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Kouandjio the right fit for Bills line

Posted May 9, 2014

The Bills were looking for a powerful drive blocker, and Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio fit the bill.

The Bills were widely speculated to be interested in one of the top offensive tackles in the draft with their first round pick at nine. Buffalo wound up waiting until round two and still landed a tackle they had graded as a first round talent in Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio.

“We’re extremely excited to get Cyrus in the second round,” said GM Doug Whaley. “We actually projected him as a first round pick. We didn’t think we’d have a chance to get him at our pick in the second round. So we were very ecstatic to be sitting here right now talking about him.”

WHALEY: Kouandjio a "prototypical right tackle"

Buffalo had just slid back three spots in round two from pick 41 to pick 44 in a deal with St. Louis, picking up a fifth-round choice in the process. For a team that ran the ball a league-leading 543 times in 2013 and finished second in rushing, the Bills wanted a powerful drive blocker and Kouandjio fit the bill.

“That’s great for me,” said Kouandjio. “I take pride in running the football and I take pride in run blocking and taking a man against his will in a direction that he does not choose.”

“He’s a prototypical right tackle a very aggressive run blocker,” said Whaley. “I think on a one to 10 scale he’s an eight and a half.”

Having played in 35 games and just 27 starts at Alabama Kouandjio is still a bit of a work in progress, but there’s a high ceiling as Whaley sees it.

“We think it’s very high,” said Whaley. “He’s got untapped potential and we’re excited about it. He has some technical issues that he has to brush up on, but I have supreme confidence in our coaching staff and our head coach being an old offensive line coach he’ll get the best of coaching there. But one thing you can’t teach is aggressiveness and toughness and he brings both of those to the table.”

Kouandjio’s pass protection skills are steady if not spectacular at this point in his career, and he’ll have his elite measurables to lean on at the NFL level. At 6-6 ½” and 322 pounds and 35 5/8” arms, the second-longest among offensive linemen in the draft, the Bills feel he’ll be effective as he learns on the job.

“We’re excited about his size and his length and what he may lack in a little foot quickness he’ll make up in length and force pass rushers to take a bigger arc to get to the quarterback,” said Whaley.

Kouandjio was the last prospect to make a pre-draft visit with the Bills late last month, and came away from it with a good vibe about the organization.

“It’s a great environment for me to master my craft,” said Kouandjio of going to Buffalo. “I love a lot of those guys over there, I love the coaches there. It’s perfect.”

All 27 of Kouandjio’s starts came at left tackle, but said he will have no problem flipping over to the right side where he projects on Buffalo’s roster. In fact Kouandjio played his entire high school career at right tackle.

Erik Pears is the incumbent starter at right tackle, so Kouandjio is not assuming he’ll be walking into any kind of role unearned. At the same time he’s ready to get to work.

“I’m always ready to compete and I do have respect for the guys that are already down there,” said Kouandjio. “I’m coming down there to compete.”

With Buffalo’s first two draft choices going to the offensive side of the ball Whaley reinforced his mantra that their top priority was to help EJ Manuel progress in year two as the team’s starting quarterback.

“We’ve got to win games and to win games you’ve got to score points so we wanted to improve the offense,” he said. “We feel outside we brought some weapons in, but we also needed to solidify the line and that’s the plan with drafting Cyrus.”