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2020 UDFA Signing: Buffalo Bills OT Trey Adams (Washington) injury analysis

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There’s a strong reason why he wasn’t drafted.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 29 Washington State at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Newly signed UDFA OT Trey Adams comes to the Buffalo Bills following a disappointing NFL Draft that saw the tackle from Washington go unselected after demonstrating first-round talent early in his college career. Uneven play along with several serious injuries led to his drop and uncertain future in the NFL. During the lead up to the draft, I had done an injury profile on Adams over at Cover 1. I would highly suggest that you go read the full article for yourself, included is full anatomy breakdowns, mechanism of injuries, and rehab timelines. But if you want a brief overview, then continue reading below.

Below is Adams’s known injury history:

(excerpts from cover1.net)

2015 season:

Appeared in ten of 13 games missing the last two games of the season due to a stinger in his neck/shoulder area. This caused him to miss the regular-season finale and bowl game, ending his season early.

2016 season:

Adams played in all 14 games without any known injuries while garnering first-team All Pac-12 and second-team All-American accolades. This appears to be the time that Adams began showing up on draft pundits’ radars as a potential first-round pick in the next year’s draft.

2017 season:

Appeared in seven games, missed the remaining six games of the season with a right ACL tear derailing his season.

2018 season:

Due to the season-ending ACL injury, Adams was granted another year of eligibility but missed most of that season due to a back injury, which forced him to miss ten games. It was revealed in an article by The Athletic that he was dealing with back pain during all of training camp. Unfortunately, it became severe enough that he required surgery that forced him to miss ten games.

In later articles, it was revealed that he was dealing with two bulging discs. There doesn’t appear to be any specifics in regards to how he suffered the injury originally but, according to Adams, it became debilitating.

Adams was eventually able to return after ten games and play in the remaining four following discectomies. It was noted that he was in a lot of discomfort even after the appropriate time off. Fortunately, despite playing in four games, he was able to preserve his final year of NCAA eligibility due to recent rule changes allowing a player to play in up to four games without using an entire year.

2019 season:

After playing in only 11 games over two years, Adams decided to return to school for his senior year. He was able to appear in all regular-season games but skipped the bowl game for precautionary reasons to preserve his draft stock. He appeared to return to form, receiving All-Pac 12 honors and fourth-team All-American status.

It appeared Adams finally got away from the injury-plagued seasons of 2017 and 2018, but injury struck once again during the Senior Bowl. Suffering a hamstring strain, he was unable to participate in the game that Saturday, further hurting his ability to show how healthy he could be going into the 2020 NFL Draft.

Bills Injury Impact:

I would think most people could read the information above and understand how he went undrafted. I had originally stated in the Cover 1 article that he was a Day 3 pick based on his medicals. However, due to his poor Combine showing along with NFL teams’ inability to examine him, his stock plummeted.

He was worth a late-round draft choice at best due to the injuries, but considering that the Bills got him as a UDFA allows them to win this signing even if he doesn’t pan out. They have him on the hook for three years at an insanely cheap rate but don’t have anything invested into him.

Looking back into the Cover 1 analysis is this nugget:

“The research supports that those that come into the league with a pre-existing back injury were less likely to be drafted and have shorter careers when compared to a control group. Interestingly, when compared to a control group, it indicated that there was no difference in performance. It must also be highlighted that those drafted later have a lesser chance to make a team. In turn, the team is less likely to place resources into keeping that player around compared to a high draft pick.”

Adams is the embodiment of that paragraph above. Every fan has seen multiple players start out as an UDFA and have a long career such as recently retired Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander. But he already starts his journey several steps behind. This will be an uphill battle for Adams to make the roster in 2020. He has the potential to play at the next level and even start based off his 2016 performance. He could regain some of that form and consistency that originally had him pegged as a first-round talent.

Looking at his overall injury history, the back injury scares me the most. The research listed above and in the Cover 1 article is not favorable. Yes, players can and do return after back surgeries, but how long that player lasts performing at a high level is something entirely different. Do not be surprised if Adams shows up on the injury report with back issues. The other issues such as the hamstring is always concerning, but is more of a routine matter than anything chronic.

It’s quite possible his career could mimic that of former Bills tackle Seantrel Henderson. If you recall, Henderson dropped in the draft due to several medical concerns along with frequent suspensions stemming from marijuana use. Despite getting picked in the seventh round in 2014 that year, he started in all 16 games. He continued to play until this year with the Houston Texans despite dealing with several other health issues throughout his career.

Adams could have a trajectory similar to Henderson; find the right team to stick with and remain healthy enough to prove his worth. Henderson has had himself a decent career thus far, but is far from the game-changing tackle prospect he once was. If Adams is anywhere near Henderson’s career, I would consider that a success. Anything on top of that is an added bonus.

Overall, this could be a great signing for the Bills as it’s a low-risk, high-reward scenario, but it’s dependent on Adams’s health and his ability to adjust to the next level.