This post is part of a continuing series in which we break down 13 2011 NFL Draft prospects - our Baker's Dozen - that should interest the Buffalo Bills. Keep up to date on our Baker's Dozen series here.
The Buffalo Bills transitioned to a 3-4 defense in 2010. The lack of personnel to fit the scheme forced Chan Gailey and defensive coordinator George Edwards to play more 4-3 defense as the year wore on. While GM Buddy Nix will continue to draft personnel for the 3-4 defense, Gailey has said that the team will run a multiple front defense. The hiring of Dave Wannstedt, historically a 4-3 coach, reinforces the point. I expect Buffalo to run three to four variations of their defense. Here's how Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt would fit in.
This is the base 3-4 defense employed by members of the Bill Parcells coaching tree. This defense is very stout when the three defensive linemen are capable of playing two-gap assignments, but is vulnerable to two-tight end offenses.
3-4 Over (also known as the 4-3 Over)
This defense is effective at penetrating and disrupting the offense, but can be run against effectively by teams that can rush with power.
This is a difficult defense to play against when run effectively, as seen in New York and Philadelphia. Effective West Coast or possession-passing teams that can protect the quarterback can beat this defense.
J.J. Watt at defensive end in the Bullough-Fairbanks 3-4 Defense
Watt is a terrific fit into Buffalo's base defense. In Buffalo's base 3-4 defense, Watt would play as a five-technique end. Watt's game is all power, exactly what the position calls for. He has the anchor strength and strong hands to take on the tackle, and his motor never stops. He's not fluid enough to present an edge threat to the quarterback, but like Cameron Jordan, Watt is powerful enough to handle a two-gap assignement.
Watt at defensive end in a 30 Over Front
While the Bullough-Fairbanks 30 front would become the Bills' base defense, the 30 Over becomes a variation to throw at offenses out of the same formation. This defense is similar to the defense that Dallas played under Wade Phillips. Watt is easily versatile enough to play this scheme, and is familiar with one-gap assignments. While Watt isn't the explosive athlete a Da'Quan Bowers is, his power presents a large problem for blockers as he shoots gaps.
Watt at end in the 46 Defense
Watt moves outside the tackle in this defense. George Edwards could slide Dwan Edwards to tackle, Kyle Williams shifts from the nose to over the guard, and an outside linebacker puts his hand on the ground, shifting to this defense out of either version of the 3-4. While this is an OK look for Buffalo, Watt isn't really a well-rounded threat from the outside. He had the speed to get past Big Ten tackles, but that won't be the case in the NFL. If Edwards uses this defense with Watt at end, the left end position would need to be where he's at. As depicted here (at right end), Watt would be less of a threat.
Watt at Tackle in the 46 Defense
This is a better use of Watt's talents. Like Justin Tuck, Watt is powerful enough to shift inside to defensive tackle and give the guard all he can handle.
Watt, like Jordan and Marcell Dareus, is a great fit schematically for Buffalo's defense. Watt isn't the most talented five-technique on the board, but he is very strong, and quick enough to man the position. Watt is a coach's dream and a blocker's nightmare, going all out on every play with a brute-force-and-ignorance approach to the game.
While he is a bit of a reach at the third overall pick, if Buffalo receives a trade offer that Buddy Nix takes, Watt is the type of player that every team needs. Buffalo fans will grow to love him the same way they love another player with a similar game: Phil Hansen.