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Pass protectors at top of board

Posted Feb 26, 2012

The Buffalo Bills currently have a left tackle situation that is a bit unresolved. Demetrius Bell has not re-signed and Chris Hairston isn’t long on experience. Buffalo is making efforts to re-sign Bell, and they believe Hairston will continue to improve, but with the crop of offensive tackles at the top of the draft board this year the Bills have multiple avenues in which to address the line’s most critical position.

USC’s Matt Kalil is expected to long gone by the time the Bills are on the clock at 10, with the Trojans’ left tackle projected to go as early as second to the Rams. But Stanford’s Jonathan Martin and Iowa’s Riley Reiff could very well be on the board when it’s Buffalo’s turn.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock believes the value at that point in the draft would be right for those two prospects.

“I think you’re looking for a left tackle in that slot, Riley Reiff would make sense,” Mayock said. “He could start on the right or start at left tackle. Reiff is a guy for that slot knowing Kalil would be gone. Jonathan Martin to me is a prototypical left tackle. Great athlete, needs to get a little bit stronger, but will protect the quarterback.”

Last month Bills GM Buddy Nix outlined the left tackle situation and the future concerning Bell, a capable player whose career has been marred by injury.

“Demetrius Bell has got all the tools,” said Nix. “He’s got the good feet. He’s a good athlete. He’s what you look for at left tackle. The problem with Demetrius is injuries. He started the first four games for us and gets hurt. He missed eight and comes back and plays three and he ends up hurt again. He was rehabbing last year the whole year couldn’t practice all week. All those things enter into it. Demetrius it remains to be seen. We’re going to try to re-sign him.”

It seems regardless of the outcome with Bell that the Bills plan to fortify the tackle position in the draft this spring.

“We’re going to draft a tackle if we can, if there’s one there is what I mean,” he said. “If there’s one there that we think can play we’re going to draft a tackle. You can never have too many tackles. You can move a guy. It’s easier to move a guy from tackle to guard than guard to tackle obviously. So we draft tackles. We’re in pretty good shape at guard and center.”

Martin at 6’5 ¾” and 312 pounds has prototype size and made 38 starts in a pro-style offense at Stanford where he was trusted in protecting Andrew Luck’s blind side.

“You’re definitely conscious that you have a potential No. 1 pick and potential Heisman winner in the backfield for two years,” said Martin a two-time First team All-Pac 12 selection. “I just think I’m an athletic tackle that’s smart and doesn’t make many mistakes.”

Reiff comes from the offensive line factory of Iowa where head coach Kirk Ferentz turns out NFL caliber linemen annually. A First team All-Big 10 choice as a senior Reiff feels the caliber of play in the conference served him well.

“I think the competition in the Big Ten week in and week out has been great,” he said. “I have really good coaches at Iowa. I’m just a tough, hard-working, coachable football player that loves playing the game.”

“He’s a really solid, good technician,” said Mayock. “When they come out of Iowa they’re always well coached, especially the offensive linemen. You can plug him in from day one. I think he’s better than Bulaga when he first came out.”

There will still be some quality offensive tackle options beyond round one for the Bills and the league’s other 31 teams, but if Buffalo wants a prospect that’s ready to challenge for the left tackle job right away they’ll want to take one sooner rather than later.