The Buffalo Bills, ably represented by this community, have made our second round choice in the 2008 SB Nation NFL Mock Draft. That pick is Texas A&M TE Martellus Bennett. Bennett received over 40% of the vote from this community, with WR James Hardy and TE Dustin Keller bringing up the rear with 20% each.
Bennett, regarded by many as the best all-around tight end prospect in this year's draft class, is seeing his stock rise quickly in the two weeks preceding the draft. Head on over to Mocking the Draft (draft headquarters) to check out the pick rationale, but especially for the grade and pick analysis from New Era Scouting.
Bennett an Immediate Starter?
There are two tight ends that I'm very fond of in this draft class - Bennett and Notre Dame's John Carlson. Why? Because the Bills are looking to get bigger and more physical across the board, especially offensively (now that they've achieved that in their defensive front seven), and Bennett and Carlson are the two toughest, most physical tight ends available this year. Both of these guys can block you into submission and hurt you in the passing game. They each have intangibles that could eventually make them both elite at their position as well.
What sets Bennett apart is his athleticism. At 6'6" and 259 pounds (with the room to add on a little more muscle if he wanted to) and with sub-4.7 speed, Bennett is an athletic marvel. He entered the NBA Draft out of high school, withdrew his name, then played on the hardwood for Texas A&M before quitting to focus entirely on football. I'm glad he did; that background in basketball gives him a unique skill set that could make him very difficult to cover one on one, especially in the red zone. He's already an above-average blocker as well, having come from A&M's run-oriented offense. He's raw, and needs technique work (we'll get to that in a moment), but Bennett could come in and unseat Robert Royal as this team's starting tight end right away.
Where Bennett Needs Work
While it's true that Bennett could an instant-impact rookie (especially in the red zone), he does have some areas to improve upon. Even at 260 pounds, Bennett could stand to get a bit stronger, which would help him at the point of attack in the run game. Bennett is also a physical after-the-catch runner with enough speed to break longer gains, but as he was used rather infrequently as a receiver in college, he'll need to adjust to reading zone coverages at the NFL level. That could limit his effectiveness between the 20s until he becomes more adept at finding the soft spot in the zone.
His ability to separate from slot defensive backs and speedy linebackers is in question, though his basketball background (read: superb body positioning and hands) will help him in that regard. He's also a bit unrefined as a route runner; when he runs a route correctly he's a terror to cover, but that needs to happen a bit more often. Bennett is really rather consistent across the board in terms of all of the skills that you look for in an elite tight end; he could just stand to fine-tune his game in each area. When that happens, watch out.
The Kevin Everett Connection
Two days ago, the Bills' official website did a piece on Bennett's connection with Kevin Everett. The two have been friends since Bennett met Everett on a recruiting trip to Miami, and when Everett lost his career to a spine injury last September, Bennett paid tribute by switching jersey numbers, from 13 to 85 (see picture at top of article). This is a testament to the kind of person Bennett is - Buffalo doesn't really need more high-character individuals (we've got plenty already), but when someone as talented as Bennett comes around and he's the type of person he is, doesn't that make the prospect even more attractive?
Hard worker. Big, strong, tough and physical. Sounds like the make-up of a Buffalo Bill to me. Add in high character, outstanding talent and a pretty well-refined all around game, and Martellus Bennett seems like the ideal candidate to be drafted by Buffalo.