The Bills were one of 27 teams at Oklahoma's Pro Day Tuesday morning. As always, the Sooners are producing a Grade-A draft class. The cream of Oklahoma's crop is safety Nic Harris, offensive tackle Phil Loadholt and offensive guard Duke Robinson.
Considering Buffalo has legitimate needs at all three positions, these four Sooners surely were clipboarded Tuesday. Here's how they fared and how they may project in Buffalo.
--- Nic Harris, the sixth-best safety on Scout.com's draft rankings, didn't help himself in the 40-yard dash. Harris duplicated his porous Combine 40 time of 4.84. Questionable speed coupled with a bulky frame (6-foot-2, 232 pounds) has some scouts wondering if Harris would be better suited as an outside linebacker. He showed a lot of potential at linebacker at Senior Bowl practices before suffering a hamstring injury.
Harris could follow the footsteps of Cato June and project as a Tampa 2 linebacker in the NFL. Not many teams run the scheme – Buffalo, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay to name a few. But Harris has all DNA makeup of a Cover 2 ‘backer. His aggressive nose for the ball (7 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles during college) and split-second reaction speed to the quarterback could mold into an attacking outside linebacker.
With three years in the books, Dick Jauron's Cover-2 variety is officially engrained in Buffalo. Maybe Harris is an ideal ‘tweener project to develop in WNY.
At any rate, the Bills got a transparent look at Harris Tuesday. While the 40 time was discouraging, Harris rebounded in shuttle drills. His 4.23 and 4.24 times in the 20-yard shuttle and 11.44 in the 60-yard shuttle were very respectable. Considering there were questions about Harris' lateral quickness, this certainly went a long way.
Harris was a first-team all-Big 12 selection the past two seasons – an impressive feat with the high-power offenses in that conference. While Harris may be a step slow at safety, Harris could flourish as a playmaking ‘backer in Buffalo's scheme. The Bills haven't signed June or Freddie Keiaho quite yet – maybe a convert like Harris is on their mind.
--- Phil Loadholt showed up Tuesday at a solid 6-foot-8, 332 pounds. Loadholt is possibly the best second-tier tackle in this year's class. Once Jason Smith, Michael Oher, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith are gobbled up, Loadholt will be a high-value pick in the second or third round. Since the Bills have dire needs at tight end and defensive end, tackle could be the go-to position at Loadholt's projected market value. He was a key member of Oklahoma's pyrotechnic, fastbreak offense last season.
A prototypical mauler, Loadholt will probably be a right tackle in the NFL. He lacks the foot step to handle pass rushers on the blindside for now. The Bills have re-signed Kirk Chambers, but Jason Peters' contract situation remains murky at best. Loadholt could be a possibility. On Tuesday, Loadholt lumbered to a slow 5.4 in the 40-yard dash – but he did well where it matters most. In the bench press, Loadholt pumped up 225 pounds 26 times.
Hold the phone, though. Loadholt could carry some baggage into April's draft. In college, he logged two alcohol-related arrests. On the field, he fits best into an oversized offensive line where mauling takes precedent. Yes, Buffalo boasted one of the biggest lines last season – but expect that culture to chance. As the heaviest line in the league, Buffalo's front five was woefully inconsistent. The team's epic collapse can be directly correlated the line's inability to combat 3-4 defenses. So while Loadholt is intriguing, he probably doesn't figure into Russ Brandon's plans. The signing of Geoff Hangartner suggests Buffalo is looking to become a smaller, quicker offensive line.
Duke Robinson may be an ideal offensive guard for Buffalo's reworked offensive line.
---The Oklahoma lineman that does make sense in Buffalo is Duke Robinson. The 6-foot-5, 335-pound isn't just the great nephew of Motown legend Smokey Robinson, he may be the best offensive guard in the 2009 class. After releasing Derrick Dockery, the Bills have an open vacancy at that position – a vacancy that will probably remain open until draft weekend. No bonafide guards remain on the market.
On Tuesday, Robinson participated in all drills except for the 40-yard dash and 60-yard shuttle. His stock took a hit, though, in the bench press. Robinson only mustered 20 reps. Miniscule, 5-foot-6 running back Jacob Gutierrez (who is 150 pounds lighter) cranked out 24 reps. The performance reflects the one biggest knock on Robinson – effort. Outside of his "immature" label, Robinson is a nasty guard with the ability to demolish defenders when he wants.
Lost in the haze of Oklahoma's juggernaut offense last year were the guys up front allowing Sam Bradford to stand absolutely unscathed. As the Sooners racked up five straight 60-point games, Robinson anchored the front line. Bradford was only sacked 13 times in 14 games last season, a numbing statistic.
Look for Robinson to get drafted the second or third round. At full tilt, he is the best guard in the nation. Check out highlights of Robinson at this link. He single-handedly neutralized the interior pressure all season. Buffalo surely will be looking to add youth to the offensive line for third-year quarterback Trent Edwards.
Be sure to stay tuned to the BFR for more pro day coverage as it happens!