Historically, the Bills have drafted a player who visited them pre-draft with their first-round pick. Leading up to the draft, we'll be looking at key visitors for Buffalo, to see who makes sense for them at No. 19 overall.
One edge rusher who should be available when the Bills pick is Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd. Let's take a look.
Dodd grew up in Greer, South Carolina, going to Riverside High School. As a senior, he had 78 tackles and nine sacks for his team, but didn't academically qualify for Clemson's scholarship. He went to Hargrave Military Academy for a year, then joined Clemson as a three-star defensive line prospect.
Dodd played sparingly as a freshman in 2012, then medically redshirted 2013 after four games due to a shoulder injury, a knee injury, and a toe injury. He remained at the bottom of the depth chart in 2014, and finally found his place when Vic Beasley, Corey Crawford, and Tavaris Barnes all graduated. Through his first three seasons, Dodd had collected 21 tackles (nine solo, three for a loss) and no sacks. So it was a bit of a shock when he exploded for 23.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks as a redshirt junior. He flourished in a starting role opposite Shaq Lawson, culminating in a stellar National Championship performance against Alabama that featured three sacks and five tackles for loss.
Dodd is somewhat of a humble, quiet, hard-working player. He spent a lot of time waiting and learning behind other players, and was a slow starter in his college career. He's going to graduate this year with a degree in sociology. Dodd is 23 years old, and will be a 24-year-old rookie after his birthday in July.
Dodd has the ideal build for a defensive end, standing 6'5", weighing 277 pounds, and carrying 34-inch arms. His athletic ability is a bit questionable. At the Combine, he ran a 4.86-second 40-yard dash with a 1.69-second 10-yard split. He injured his hamstring after that, so a month later, he worked out at the Clemson pro day. His 30.5-inch vertical leap, 9'2" broad jump, 4.44-second short shuttle, and 7.32-second three-cone drill are all very pedestrian measurements for a defensive end.
Edge-rushing tends to be a position that desires athletic prospects who can outmaneuver or overpower their opponents. On paper, Dodd's athleticism (along with his advanced age) create a significant red flag for his possible NFL success.
Run defense and edge setting
Dodd does a good enough job setting the edge with his length. He's a flexible player who can work around a block to try and bring down the runner. He doesn't have a strong bull rush or ability to straight up shed a block, but he clogs lanes pretty well. He can be a bit hesitant to dive in and bring down the runner from the back side.
Pass rush talent and refinement
Dodd is a very fluid pass rusher. He does a great job of slipping between blockers, bending under an arm, and finding a gap in the line. He also has a decent rip move and a club move that works well for him. I just don't usually see him with a fast first step or the ability to convert speed to power. It seems to me that he had the most success in college with finesse moves, and I don't know how well that will work in the NFL. He's at his best when he's the change-of-pace pass rusher.
Before you bring up the Alabama game, I've watched that one a lot. Bama's right tackle is atrocious, and Dodd had several opportunities when he was unblocked, or only blocked by a tight end or running back. Every prospect has a game where they beat the scheme to look good.
Fluidity in space
While I've been harping on Dodd's athleticism, I do think he plays well in space, dropping into coverage - at least, for the responsibilities of a defensive end. That boosts his value for a team like the Bills, who value versatility in their defensive linemen.
I'm down on Dodd. I readily confess to being blinded by metrics on this one. The athleticism studies I've seen for pass rushers are very convincing, and Dodd's testing numbers suggest an over-aged player with weak athletic ability for the NFL. I just have a sneaking suspicion that Dodd ends up being a disappointment in the NFL. I think I'd rather see the Bills go with someone else in the first round.