The Buffalo Bills need an offensive tackle. That much is obvious, and unfortunately, it remains true even after Monday's free agent signing of former Oakland right tackle Cornell Green. The 34-year-old right tackle is a likely starter, but Buffalo still lacks a serious candidate to start on the left side, excluding the unlikely event that the team is comfortable letting Demetrius Bell and Jamon Meredith duke it out for that role.
As a result, this year's crop of rookie tackles have been the most heavily debated players amongst the Bills' fan base (excluding quarterbacks, and in particular one quarterback).
We know who the top prospects are. Oklahoma State's Russell Okung has cemented himself as the top tackle available this year, and as such, he's unlikely to make it to Buffalo's No. 9 overall pick. Rutgers'holds up well on tape, but his stock took a slight hit after the NFL Combine thanks to clunky workouts and poor interviews. Perhaps the early fan favorite, Iowa's Bryan Bulaga isn't a blue-chip prospect, but he's dependable, safe, and possesses the blue collar playing style that would make him an instant hit in this region. USC's Charles Brown and Maryland's Bruce Campbell are intriguing physical specimens, but reviews on their playing abilities are mixed.
The one tackle very few Bills fans are talking about is Oklahoma's Trent Williams. He entered the season as a near-consensus top tackle available, getting about as much hype as Okung did. During his senior season, however, Williams struggled a little, playing left tackle for the first time at Oklahoma in front of a backup quarterback and next to inexperienced teammates up front.
Scouts openly questioned whether Williams was a left tackle prospect, though they've admitted all along that he'd make an excellent investment on the right side. Williams answered some of his critics at the NFL Combine, recording outstanding athletic numbers (his 4.88-second 40-yard dash was second amongst linemen to Campbell) and measuring in ideally.
There are a number of NFL teams who have rated Williams ahead of Bulaga throughout the process; we're beginning to see why. Many NFL teams view Bulaga as a right tackle; Williams gets the nod in those cases because he's a better athlete with better measureables. The problem with this year's crop of tackles is that while there are a lot of solid prospects, there's really only one lock to be a starter on the left side from day one, and that's Okung.
Don't sleep on Williams though, folks. He's been high on draft boards throughout the process, and folks on the outside are starting to realize it, sliding him up boards quickly post-Combine. There are some that don't believe Williams will make it out of the Top 10 at this point, and considering where Buffalo picks, this is a prospect that absolutely needs to be on the radar of Bills fans.