually got there, things frequently tended to take a turn for the worse.

And yet Oklahoma just kept right on asking him to pull over and over again.

Well, hey, the fact he is athletic enough to pull is certainly a plus and not something you see from a right tackle every day. A good offensive line coach should be able help a guy like Ford clean up his mechanics at the end of a pull so he is in better position to actually make a block once he gets where he is going.

He looked fine running out and blocking people on screens, after all.

So while Ford isn’t going to knock guys five yards off the ball, a creative coach should be able to pair Ford’s ability to move in space with some innovative run schemes. The kinds of plays you couldn’t run with an old-school, road grader type of right tackle.

Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ford could slide over to left tackle and hold up well over on that side, too.

I know it’s not exactly the same thing, but with the way he pass blocks, I could seem him being able to do it. That kind of versatility is very valuable and uncommon in offensive tackles.

Usually it’s the other way around — trying to move guys not good enough to play left tackle over to the right side — but I wouldn’t be shocked if it went the other way with Ford.

To be clear, I’m not saying it’s likely. I just think he has that kind of potential as a pass blocker especially.

With the way the NFL continues to evolve, a guy who is more athletic than powerful like Ford at right tackle will probably soon become the norm. If your OC wants to send five eligible receivers out on a route almost every play, then your right tackle is going to have to be able to block an edge rusher on his own, period. Nobody is going to give a damn how many pancakes that guy has if he keeps letting Von Miller run through your quarterback’s chest.

Yes, it took me a few times watching his tape before I came to really appreciate Ford’s play, but now I am completely sold on the guy.

With his ability to protect the passer, his athleticism as run blocker, and his potential to play at either tackle spot, Ford looks to me like a guy who should be drafted in the top half of the first round in a few weeks.

He may well end up being the best tackle to come out of this draft class.

For the purposes of this breakdown, I watched former Oklahoma right tackle Cody Ford play against FAU, UCLA, West Virginia, and Alabama. Those represented the first, second, 12th, and 14th games on Oklahoma’s schedule last season, respectively.

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Orchard Park, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane had a laundry list of positions he needed to address after last season heading into arguably the most important offseason of his tenure.

Getting quarterback Josh Allen in place was important, but filling in around him after a solid rookie campaign became critical if Beane wanted the Bills to take another step forward in 2019.

With free agency and the NFL Draft now in the rearview mirror, Beane can consider his mission accomplished.

After adding 14 of 18 total free agents on the offensive side of the ball, including new center Mitch More and receiver John Brown and Cole Beasley, Beane put an exclamation point on the offseason with a stellar draft.

Here are X things I’m thinking about Beane’s 2019 draft.Ed Oliver is a bases loaded home run at No. 9

Beane needed a little luck for Oliver to fall all the way down the board to nine where his team was picking. In every scenario his scouts played out in their war room in the lead up to the draft, the only way Oliver fell was if multiple quarterbacks went in the Top 10.

Two ended up going ahead of the Bills and they walk away with Oliver, who improves and already elite-level defense that should be equipped to shut down any offense it faces in 2019. The Bills added at almost every position on the defense. They brought in veteran cornerbacks to push Levi Wallace for the No. 2 job in E.J. Gaines and Kevin Johnson. They drafted depth at linebacker and safety in Florida’s Vosean Joesph and Miami’s (FL) Jaquan Johnson. And they added Oliver in the middle to replace longtime staple Kyle Williams.

Oliver’s quickness off the line, athleticism on the rush and finishing ability from the three-technique position adds an entirely new dimension to the Bills defense. They were No. 2 in the league last season and could be the best in 2019. Improvement almost guaranteed on the offensive line

Beane signed six new offensive linemen in free agency and then drafted blue-chip prospect right tackle Cody Ford with the No. 38 pick (second round) on Friday night.

There is going to be legitimate battles at every position except center. Incumbent left tackle Dion Dawkins will get a push from new tackle Ty Nsekhe. Quinton Spain and Wyatt Teller will battle at left guard. On the right side, Spencer Long and Jon Feliciano will duke it out and then Ford should probably be expected to wind up at right tackle.

That’s a new-look line that has a chance to be much better than last season. Allen is going to have to get Beane a nice Christmas present this year.Should the Bills have drafted a receiver?

Simple answer? No.

Brown is the new No. 1 and Robert Foster did enough last year to be the No. 2. Zay Jones will float all over the place and could still end up being the top target among receivers. Beasley should be the man in the middle of the field and there’s plenty of competition below the top four guys.

Isaiah McKenzie and Cam Phillips will be in camp, along with new signing from the CFL Duke Williams. The Bills also reportedly signed West Virginia’s David Sills to a UFA deal.

Beane has proven that he can find hidden talent at the position and it’s hard to argue with his stance of not reaching for a receiver in the draft.What to make of the new-look running backs room

But wait, didn’t he reach for running back Devin Singletary at No. 74?

Not exactly. There was a run happening at the position and he wanted to secure what could be LeSean McCoy’s eventual replacement. Singletary does all the same kind of things McCoy does but he’s nine years younger and significantly cheaper.

New running back TJ Yeldon is an intriguing addition because of his well-rounded game and acumen as a pass blocker in the backfield. Frank Gore is there to share some wisdom and keep McCoy motivated. With a new o-line and plenty of competition, McCoy must produce if he wants to stick around.
Dawson Knox makes all kinds of sense at tight end

The Bills could make a run at Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph. The Vikings are reportedly shopping him and he could be a nice one- or two-year option at TE1.

But with the singing of Tyler Kroft and the addition of Knox in the draft the Bills have adequately addressed the tight end position. Kroft’s 2017 was impressive and if he can be that player this year it would be an upgrade over anything the Bills got at that spot in 2018.

Knox is a developmental talent but could flash earlier than expected. Beane said that Ole Miss didn’t use him the way the Bills plan to utilize his talents. He’s athletic, fast and plans to prove that he can make plays.Wait and see on Vosean Joesph

Joseph is a nice project for Bills coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. He has huge upside because of his good film, speed and athleticism. But when he played sloppy or was out of position he doesn’t look like the same player.

Expect McDermott to get him on track and if that happens he becomes a viable starter and potential high-level player. Remember McDermott snagged Matt Milano in the fifth round two years ago. This group understands how to evaluate talent.
Hat tip to Beane and McDermott

It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes the Baltimore Ravens put it on you and a 47-3 beatdown brings out the criticism. But when things are going right it’s time to give some credit.

Beane and McDermott set forth a vision and have patiently executed despite some tough patches along the road. They haven’t won a single game in 2019 just yet but the upgrades and choices they’ve made, at least, deserve some praise. Next season should be a fun one.

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Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane’s off-season priority was to build around quarterback Josh Allen and improve the league’s No. 30-ranked offense. Major holes, especially on the offensive line and at receiver, were plugged during free agency. That means Beane has the luxury of taking the best player available in the NFL draft this week instead of trying to fill a positional need.

The Bills have a lot of draft capital with 10 picks, including the No. 9 overall selection, so Beane has multiple options: He could stand pat or swing a deal, either to move up and grab a marquee player before he comes off the board or to trade down and acquire more first-round or second-round picks. Oakland, which has four picks in the top 35, could be a trade partner.

Curious what the AFC East rival Patriots, Jets and Dolphins will be up to in the draft? Check out Forbes’ complete NFL draft coverage.

Team Needs

The Bills could use more help on the defensive line with the retirement of defensive tackle Kyle Williams last season and with defensive end Jerry Hughes going into the last year of his contract. They also will need a replacement knowing that outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, 35, will call it a career after this season. The Bills also need another running back, another tight end and a true No. 1 big receiver who will augment a new receiving corps with slotback Cole Beasley and John Brown. Meanwhile, Robert Foster and the club’s leading receiver, Zay Jones, will be better with another year of seasoning.The Bills addressed weaknesses on the offensive line with six free-agent acquisitions, including center Mitch Morse, a big-ticket signing who will help in pass-protection schemes. The Bills made a big step to shore up the running back position by signing former Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon to a two-year contract just before the draft. Yeldon, who served mainly as a reserve running back after starting as a rookie in Jacksonville in 2015, is a dual threat as a runner and receiver. He adds some fresh legs to a backfield that has LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, who are both north of 30 years old.This is a deep tight-end class, led by T.J. Hockenson, who won the John Mackey Award handed out to the best tight end in college. He has the frame for a prototypical tight end at 6-5 and 250 pounds. Hockenson can be used as a run blocker or as a pass target on mid-range or short-yardage situations. He presents a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties. Last year for Iowa, Hockenson caught 49 passes for 760 yards, good for a 15.5 average gain per catch. Hockenson would be a valuable complement to returnee Jason Croom and free-agent acquisitions Tyler Kroft and Jake Fisher.Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf has both size, at 6-3 and 228 pounds, and speed with a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash. The Bills need an explosive deep threat who can catch up to Josh Allen’s bombs, and Metcalf would be that guy. A criticism is that he lacks agility after slow times in the 3-cone drill and short shuttle at the combine. But on the positive side, he’s got the length and size to go up and get those jump balls, he can make quick adjustments in his route running, and he’s got great hand-to-eye coordination to make one-handed catches if he’s overthrown. Another knock against him is that he’s injury prone after suffering season-ending injuries in 2016 (foot) and in 2018 (neck).Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver would fill a need on the interior of the defensive line with the retirement of Kyle Williams. Oliver is coming off a three-year college career that saw him record 53 tackles for a loss, in addition to 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. But he may not be still on the board when the Bills are on the clock because he could be the best player available in the draft. Some mock drafts have him going as high as No. 4 to the Oakland Raiders. He has elite speed off the snap, although he is considered a little undersized for an interior lineman at 6′ 3” and 292 pounds.

Later-Round Targets

After the first round, the Bills have nine picks: one in the second round, one in the third round, two in the fourth, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.Day 2 of the draft will likely see running backs start to come off the board. The best available might be Alabama’s Josh Jacobs, although some don’t like the fact he never posted a 1,000-yard campaign or spent a full season as a starter. Last season, he averaged 5.3 yards a carry and scored 11 touchdowns. Jacobs excels at blocking and receiving, too.While the Bills have filled in with Cole Beasley and John Brown at wide receiver, the club is missing size at the position, and that’s where North Carolina State’s Kelvin Harmon, at 6-3 and 214, would be a good fit in the later rounds. He’s a big-play receiver. Last year, he caught 81 passes for 1,186 yards and seven touchdowns.Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson set an NCAA record for career sacks with 47, including 17.5 last season, beating the record of Arizona State star Terrelle Suggs. He’s not off the charts with his measurables, but he has a complete arsenal of pass-rushing moves with the speed, power and length to develop into a quality edge rusher.

Best-Case Scenario

This is the second go at this for GM Brandon Beane, who was hired 10 days after the 2017 draft. With so much draft flexibility, the Bills are dealing from a position of strength and, if they can add a couple of impact players, Buffalo could become the surprise team of the NFL next season. Coming off a 6-10 record, the Bills appear to be only a few pieces away from being considered a playoff contender.

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Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane’s off-season priority was to build around quarterback Josh Allen and improve the league’s No. 30-ranked offense. Major holes, especially on the offensive line and at receiver, were plugged during free agency. That means Beane has the luxury of taking the best player available in the NFL draft this week instead of trying to fill a positional need.

The Bills have a lot of draft capital with 10 picks, including the No. 9 overall selection, so Beane has multiple options: He could stand pat or swing a deal, either to move up and grab a marquee player before he comes off the board or to trade down and acquire more first-round or second-round picks. Oakland, which has four picks in the top 35, could be a trade partner.

Curious what the AFC East rival Patriots, Jets and Dolphins will be up to in the draft? Check out Forbes’ complete NFL draft coverage.

Team Needs

The Bills could use more help on the defensive line with the retirement of defensive tackle Kyle Williams last season and with defensive end Jerry Hughes going into the last year of his contract. They also will need a replacement knowing that outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, 35, will call it a career after this season. The Bills also need another running back, another tight end and a true No. 1 big receiver who will augment a new receiving corps with slotback Cole Beasley and John Brown. Meanwhile, Robert Foster and the club’s leading receiver, Zay Jones, will be better with another year of seasoning.

This is a deep tight-end class, led by T.J. Hockenson, who won the John Mackey Award handed out to the best tight end in college. He has the frame for a prototypical tight end at 6-5 and 250 pounds. Hockenson can be used as a run blocker or as a pass target on mid-range or short-yardage situations. He presents a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties. Last year for Iowa, Hockenson caught 49 passes for 760 yards, good for a 15.5 average gain per catch. Hockenson would be a valuable complement to returnee Jason Croom and free-agent acquisitions Tyler Kroft and Jake Fisher.

Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf has both size, at 6-3 and 228 pounds, and speed with a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash. The Bills need an explosive deep threat who can catch up to Josh Allen’s bombs, and Metcalf would be that guy. A criticism is that he lacks agility after slow times in the 3-cone drill and short shuttle at the combine. But on the positive side, he’s got the length and size to go up and get those jump balls, he can make quick adjustments in his route running, and he’s got great hand-to-eye coordination to make one-handed catches if he’s overthrown. Another knock against him is that he’s injury prone after suffering season-ending injuries in 2016 (foot) and in 2018 (neck).

Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver would fill a need on the interior of the defensive line with the retirement of Kyle Williams. Oliver is coming off a three-year college career that saw him record 53 tackles for a loss, in addition to 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. But he may not be still on the board when the Bills are on the clock because he could be the best player available in the draft. Some mock drafts have him going as high as No. 4 to the Oakland Raiders. He has elite speed off the snap, although he is considered a little undersized for an interior lineman at 6′ 3” and 292 pounds.

Later-Round Targets

After the first round, the Bills have nine picks: one in the second round, one in the third round, two in the fourth, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.Day 2 of the draft will likely see running backs start to come off the board. The best available might be Alabama’s Josh Jacobs, although some don’t like the fact he never posted a 1,000-yard campaign or spent a full season as a starter. Last season, he averaged 5.3 yards a carry and scored 11 touchdowns. Jacobs excels at blocking and receiving, too.While the Bills have filled in with Cole Beasley and John Brown at wide receiver, the club is missing size at the position, and that’s where North Carolina State’s Kelvin Harmon, at 6-3 and 214, would be a good fit in the later rounds. He’s a big-play receiver. Last year, he caught 81 passes for 1,186 yards and seven touchdowns.

Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson set an NCAA record for career sacks with 47, including 17.5 last season, beating the record of Arizona State star Terrelle Suggs. He’s not off the charts with his measurables, but he has a complete arsenal of pass-rushing moves with the speed, power and length to develop into a quality edge rusher.

Best-Case Scenario

This is the second go at this for GM Brandon Beane, who was hired 10 days after the 2017 draft. With so much draft flexibility, the Bills are dealing from a position of strength and, if they can add a couple of impact players, Buffalo could become the surprise team of the NFL next season. Coming off a 6-10 record, the Bills appear to be only a few pieces away from being considered a playoff contender.

Curtis Rush is a Toronto-based writer who began in this business when newsrooms had typewriters. I am a contributing writer to The New York Times, the Washington Post, the WSJ and the Guardian.