2024 NFL Draft

Bills Elimination Game: Defensive Line

Featured Photo Credit: Keith Randolph Jr. (88).Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn.com, LLC.

This is the first of 2024’s Elimination Game series, where we find ideal Buffalo Bills fits in various position groups.

I love to see if I can psych out Big Baller Beane. With the age of DaQuan Jones at DT1T and the fact that the Bills spend the 4th-most on D-Line make me think that DL is in play in the first 3 rounds of the draft, just from a cost-control angle.

Here are the draft-eligible, declared prospects, both DT1T, DT3T, and EDGEs all lumped together, in BuffaloFAMBase Big Board order. The “2023” column is a Bills scout Visit Score, which weights visits by Beane (3 pts) more than an area scout (1 pt). In the far-right column, I’ve tried to figure out which position is optimal for them in the pros. Bills play a 4-2-5 base.

Credit Dean Kindig, www.BuffaloFAMBase.com.

Lets winnow this down by eliminating players that have been scouted only once. I’ll also eliminate the four on top (Laiatu Latu, Jared Verse, Dallas Turner, and Jer’Zhan Newton) who most assuredly will be gone before the Bills pick.

StilI, I’m keeping DT1T T’Vondre Sweat (6’4″, 362) and his Texas teammate Byron Murphy on the list, despite only one scout visit to Austin. Murphy’s so darn versatile. He’s #1 in IDL Pass Rush Pressure percentage at 16.5%, he’s on the Feldman ‘Freaks’ list”, and he’s the strongest and fastest big dude. When you have that strength running downhill at that speed, next to Ed Oliver? And he can play any position? Oh, my.

So, what four are not a fit?

Jasheen Davis of Wake Forest was seen once; is that the Boogie Basham effect? Davis is a better player, having the highest TFLs + Sacks per game on this list, and In that scouted game, he went off for 6 tkl, 4 solo, 1 sack, and 2.5 TFLs. But Jasheen may be a straight EDGE rusher only, with little else. If the Bills don’t bring him in for a 30-visit, it’s his “one-trick pony” aspect, as Bills EDGEs are often asked to drop into coverage, stunt inside, etc.

The same is true for Bralen Trice. While he led the nation with 70 pressures in 2022 and duplicated that number in 2023, that may not be enough to be a Bills EDGE, especially on early downs, or against a run game, stunting with an inside rusher, or when they’re showing pressure but dropping out at the last minute into coverage.

Jonah Elliss was only seen once, and it may because of his injury, but it won’t be because of his DNA! His father is 2x Pro Bowler Luther Elliss (10 seasons, Lions and Broncos), and his 3 older brothers all received NFL contracts. Before his injury, Elliss was 2nd to Latu among PFF EDGE defenders. I’m removing him from this list for now, but see how he does during the Combine and Pro Day, and whether he’s brought in for a 3-visit.

Maason Smith worries me. He could be a terror: 5th-fastest IDL. 9 pressures in 8 games. But Smith only notched 1 game start in 2022 coming off a torn ACL he suffered in the first game of the 2022 season. Yes; he’s 100% cleared, and Combine/Pro Day will be huge in proving that. He could be the next AJ Epenesa. The next Bryan Bresee? Smith hasn’t had a similar season in 2023, with only the Missouri game RD1-worthy. Perhaps fear that Maason will be overdrafted and ride the pine was at play. When healthy, you get a reward, but you’re taking a risk.

Let’s sort the remaining D-Line hogmollies by weight:

Credit Dean Kindig, www.BuffaloFAMBase.com.

Current Bills DT3Ts weigh in the range of 281 (EdO) to 306 (Poona Ford, who’s a hybrid 1T or 3T) the EDGEs weigh in the 244 (Floyd) to 275 (Epenesa) range. Shane Ray (Shane Ray= 6’3″ 245 4.68) was too slow. Just based on weight, Demioun “Chop” Robinson and Adisa Isaac fall on the cusp of the current position group, but hear me out; both play for Manny Diaz, Sean McDermott’s “inner circle” of friends. Manny moved from Miami (Greg Rousseau) to Penn State. Thirdly, it’s Terry Pegula’s alma mater. 

Adisa Isaac playing LDE surely profited from being the bookend for Chop, but he’s taller and faster, running the 2nd-fastest forty on this list. He’s explosive, possesses a lightning first step, is pretty bendy around the arc, and looks fluid in his movements –no wasted steps. Watch #20 at the top of your screen=>https://x.com/Dustin_Mosher/status/1741154848697971181?s=20 Adisa’s burst to finish is equally impressive. Adisa is also likely to measure up well at the Combine, especially since it’s mainly height, vert, agility, explosion, and speed events. In a scouted game vs Illinois, Adisa profited from the attention to Chop, and netted half a sack and a tackle for loss.

Chop Robinson was impressive in some scouted games: 5 solos, 1 sack and 2 TFL in the scouted game vs Rutgers. I think he could drop back into coverage, too. My reservations would be these: (1) Isn’t Chop basically Leonard Floyd? (2) Robinson has the second-lowest number of Sacks+TFL per game of my top 12 prospects at EDGE. (3) He was carted off in the scouted game vs Ohio State. Still, he went against opposing offenses’ best pass blocker week after week, while Isaac didn’t. Chop made some of those LTs flop=>https://x.com/Dustin_Mosher/status/1741154848697971181?s=20

Kris Jenkins, the Michigan D-Lineman with tons of Bills scout interest, stays on the list, too. Jenkins has the speed, inside-outside position flex, and was #7 in 2023 IDL Pass-Rush Pressure % at 8.8%, so I think he’s in the mix for sheer effectiveness. Brandon Beane was in charge of Personnel at CAR when Kris’s dad, Kris Jenkins Sr. was drafted in 2002, and we get his son. You can’t make this stuff up. Jenkins is in the top 5 for that size-speed combo the Bills need a bit more of, especially up the middle. That’s what bolded numbers mean in my charts –top 5. Watch #94 in the middle, and imagine Ed Oliver’s next to him. https://twitter.com/BRobNFL/status/1642006823497527296?s=20

Leonard Taylor has some Top-Five mojo, too –both in Pressure Rates (1.14 TFL plus Sacks per Game, essentially matching Isaac’s 1.15) and forty time. Taylor also matches Beane’s favorite conference in the draft, the ACC (9 defense, 2 offense). I think Taylor would blend right in, especially if our aging defensive line gets an infusion of youth. DaQuan is 33, Von is 35, and Leonard Floyd is 32. Let one Leonard walk and draft another Leonard? It’s pure symmetry. Watch #56 in the middle =>https://twitter.com/PriceCheck3/status/1658563627689934848?s=20

Ruke Orhorhoro (think of “a-row-row-row your boat”) remains on the list. He has the right arm length –almost Rousseau’s– that allows the D-Line to open wider, casting a wider net, as it were. He’s in the right conference just like Leonard Taylor. Orhororo has that quick closing speed, and has DT3T/EDGE versatility that invites McDermott to play stunt games along the line. Ruke was injured in the season opener this year against Wake Forest –meniscus injury– and didn’t return until December, so medicals should be a major factor. Due to his Haitian roots, I hope he goes to an Eastern US team, but not the AFCE one closest to Haiti. https://twitter.com/PriceCheck3/status/1658569339417632768?s=20

Chris Braswell‘s speed is going to pop at the Combine along with Dallas Turner, who lines up on his opposite EDGE…Braswell was #2 in Pressures (37) after 9 weeks of 2023, his only starting season. He was impactful in limited reps in 2022 behind Will Anderson (the Texans’ 2023 RD1#3) and Turner. Braswell played in all 13 games of 2022, totaling 20 tackles, including four for loss, 2.5 sacks, and recorded six QB hurries and forced one fumble. He’s notorious for some questionably-dirty play (watch the Ole Miss game or the ejection at Chattanooga), so he’s obviously going to the Chiefs or Dolphins (I kid, I kid). Pressure the QB, but keep the back door closed =>https://twitter.com/Steelers_DB/status/1586652284347449344?s=20

Can we eliminate some more players? I have four more in mind.

Brandon Dorlus, at 6-2 284 4.88, has very similar measurements as Ed Oliver, who was 6-2, 181, 4.82 when drafted. Dorlus is second to Brandon Murphy in IDL Pass-Rush Pressure % at 12.0%, so you’d keep him in the mix for the time being. Like Murphy, Dorlus can play multiple positions along the D-Line; Oregon mostly had him at DE on the NT’s side. But there are legitimate concerns about whether his PAC12 skills translate to the NFL, especially in run-block recognition, his small tool box of pass-rush moves, and in maintaining gap integrity. However, if you move away from Floyd’s expiring 1-year contract, or if Von gets re-injured (God forbid), you’ll need a plan beyond BillsMafia-beloved Kingsley Jonathan. If I’m Beane, I’d also have to decide how Dorlus’s exuberance and overconfidence would sit with the vets in the position room. If you don’t know what I mean, then you’ve never had a puppy. I’m taking Dorlus off my short list.

Braden Fiske may go lower on my board by draft weekend. He lacks the measurables that often vault players at the Combine. You see by his forty time that he’d only be able to beat T’Vondre Sweat in a foot race, and Sweat outweighs him by 60-plus pounds. His IDL Pass Rush Pressure % of 10.6% is 4th on this list behind Murphy, Dorlus, and Newton. If I had to guess why FSU really got its scouting visits score of 4, it wasn’t that Bills scouts were watching Fiske or top-10 draft pick Jared Verse; it was the offense: RD1 WR Keon Coleman (5-94-18.8 against Clemson), RD2 RB Trey Benson (7-25-3.6 YPC, 3 catches 50 yds, 16.7 YPR), and RD2 WR Johnny Wilson (5-86-17.2, 2 TD against Clemson). Let’s take Fiske off this list. Fiske probably gains value in RD3, where you get a relentless player who gets you Kyle Williams-like effort-pressures and effort-sacks, especially with our D-Line. Other Boston College guys have succeeded in our defense, right? https://x.com/MyColtsAccount/status/834228240839487488?s=20

My logic about Fiske also applies to Clemson’s Tyler Davis https://x.com/DraftVogel/status/1661396487136329729?s=20. The Bills were scouting other Clemson players who will hear their names called before his, on Day 1 or Day 2 (#15 Nate Wiggins CB, #44 Jeremiah Trotter Jr. LB, the abovementioned Orhorhoro, and #83 Will Shipley RB, who scored 2 TD in the scouted FSU game –one rushing and one receiving). That’s why Davis’s name will be removed here.

I also am removing Michael Hall Jr., #51=>https://x.com/flexintexans/status/1709014139300155825?s=20 and it’s more due to his poorest interview of the Day One & Day Two prospects. A year ago, his interview I watched was two notches lower than my most-recent A++. Now, at least he speaks about D-Line and not self as much. It certainly raises the level of expectation when you’re given the moniker of “Baby Aaron Donald”. A setback for Hall was a shoulder injury in the second half of 2022, after being given limited snaps in 2021 (35 snaps total at the end of blowouts). Hall’s limited playing time on the field in 2021 and 2022 might have meant he was a rusty in the 2023 season (9 tackles, 2 TFLs total). A fourth factor in grading him lower than most big boards was a memorable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Akron Zips –slashing his throat during a celebration after making a play. Hall was pulled from that game. A spearing penalty in the OSU-Maryland game made it easier for Maryland. Hall has good potential, but he’s still discovering what needs to be done to elevate his game to be the next Chase Young. Dominant doesn’t resonate with me. His best game in 2023 was vs Youngstown State.

The Big Board of possibilities now, sorted by scouting score:

And here they are by rank on the BuffaloFAMBase Big Board:

Credit Dean Kindig, www.BuffaloFAMBase.com.

Right now, 98 days away from a Brandon Beane decision about going D-Line in RD1, I think he’s torn between Leonard Taylor’s productivity and allegiance to Manny Diaz with respect to Chop Robinson. Now, if he goes WR in Round 1, he still has well-scouted options along the D-Line in RD2, including EDGE Adisa Isaac or flexy DT3T-DT1T-EDGE Byron Murphy, if he’s there. Keith Randolph in RD3 would be a nice consolation prize and a very fun player for your locker room if you went WR or RB in Round 2. If you want to wait, rework DaQuan’s contract, and/or look at these other IDL players I love in other rounds:

Evan Anderson, DT1T – DT3T, FAU—Anderson played OT in HS, and has played 4 years at Florida Atlantic. For a guy who’s 6-3 326 5.32, He shows impressive quickness, especially laterally, for a big man. BobbyFootball calls him a “mammoth nose tackle who plays with plenty of power at the point…” More than a gapclogger. May go earlier than folks think.

Gabe Hall DT3T EDGE, Baylor —Scouts watched Hall and Sweat in the same game=>https://youtu.be/R86PueTN8UE?si=aOl5q_UawASagbX5&t=10 …versatility, length, and production, with a Baylor connection. 2022: 12 games, 490 snaps, 19 tackles, 9 assists, and 13 stops, 26 total pressures, with 18 QB hurries, 4 QB hits, and 4 sacks on the season. He’s played DT3T, EDGE, and Nose a few times. Some impressive video.

Jermayne Lole, DT3T EDGE, Louisville–6-1 305 5.08 Smallest option here, but ACC competition still got him an average over 1 sack or TFL per game over his career. Watch.

Nash Hutmacher DT1T Nebraska A+++ 6-3 330 5.29 —Pet Cat. 4x state Champion Wrestler (122-0 in HS, InterMat’s #1 wrestler in the USA, wrestled varsity as a 7th-grader) and 2x state champion in track and field. Nash was first noted by Sal Cappacio in the Huskers’ loss to Utah on 8/31/23. Hutmacher squats 610 lbs, deadlifts 560 lbs, and benches 420 lbs, and he’s savvy: Academic All-Big Ten (2021, 2022, 2023). He doesn’t have the gut of a 330-pounder, and that took dedication and healthy eating. I, on the other hand, have no excuse. His nickname? “The Polar Bear”. Listen to this guy. Sean McD has.

Jordan Bertagnole DT3T NT Wyoming –At 6-3 290 5.02, he’s less versatile, but Jordan was the leading tackler in the scouted game vs UNLV with 9 tackles. Keep in mind WYO was tied for sixth in the FBS in total sacks with 25.0 on the year. Like yours truly, he’s an Eagle Scout. Since he started at Wyoming in 2020, he didn’t ever see Josh –just heard about him. Watch his strip-sack for the (eventual) touchdown. While I liked Hutmacher’s interview more, they’re both compelling people.

Keeshawn Silver DT3T NT Kentucky –A versatile grown-up dude (6-5 315 4.94) in the middle for Kentucky, Silver boasts a 7′ wingspan. A transfer after two years at UNC, Silver just couldn’t stay healthy at Carolina. He looked impressive in the Miami game, and might be a Preferred Free Agent target after the draft. Keeshawn usually played NT and has enough speed to game you. Here, he talks about how competition helps get everyone better.

Editor’s babble: My new obsession is with T’Vondre Sweat. All that mountain of manhood next to Ed Oliver brings a smile :) Many thanks to our draft guru Dean Kindig for his incredible contributions to our blog. You can also find Dean on Xwitter @TCBILLS_Astro.

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