When the 2016 NFL draft came to a close, the Buffalo Bills, like all NFL teams, immediately began signing players to their roster who weren’t selected. While this list of players often amounts to a lottery ticket without any of the winning numbers, sometimes the oysters are shucked and a pearl appears. For every Fred Jackson and Nickell Robey-Coleman, however, there are multiple players like Aaron Corp and Da’Rick Rogers.
The hype train began to pick up early around a highly athletic, though undersized player at the linebacker position...no wait, that was Eric Striker. The player in question was actually a defensive lineman with absurd workout numbers, but worries about facing inferior competition dogged him...oh no, that was Justin Zimmer. Actually, there was little to no hype surrounding Buffalo’s signing of Bryson Albright, and justifiably so. After all, he plays the same position as the team’s first round pick, and there were multiple veterans ahead of him, so his chances of making it past the first cut, let alone the final roster, appeared to be slim. With an injury to Shaq Lawson, a possible suspension coming for Manny Lawson, and a season-ending injury to IK Enemkpali, the opportunity for Albright to step in presented itself. He has not disappointed.
An Athlete with Room to Grow
The first trait about Albright that merits discussion is his athleticism. Consider the table below:
VERTICAL BROAD 40-YD DASH 3-CONE 20-YD SHUTTLE
PLAYER A 33” 120” 4.70 7.16 4.21
PLAYER B 33” 121” 4.89 6.87 4.25
Player A is Shaq Lawson, and Player B is Bryson Albright. The Miami (OH) Redhawk product is obviously the kind of quick-twitch athlete that coaches covet. His 3-cone time was better than all combine participants at his position not named James Cowser (UDFA-Southern Utah). His 20-yard shuttle time was equal to that of Shilique Calhoun and Bronson Kaufusi, who tied for fourth. His broad jump would have tied him with Emmanuel Ogbah and Noah Spence for third overall. He has the requisite height for the outside linebacker position, standing at 6’5” tall; however, he lacks the typical weight of a player at the position, weighing in at only 225 lbs. It seems that keeping weight on is a challenge for the young man, as different sources listed his playing weight at 225, 239, and even 243. To paraphrase Steve Tasker’s evaluation of Albright’s physique during the first preseason game, Albright’s legs say NFL player, and his upper half says he needs to hit the weight room. Albright just turned 22, so a year with a professional training regimen should do wonders for adding upper-body strength. He only logged 18 reps of the bench press during his pro day, which would have placed him fourth from the bottom of all NFL combine invitees at his position.
Productive Player on a Bad Team
During Albright’s time as a Redhawk, he twice led his squad in sacks (his sophomore and junior seasons). He finished his career with 19.5 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss. In his three years as a starter, he had over 50 tackles each year, finishing his career with 180 total. He also had as many passes defensed (5) as the team had wins in his final three years, so while these numbers might not scream “superstar,” it’s safe to say that he was one of the most talented players on a roster devoid of NFL-caliber players.
Positive Preseason Performances
After a strong outing against the Colts, Albright was rewarded with a greater number of snaps in the game against the Giants. He played a total of 24 snaps, or half the game, according to Jay Skurski, and made his presence felt. He logged a tackle and a fumble recovery, while helping to set the edge and bottle up the Giants offense throughout the entirety of the game. He showed great burst, a variety of moves as a pass rusher, and a fantastic motor in both preseason tilts. Albright certainly fits Rex Ryan’s scheme, as he is a versatile, athletic freak who can be moved around the defense to create havoc within the opposing offense. If Ryan could coax 6 sacks and 4 forced fumbles out of another similarly solid, undersized athlete, he is a good bet to do the same with a player whose work ethic and motor appear to be far greater than the former Bills’ first-round flame-out.
Albright has certainly made his case for inclusion on the 53-man roster once the preseason ends. However, his fate may not be completely in his hands, as Manny Lawson’s potential suspension could be a determining factor. If Lawson is suspended for week one, I’d put the chances of Albright making the roster near 100%. If Lawson isn’t suspended, however, he still has a strong chance. Dan Lavoie included Albright in his 53-man roster projection, released on Monday. When Shaq Lawson is healthy, though, it stands to reason that Albright would be the most likely first cut to clear space. The Bills would likely look to sneak him onto the practice squad, but at any point he could be signed away from Buffalo onto another team’s 53-man lineup. Of course, he could continue to play well and merit sticking around on the Bills’ active roster, as well. Albright’s continued strong play would certainly be a boost for Buffalo’s defensive depth.