In the aftermath of Kyle Williams’s retirement following the 2018 season, it’s up to the Buffalo Bills front office to decide how best to replace the team’s long-time defensive tackle. With the 2019 NFL Draft seeming to offer a plethora of options at the position, they may come to the conclusion that drafting a rookie offers the best path forward in that regard. If so, here are some of the players general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott will be evaluating this spring.
Quinnen Williams (Alabama)
Ed Oliver (Houston)
Rashan Gary (Michigan)
Bursting onto the scene as a sophomore, Williams isn’t your typical Alabama defensive tackle. Instead of being a big, strong immovable object—he’s small, cat-quick, and nimble. Best of all, he’s quite young, so he ceiling is high. Oliver went into the season as an unquestioned top-five pick, but he seems to have lost some of his luster after apparently clashing with his head coach. Talent-wise, nothing has changed. He’s still amazingly athletic and strong for his size. Used as a defensive end at Michigan, Gary’s size and über-athleticism are best-utilized along the interior of the defensive line. However, any team that drafts him for that role will need to be patient.
Jeffrey Simmons (Mississippi State)
Dre’Mont Jones (Ohio State)
Christian Wilkins (Clemson)
Simmons loves controlling lineman with his long arms and he has the upper-body strength to push guards into the lap of quarterbacks. He finds himself on the ground far too much, though, possibly because he has a tendency to drop his head. Outside of the players in the first tier, Jones has the highest ceiling as a pass rusher of any player on this list. This is despite the fact that he plays far too upright at the snap. Clemson’s Wilkins has the opposite problem, he needs to prove he can hold at the point of attack and not get run over by double-teaming guards and centers.
Dexter Lawrence (Clemson)
Jerry Tillery (Notre Dame)
Khalen Saunders (Western Illinois)
Gerald Willis (Miami-Florida)
Lawrence garnered first-round praise his rookie season, but injuries and his ballooning size have slowed down his stock. At the very least, he looks like a dominant nose tackle at the next level. Tillery’s second and third steps out of his stance are fantastic, and you have to love his technical refinement, but his upside as an athlete is limited. Anyone who watched the Senior Bowl knows of Saunders. His squat build gives him natural leverage on the inside and he’s not afraid to bust out a toolbox of moves when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. Willis’s off-the-field concerns might scare away some teams, and he needs additional development, but if a team is willing to take a chance on him, they might get a starting tackle in return.