In my last mock I intentionally avoided picking up an offensive lineman with our premier picks. I wanted a right tackle who could come in and play from day one, who had proven himself in the league and certainly not a project; after all we already have an offensive line project in Vlad. As much as I have enjoyed Wayne Hunter's leadership ability this off-season with him calling out players who are rocking the boat, he is not a guy that I want protecting my quarterback in 2012.
When Sparano was brought on board, the chances of Hunter returning as the right tackle greatly diminished. Sparano believes in protecting the Quarterback, John has said it, Parcells as said it and so has Rex. Now let's not try to say that every other lineman was faultless this year, Brick had one of his worst seasons since his rookie year and the offensive line is a unit. It wasn't difficult to see that Wayne Hunter was the weak link in that unit however. According to Pro Football Focus he allowed 22 sacks+Knockdowns and 28 pressures.
Not all quarterback sacks are on the offensive line, Sanchez does sometimes have a habit of moving into the rush and holding the ball too long. Needless to say Hunters numbers are scary and it is a perfect example of why Hunter has been a career backup in the NFL. He doesn't have the hands, feet or recognition to contains above average pass rushers on a consistent basis.
There is an offensive tackle hitting the unrestricted free agency market this summer and he is just up the road in Buffalo.
Join me after the jump
Buffalo is in a very strong position where in it has three capable starting tackles on it's roster. Rookie Chris Hairston who was Buffalo's 4th round pick in 2011 looks like a great prospect and held is own when he played for Demetrius Bell this year. They have Erik Pears at right tackle, a player they have just given a three year deal to and of course they have Bell. Now I think most Buffalo fans agree that Hairston and Pears are the future at the tackle positions, but Bell is a great young prospect himself.
Bell was a 7th round pick from Northwestern State in 2008, he has started 30 games for the Bills over the last four seasons. Being a 7th round rookie he didn't see much of the field in 2008, however after a less than stellar 2009 where he started 8 games and got beat a lot, gave up a fair few penalties and was knocked out for the season with a knee injury in week 10, he was handed the starting job in 2010 with impressive pre-season performances and ended up playing all 16 games for the Bills.
I saw the Bills first three games this year and I have to say that I didn't believe that Demetrius Bell was the same person I saw in 2009. Yes he had a very solid 2010, and you could say that his athletic ability that year should have made it no surprise that Bell was primed for a breakout year in 2011. However despite going down with a shoulder injury which would limit him to just 6 starts this season, he was one of the best lineman in the league at protecting his quarterback.
I went in search of a few stats to back this up and I wasn't disappointed at all. PFT analysed all starting left tackles in the league towards the end of September. So midway through the season and for Bell this was based on 4 starts before the injury. At that point, the Buffalo Bills QB had dropped back 114 times, and Bell had no sacks to his name and just 3 pressures for a pass blocking efficiency rating of 98% which was good for best in the league.
There are some concerns with injuries but I wouldn't go so far as saying he was injury prone. He is happy in Buffalo and has reiterated that he would like to return. This is football, anything can happen and he wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. Buddy Nix has already said that Buffalo will be looking to draft a tackle in the 2012 NFL draft.
Personally I love his game and I love his ceiling, he has come a long way but his pass protection is as good as most tackles in the league. Obviously he would switch over to RT but with his athleticism it wouldn't be a problem. If we offered him a good 3-4 year deal I think there is a good chance we could land a guy who could become one of the premier protectors in the league