After longtime center Eric Wood’s sudden retirement, Buffalo Bills brass were clearly in a tough spot at the position heading into the 2018 season. They soon settled on having a competition between in-house option Ryan Groy and free agent signee Russell Bodine. It was a competition that Groy won almost by default, as neither player really played well enough to earn the starting gig. After two games of dreadful play, the coaches decided to switch to Bodine, who at least brought some amount of stability until he broke his fibula in Week 13. After having to endure a season with Bodine as a starter, general manager Brandon Beane may look to start over and, ideally, upgrade the team’s talent at the position during the draft. Here are several prospects he might be considering.
Elgton Jenkins (Mississippi State)
Garrett Bradbury (NC State)
Michael Deiter (Wisconsin)
Dalton Risner (Kansas State)
While none of these players are projected as first rounders, each of them can be plug-and-play starters. It’s a good mix here at the top. Jenkins’s size, at 315 pounds, and length are perfect for teams that run a power scheme, expecting their centers to handle bigger defensive tackles and nose tackles one-on-one. Jenkins is polished, but still struggles with elite defensive tackles, something that was glaring when he went up against Alabama tackle Quinnen Williams this year. Bradbury is an undersized finesse player who’s light on his feet, and therefore perfect for a zone scheme that asks linemen to move and get to the second level. Just don’t ask him to anchor alone in pass protection. Deiter can play all over the offensive line, and is a tough, aggressive blocker. Often forgotten, he will be labeled a riser after the upcoming Senior Bowl. Playing his entire career at tackle, Risner is admittedly a projection, but he clearly possesses the strength and quickness to play inside. In fact, center may be his best position, considering his fierce mentality and lack of arm length.
Chris Lindstrom (Boston College)
Erik McCoy (Texas A&M)
Lamont Gaillard (Georgia)
There’s a significant step down to this second tier. The trio of players listed are likely to be late Day-Two or early Day-Three picks, who will be best served competing for a chance to become starters. Lindstrom is another projection, having mostly played guard in a run-heavy scheme, but his suddenness and hand usage would serve him just as well in the middle of the line. McCoy carries his listed weight very well, and moves laterally almost as well as the aforementioned Bradbury. Georgia’s Gaillard is coming off an impressive performance at the Shrine Game and showed off a good motor, but he’s undersized and has some stiffness in his hips that prevents him from moving well laterally.
Tier III players will be late-round picks, if they are drafted at all. They’re headlined by one of the more experienced and battle-tested prospects on this list in Pierschbacher—who is athletically limited. If drafted by the Bills, his history with Brian Daboll might serve him well. Another player who completely lacks power, Burkett just cannot stand up to defensive tackles, especially those who rely on strength, one-on-one. Admittedly, I haven’t seen much tape of Allegretti, but his performance in the Shrine game was impressive enough to warrant a spot on the list.