Line depth could be found in later rounds

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS - This is the fifth in­stall­ment of a po­si­tion-by-po­si­tion pre­view of the 2019 NFL Draft. By Vic Carucci NEWS SPORTS RE­PORTER

There doesn’t seem to be any guard or cen­ter in this year’s NFL Draft wor­thy of a first-round pick, which isn’t a prob­lem for the Buf­falo Bills given how ag­gres­sively they ad­dressed the in­te­rior of their of­fen­sive line in free agency.

How­ever, teams look­ing to se­lect a player at ei­ther po­si­tion fig­ure to get de­cent value in the sec­ond or third rounds.

Of the two spots, guard ap­pears to have a few more play­ers whom tal­ent eval­u­a­tors around the league see as hav­ing their names called on Day Two.

Among the top play­ers at both po­si­tions are Ok­la­homa guard Cody Ford, who also could play tackle, and Alabama cen­ter Ross Pier­schbacher.

“There is enough guard depth to project a de­cent num­ber of early starters and fu­ture starters headed all the way into the late fourth and early fifth round,” NFL Me­dia draft an­a­lyst Lance Zier­lein wrote for NFL. com.

Over­all draft grade for the po­si­tion: B-.

The Best: Cody Ford, G, Ok­la­homa. The list of pos­i­tives is fairly long, even if he isn’t nec­es­sar­ily pro­jected as a first-rounder. At 6-foot-3 and 329 pounds, he has ideal size to play in­side, which is where most NFL teams would pre­fer af­ter prov­ing he could hold his own as a starter at tackle and guard. He im­pressed scouts with his com­bi­na­tion of pow­er­ful


run-block­ing and nim­ble move­ment – along with con­sid­er­able pa­tience and an­tic­i­pa­tion when it comes to blitzes and stunts – in pass pro­tec­tion. Ford is a prob­a­ble sec­ond-round pick, al­though hav­ing spent his col­lege ca­reer in a two-point stance, he’ll need plenty of coaching.

“A mas­sive man with very good nat­u­ral strength and power, he might be a bit short for a tackle but has very long arms,” for­mer NFL scout Greg Gabriel wrote for Pro Foot­ball Weekly’s Draft Guide. “He should be able to play guard or right tackle in the NFL – de­pend­ing on the needs of the club that drafts him. He prob­a­bly has more up­side at guard, but he should start as a rookie in ei­ther po­si­tion.”

Bills view: They found their start­ing cen­ter in free agency, Mitch Morse from Kansas City. They also turned to the open mar­ket for a pair of guards, Jon Feli­ciano from Oak­land and Quin­ton Spain from Ten­nessee, and a cen­ter with ex­ten­sive guard ex­pe­ri­ence, Spencer Long, who pre­vi­ously played for the New York Jets and Wash­ing­ton. There­fore, nei­ther spot can be seen as being anything close to a pri­or­ity.

Still, the Bills en­ter the draft with more than enough picks to find some qual­ity depth at sev­eral po­si­tions. Some solid in­te­rior line­men should be avail­able in the mid­dle and later rounds.

Be like Mike … or is it Michael?: Dur­ing the NFL Scout­ing Com­bine, Ohio State cen­ter Michael Jor­dan was asked if he in­tended to go by Michael or Mike in the NFL. The ques­tion arose because the name card the league sup­plied for his me­dia ses­sion listed him as “Mike.” Jor­dan said, “I didn’t write this down. I guess maybe I was tired of fill­ing out pa­per­work and was just like ‘Mike, all right let’s go.’” He said he goes by “Michael or M.J., doesn’t mat­ter.” Asked if he was the GOAT, he said, “No, I’m not the GOAT.”

Sleeper: Jon Baker, C, Bos­ton Col­lege. For a cen­ter, he doesn’t have great size (6-2, 292 pounds). His arms aren’t par­tic­u­larly long and he isn’t es­pe­cially strong. How­ever, he has a great deal of smarts and his work ethic is off the charts. Lim­i­ta­tions not­with­stand­ing, he squeezes ev­ery ounce he can out of his skills. “There are guys like Baker play­ing in the league who get by on their intelligence, in­stincts and tech­nique,” Gabriel said.

Next: De­fen­sive ends. 1. Cody Ford*, G, Ok­la­homa, 6-3, 329. 2. Ross Pier­schbacher, C, Alabama, 6-3, 307. 7. El­gton Jenk­ins, C, Mis­sis­sippi State, 6-4, 310. 8. Gar­rett Brad­bury, C, North Carolina State, 6-2, 306. 9. Michael Deiter, G, Wis­con­sin, 6-5, 309.

Getty Im­ages

Ex-NFL scout Greg Gabriel calls Cody Ford “a mas­sive man with very good nat­u­ral strength and power.”

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