Sticking to their defensive-minded draft mentality that began on day two, the Buffalo Bills on Day 3 selected yet another defender to supplement the new 3-4 scheme on Saturday.
Arthur Moats, a defensive end/linebacker at James Madison, who projects to a linebacker in Buffalo’s 3-4 system, was selected by the Bills in the sixth round (178th overall) out of James Madison University.
Moats brings some impressive defensive accolades to Buffalo. Playing for the little-known Colonial Conference school, the end/linebacker provided some stingy defense in his time with the Dukes.
In the 2009 campaign, the 6-0, 246-pounder racked up 23.5 tackles for loss (including 11 sacks) and one fumble recovery for a touchdown. Accordingly, he was awarded the Buck Buchanan Award, given annually to the best defender in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
A lot more, however, can be said of his body of work with the Dukes. He started 29 of his 49 career games at his alma mater, gaining experience at both end positions (11 starts at left D-end and 18 on the right). In his career he notched 208 tackles, including 29 sacks and 48.5 stops for losses of a combined 415 yards.
His 29 sacks were the second-most in James Madison history.
With his height being a possible concern in the 3-4, a move to inside linebacker could be in the works. But the Bills’ newest addition has the utmost of confidence in his athletic ability, so he’s confident he can make the transition.
And his performance at February’s NFL Combine backs his assessment. His 4.66-second 40-yard time placed him third among defensive linemen, and when compared to linebackers at the combine he would place roughly in the middle of the pack. Combine that with a 36.5-inch vertical leap, and Moats displays much of the athleticism needed inside or out.
“I feel I’m going to transition really well just because of my physical attributes and the speed that I have,” Moats said after his selection. “As far as standing up, I did it in high school, so it’s not that big of a difference to me. I’m just ready to get back to it.”
Bills college scout, Tom Roth, gave rave reviews of the James Madison product, primarily regarding his character. A call to the defender just days before the draft gave Roth a lasting impression of Moats’ dedication.
“I called him and I actually heard weights in the background,” Roth said. “A lot of guys, they’re enjoying the last couple days before the draft. It tells you about the kid’s character. He’s going to work.
“He was one of my favorite players all year. The stats don’t lie. Sometimes you read the stats, you watch the film, and you don’t see that. But for him you see it all. Just the motor, the passion he plays with. He’s explosive, fast. I love this guy.”
And as for the move to inside linebacker, Roth believes while that might be his best fit he has the versatility as a pass rusher to play on the edge as well.
“Initially, I think he’s going to be inside,” said Roth. “Right off the bat he’s going to be on coverage teams until he gets more familiar, you know, with the inside position. But he has pass rush ability too. He’s got all the tools to make it.”
Moats is more than aware of his abilities in a pass-rushing role.
“That’s my natural thing,” he said. “From high school to college I’ve always been able to rush the passer. That’s the thing I do best.
“As far as the run game, I definitely focused a lot more on that this year so I could become a more dominant force, and I felt that I accomplished that. I’m definitely going to rush the passer really well with Buffalo, but the run game is also going to be a big factor for me.”
Another aspect of Moats’ game brought to the table with his selection is leadership. As a team captain at James Madison, Moats relished that role.
“As a team captain that was selected amongst the players, and the coaches just agreed with everything like that,” he said. “I feel that I’m a leader by example first, but if I need to be vocal then I definitely will be, as you can see by my senior year. I’m the type that is going to come into the office early and be the last one to leave. That’s just how I am, and my work ethic shows that.”