To the casual fan, the NFL Scouting Combine may be an event to learn about which prospects could become the next stars in the league but to many coaches and general managers, it gives them the opportunity to not only interview them and perform medical checks, but to see if they have the desired measurables for their respective schemes.
Many NFL teams – most notably the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers – will only draft players that meet their physical profiles. Seattle prefers cornerbacks with 32-plus inch arms, while Green Bay prefers 5-foot-11 or taller cornerbacks. The Falcons recently began valuing the three-cone drill in their player evaluations.
Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane aren’t as strict with their thresholds, but our team gathered all of the combine data from every defender McDermott coached with the Eagles and Panthers. Additionally, we compiled all of the data from draftees and notable free agent additions from 2002-2016 when Brandon Beane was with Carolina in order to see if we could identify any trends in what style of player we could expect Buffalo to select in the 2018 NFL draft.
Sean McDermott has always ran a 4-3 defense with bigger defensive ends, lighter, athletic linebackers, and defensive backs who excel in zone coverage.
Our goal was to look at the historical numbers (height, weight, 40 times etc..) and see who from the 2018 draft class matches up best as potential targets based on their measurables and workout numbers from the NFL Combine.
- Which players match up most closely to recent picks/signings?
- What players may be able to get into that list with good pro day performances?
- Which players were surprisingly not fits?
We started at defensive tackle, a strong position of need.
DT Physical Traits
The historical average combine figures for McDermott DTs are displayed below.
They are based on several years’ worth of data for big nasties the Eagles and Panthers drafted while he was at the helm of their respective D’s.
Let’s highlight several notable Panthers’ DTs and see how they stack up to the averages
- Star was highly touted coming into the 2013 draft and did not disappoint in his rookie year. He tallied 42 solo tackles and 3 sacks in 2013. Not bad numbers for an interior D lineman. Unfortunately, his luster faded in recent years as he failed to achieve numbers anything close to those of his rookie year.
STAR LOTULELEI NUMBERS
- As we can see Lotulelei is very close to the McDermott averages in every facet except for one notable category. His 38 reps on the bench are significantly above the historical average and dwarf all other McD signees/draftees. This is somewhat of an anomaly however as all of the other DTs drafted or signed by McDermott coached defenses were below the average of 29 reps.
- Butler was another highly touted DT prospect coming out of Louisiana Tech in 2016. In looking at his combine numbers he is a surprisingly agile player for a man of his size ( 6’4” 323 lbs.) Unfortunately, he has made little to no impact for the Panthers’ D the last few years. That being said, he was the last notable DT drafted by McD so his physical attributes should be noted. As you will see below.. Butler’s combine numbers are very close to the historical McD averages across the board (except for weight…)
Below are numbers and names for the 2018 DT prospects who were most consistently statistically within range of being close to the McD historical averages. The below players matched McD averages in 9 out of 10 combine categories.
|TOP MATCHES||ht||wt||arm||hands||40||Bench||20||3 cone||Vert||Broad|
|Henderson, Zay||Texas A&M||72||298||32.75||9.75||5.16||20||4.58||7.33||29.5||105|
|Hill, B.J.||North Carolina State||75||311||33||10.65||4.99||35||4.53||7.28||26.5||101|
|Jones, Justin||North Carolina State||74||309||33.55||10||5.09||24||4.74||7.82||29||104|
|Stallworth, Taylor||South Carolina||74||312||32.5||10.25||5.28||18||4.75||7.95||23.5||101|
Best matches for McDermott/Beane DT
Harrison Phillips, Stanford
Stanford defensive lineman Harrison Phillis is one of the more talented defensive linemen in the upcoming draft class. As a junior he racked up 46 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He is projected to be a good run stuffer with limited pass rush skills who is slated to go in the mid rounds. With 42 reps on the bench press… if McDermott values strength and stiffening up the run D (which was problematic for the Bills in 2017) then Phillips might fit the bill.
Justin Jones, N.C State
Justin Jones has seen his stock steadily rise since the Senior Bowl. He is known more for his quickness and prowess as a pass rusher than his run stuffing ability. With the best 3 Cone number in the “top McD history matches group” at 7.25 (3 cone is a key indicator of short area quickness) Jones may be a solid mid-round fit to help boost the pass rush.
Notable DT who didn’t meet the threshold
Derrick Nnadi -Florida St – In many of the mock drafts I’ve done so far I’ve selected Nnadi for the Bills as a mid-round pickup. Many have compared Nnadi to Kyle Williams and we know how much McD loves Kyle. However, in looking at his combine numbers he is pretty far away from the historical averages for McD picks. His 3 cone number (agility) and broad jump (explosion) are significantly lower than the guys Sean has drafted in the past. Will that be enough to exclude him if he’s available in mid rounds and the Bills still haven’t drafted DT? We shall see.
Derrick Nnadi VS Thresholds
Sleeper who could be helped by Pro Day?
For various reasons, there were several DTs who participated in some .. but not all… of the NFL combine drills in Indianapolis. One such DT who may be able to benefit from a strong pro day performance is none other than Lowell Lotulelei. He was a match to McD historical averages in the 5 drills he participated in.. and a strong showing at his pro day may vault him into the top match category if he hits the mark in the 40,20 and Vertical. It also doesn’t hurt that McD had a hand in drafting his older brother Star a few years back.
LOWELL LUTULELEI, Utah
- After reviewing the historical numbers it seems that the assumption of Sean McDermott valuing agility over strength bears out for the most part. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming Bills’ brass player visits/pro day attendances match up with these prospects.We realize of course that physical attributes should not be the only factor in drafting prospects, however, it is useful to have a baseline to help narrow down potential draftees and this analysis does just that