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Jack Conklin 2016 NFL Draft scouting report

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If available, would the Bills be tempted by a plug-and-play starter at right tackle?

The 2016 NFL Draft is almost here, and before we know it, the Buffalo Bills will be turning in their card with their first first-round pick in two years.

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.

The Bills brought in two Michigan State players for visits. One was quarterback Connor Cook. The other was his left tackle, Jack Conklin.

Personal

If you haven't heard Conklin's story yet, you're definitely going to hear it a lot when he's drafted tonight. The son of a high school football coach in a small Michigan town, Conklin had no FBS scholarship offers out of high school. He walked on at Michigan State, and earned a scholarship by halfway through his redshirt season after impressing the coaches with his performance on the scout team. From there, he never looked back, starting 13 games as a redshirt freshman (10 at left tackle), and holding onto that job for the two following seasons, protecting Cook's blind side through a slew of wins.

The offensive tackle is known for his gritty on-field demeanor, as well as his carnivorous diet. Along with other members of the Spartan offensive line corps, Conklin formed the "meat squad" while he was in college. His teammates nicknamed him "Meatball."

Raw talent

Conklin came into draft season with the reputation of a slow-footed college left tackle who would need to move to the right side - or even to guard - to make it to the NFL. So it was somewhat surprising just how well he tested on the track. He has prototypical size for a tackle at 6'6", 308 pounds, with 35-inch arms and 10.4-inch hands. He ran his 40-yard dash in five seconds flat, had a solid 30-inch vertical leap, and his 7.63-second three-cone drill and 4.57-second short shuttle were both impressive for an offensive tackle.

Pass blocking

Conklin is up and down as a pass blocker. Some of his technique is very good, and some of it needs significant refining. I think the perception of Conklin's weak athleticism was fueled mainly by bad technique, and his athletic talent actually helped mask flaws on occasion.

Let's talk about the good first: Conklin does a nice job of keeping his feet under him, bending his knees, and establishing a strong anchor. He understands how to roll his hips with contact to neutralize torque, he has a strong punch, and he's very tough to beat cleanly. Even if he messes something up in his technique, Conklin has great awareness, and can usually recover to prevent a pressure.

The thing that is most problematic for Conklin is his footwork. He has a bad habit of taking a backward step during his kick slide. That costs him leverage against the bull rush, and it can also cost him proper spacing around the corner to slow down the outside rush. He does it fairly often, so it needs to be drilled out of him. In general, his pass set isn't very clean. He makes it work, but a technical pass rusher like Jerry Hughes would torment him on the field right now.

Conklin's also inconsistent with his hand usage. He carries his hands low, near his waist, and it slows down his punch.

One thing I liked about Conklin was that he improved his game year-over-year. As a sophomore, he had a major weakness against counter moves, but he had mostly fixed that by his junior year.

Run blocking

This is where Conklin earns his stripes. He's a devastating run blocker, with the perfect mentality to pave lanes for his teammates. Conklin's strongest technical traits grant him dividends in this department: his ability to keep his pads low, roll his hips into a block, and utilize his powerful hands make him a marvelous blocker. He's a guy who plays through the whistle and is a strong finisher; if you look around, you'll find instances of him tossing players to the ground. (Here's one.)

Occasionally, Conklin's same footwork inconsistency from his pass set can lead to trouble in the run game, but that's outweighed by the gaping holes he can create. In an offense such as Greg Roman's run-first attack, Conklin could be an outstanding right tackle.

Final word

There's no real indication that the Bills plan to spend their first-round pick on a right tackle, and Conklin is expected to be gone before they're picking, but that didn't stop them from bringing him in for a pre-draft visit. The fit is close to ideal - even with his lack of refinement, he could immediately upgrade the right tackle spot over Seantrel Henderson and Jordan Mills, he fits the blocking scheme, and he provides left tackle insurance if contract negotiations with Cordy Glenn go south. That said, the Bills haven't placed high value on offensive linemen in their last few drafts, so Conklin feels like a long shot first-round option for the team, despite the fit.