My rundown through the entire first round of the NFL draft continues as I examine the Buffalo Bills who hold the #9 pick in the first round.
The Pick: Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
Pass protection is always at a premium when it comes to finding offensive linemen and there is little debating that Jake Matthews is the best of the bunch in the 2014 class. He’s big, nimble, durable, strong and quick on his feet. The bloodlines run deep with his Hall of Fame father Bruce Matthews. The kid was born to play offensive lineman and he did it with great success at Texas A&M.
Why: E.J. Manuel could thrive with bookend tackles
There is no question the jury is still out on E.J. Manuel. He looked good at times last season and then struggled at others. That’s typical of a rookie. If he really is their future it is up to the Buffalo Bills front office to give him every opportunity to succeed. A great way to do that is give him more time to throw. That means bolstering his protection. The team gave up 48 sacks in 2013, tied for fourth-most in the league. Safe to say that is not the best way to gain offensive success. Manuel needs better blockers. He already has a solid left tackle in Cordy Glenn. Putting somebody on the right side who can pass protect would make life so much easier. Matthews played all of 2012 at that position, so it’s quite familiar to him and the best part is he could always move over if required.
Argument: Sammy Watkins and Anthony Barr might fill bigger needs
The Buffalo Bills would be faced with a tough decision here for sure. There are still some quality options on the board, starting with Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. His speed, toughness, lower body strength and great hands make him the best pass target in the NFL draft and the team would love to put him next to Stevie Johnson. Then there is UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr. Though a 3-4 type he has plenty of athleticism to find a home in the Bills defense next to Kiko Alonso and his pass rush ability would be a huge bonus.
Counter-argument: Draft depth at receiver makes Matthews better target
Frankly, Buffalo should have plenty of opportunities to add one or two quality receivers in free agency and the draft. Meanwhile Barr is a good player but he’s still a little too raw and unproven to go 9th overall. Matthews is proven, polished and ready to start from day one. That is what the Bills both want and need at this junction of their construction plan.
That is why I would take Jake Matthews if I were in charge. What are your thoughts?