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.
Out of the several Ohio State players to visit the Bills, one name without much press in Buffalo is offensive tackle Taylor Decker. Let's see why the Bills could be interested in him.
Decker group up in Vandalia, Ohio. A three-year starter at left tackle in high school, Decker was rated as a four-star recruit. He originally committed to Notre Dame, but swapped to Ohio State. As a true freshman, Decker played in every game, but mainly on special teams. He started 14 games at right tackle as a sophomore in 2013, then swapped to left tackle and started there for his junior and senior seasons.
Decker has two brothers, one who serves in the Marine Corps, the other in the Navy. He also has two older sisters, making him the youngest of five. Decker played basketball in high school, something that established his movement skills. To improve his technique pre-draft, Decker has been training at LeCharles Bentley's offensive line camp.
Decker has good size for a tackle. He stands 6'7" and weighs 310 pounds, but his arms are a bit short at 33.75 inches long. A solid, but not outstanding athlete, he had a 5.23-second 40-yard dash, a 29-inch vertical leap, a 7.70-second three-cone drill, and a 4.76-second short shuttle.
Decker has a strong anchor, a great punch and clean handwork. His footwork in his kick slide is clean, but can come off as choppy sometimes. Being a tall player, it's important that Decker sink his hips and play with a low pad level, and sometimes he will play too tall in his stance. His hip flexors weren't the strongest in college; if a defender was working across his face, he'd often have to turn to accommodate blocking them, presenting some risk.
In general, Decker's pass blocking technique is just fine, and I think he has adequate athleticism to handle left tackle or right tackle. One strange element I saw on occasion was that Decker was about a half-tick late to respond to the snap relative to his teammates. Not sure what that's about.
In watching Decker play, I came away with the sense that his style was about 20 percent hit you until you're on the ground, then fall on top of you for good measure, and about 80 percent shove you until you've been moved enough that he can say his work is done. He doesn't do the best job of rolling his hips into a block, and he'll sometimes struggle with reach blocks. When he's moving downhill in a straight line, Decker does a great job of putting his opponent on skates.
While the Bills brought Decker in for a visit, there still are not solid indications that they're seriously looking for an offensive tackle in the first round. Much like Jack Conklin, Decker gives them a right tackle upgrade who could usurp the current starters, and possibly play left tackle if Cordy Glenn departs after this season. I'm not sure he's the best fit for Buffalo's scheme, and I don't think he has quite the upside that Conklin could offer. If the Bills do draft Decker, I'm really looking forward to hearing Doug Whaley talk about the process that went into the selection.