Last year I threw a mini-celebration over Buffalo’s undrafted free agent class. Keith Pough (whoops), Da’Rick Rogers (oops) and Nickell Robey (one out of three ain’t bad) all seemed like players talented enough to make the Bills’ roster. Pough struggled in his transition from Howard University, Rogers played when he wanted to at training camp which was maddening and Robey shined from the get-go.
In this year’s undrafted free agent class, there is one player I feel extremely confident about: Kenny Ladler. The Buffalo Bills found a safety who has a realistic shot of making the 53-man roster.
Ladler knows about big time competition after playing in the SEC for Vanderbilt. He started in 39 games in four seasons for the Commodores and played in a total of 50 games in his four year career.
The free safety improved as a player each year. At the end of the 2013 season, Ladler finished tied for first in the NCAA with five forced fumbles. He also was 2nd in the SEC in interceptions with 5. Against SEC competition, Ladler averaged 9 tackles per game. Simply put, he was all over the field and was a difference maker for the Commodores.
Ladler’s play didn’t go unnoticed. According to the Commodores’ official website, Ladler earned the following honors:
- 2013 First Team All-SEC Defensive Back (Coaches)
- 2013 Second Team All-SEC Safety (Associated Press)
- 2013 All-SEC Safety (Phil Steele and Athlons)
The biggest knock on Ladler’s game is his speed. A poor combine 40 yard dash time (4.70) didn’t help matters, but he moves well on the field regardless of what one timed run says. Ladler’s greatest asset may be his instincts. It seemed like Ladler was always around the ball at Vanderbilt. Ladler is a strong defensive back with good size and he could play immediately on special teams. Other strengths in Ladler’s game include his tackling ability and strong hands.
Highlight tapes always make players look great, but Ladler performed well against some of the best teams in the nation.
Buffalo pursued Ladler immediately following the 2014 NFL draft. In an article from the Buffalo News, Ladler stated that Buffalo’s interest and his opportunity to play is what led him to the Bills.
“Based upon the best opportunity that was given, I felt Buffalo was the best spot for me, especially after talking it over with my agent,” Ladler said. “We had a good 30-minute talk about where I should go. Buffalo was definitely the most interested, so it was a no-brainer.”
Ladler isn’t likely to see much playing time at safety in 2014 for the Bills, but he can earn his spot on special teams. His ability to make open field tackles and his tackling ability alone make him a prime candidate for special teams. On the defensive side of the ball, it’s likely that Ladler will have to wait. Aaron Williams has one safety spot locked down, and the other spot will be competed for amongst the likes of Da’Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Corey Graham and Jonathan Meeks. However, if the injury bug were to strike in Buffalo’s secondary, there’s little doubt in my mind that Ladler could step in.
Remember Kenny Ladler’s name at training camp and during the pre-season. When he’s on the field he’ll be easy to find. He’ll be the guy that’s always around the ball.