At the NFL Supplemental Draft this Thursday, July 9, NFL teams are giving consideration to the latest group of eligible players. These athletes, who missed the deadline to declare their draft eligibility but are no longer able to compete for a college team, are essentially using their last shot to stand out for teams before training camp begins. It's rare for a player to be selected in the supplemental draft; troubled receiver Josh Gordon was the most recent selection in 2012. That can be attributed in part to the NFL's rules for the event.
Teams are ordered via a lottery system based on their records in the previous season. The Bills, with a 9-7 record and a finish outside of the playoffs, will be placed somewhere between the Nos. 11 and 20 picks in this order. Once the order is set, teams are allowed to bid a draft pick in a specific round on any players they want to draft. If a player is bid upon, the team who submitted the highest bid is awarded the player, and sacrifices the corresponding round's pick in the next year's draft.
With the inherent risk in the supplemental draft (submitting a pick for a player doesn't necessarily award him to a team, and all of the players in the event carry different flaws or character concerns that aren't as prevalent in the spring event), it's understandable that so few players are picked. In this year's class of seven prospects, however, there may be one that merits a selection: former Clemson left tackle Isaiah Battle.
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- Class: Senior
- College: Clemson
- Ht/Wt: 6'7", 310 pounds
Battle played in 27 games and started 16 during his three years with Clemson. He certainly has the build for the position; at nearly 6'7" with 35-inch arms, Battle has enough length to keep most defenders at bay even when his technique fails him. He's also a great mover, with good agility and plenty of burst. He can pull around the end or block downfield on a screen, and doesn't have trouble with positioning. Battle doesn't have issues with motivation; he often heads straight at his opponents, burying his head to drive them away.
Right now, Battle's biggest flaw is a weak anchor. That stems from two causes: an underdeveloped lower body, and issues with his technique. Battle has skinny legs, and played between 285 and 295 pounds during most of his Clemson career. He has the frame to bulk up, and started to do that in his senior year, but that will have to continue in the NFL. Battle also has to learn how to use his size properly; he doesn't play with his feet under him, leaning forward and bending at the waist to make blocks. It saps him of strength and messes up his balance.
There are other parts of Battle's technique that need more consistency. While his kick-slide is potentially very good, he doesn't always mirror his opponents well enough. Sometimes he steps in place while his opponent attacks his outside shoulder, and that leads to bad positioning. His hands are also inconsistent; he's just as likely to place them on an opponent's chest as they are to do the same to him, and that's not something that should be happening with his long arms.
Then there are the character concerns. Battle was ultimately dismissed from Clemson following a few different incidents in his college career. He was suspended in 2013 after punching a player on the field, then again in 2014 for an unexplained incident. Battle was recently cited for speeding and possession of marijuana after a traffic stop. While he wasn't arrested, that event earned him his collegiate ouster. Battle is entering the supplemental draft because he has a child on the way, but it's also because he's out of chances in college.
Battle has some talent and physical tools, but he more time in the weight room, and his fundamentals need work. A left tackle with his size and movement ability is not easy to find, which should give him a shot at being selected on Thursday. Still, he has a long way to go before being ready to start, and his history of incidents doesn't help his cause.
People should definitely consider the Bills a potential landing place for Battle. The team only has three roster locks at offensive tackle in Cordy Glenn, Seantrel Henderson, and Cyrus Kouandjio. If Buffalo thinks Battle has a future in this league, they could certainly use him for depth. Rex Ryan also has connections to the Clemson program through his son, who plays for the team.
That being said, there are plenty of other teams that could use an athlete with Battle's upside, and several of them will slot ahead of Buffalo in the per-round pecking order. I'd be surprised if a team offers more than a fourth-round selection for Battle - and with the Bills already down one 2016 NFL Draft pick (Round 7, involved in the Matt Cassel trade), they may not be willing to yield another one for a project player with character concerns.