Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the NFL Draft April 22nd, Buffalobills.com will profile one of the more highly touted prospects at each position in the 2010 draft class. A position group video preview will accompany each of these feature stories in the media lounge featuring the top five prospects at each position. We continue our pre-draft feature series with Indiana offensive tackle Rodger Saffold.*
In a draft class where up to six offensive tackles could come off the board in round one, Indiana tackle Rodger Saffold is not likely to be among them. That doesn't mean he doesn't have a promising NFL career in front of him. One need look no further than one of Buffalo's second-round draft choices of a year ago in Andy Levitre.
Saffold's draft stock is largely deemed to be in the same range, and it wouldn't be surprising if the Bills personnel department felt similarly.
While Saffold has spoken with quite a few NFL franchises – including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders – the Bills have one added connection providing Buffalo with intimate knowledge about the pass protecting Hoosier.
Saffold's former offensive line coach at Indiana, Bobby Johnson, joined Chan Gailey's staff just over a month ago as the assistant offensive line coach. The impact that Johnson had on the development of Saffold was significant.
"Of course, Coach Johnson, it's always good seeing your coach down there," Saffold told BuffaloBills.com of his meeting with Johnson and the Bills front office at the NFL combine. "Of course when you get in there for the interview and he's looking at you, you kind of want to look around at everybody. It really makes you feel more comfortable, especially with me being the only Indiana offensive lineman there."
A reunited partnership between the two would only serve to help Saffold's transition to the professional ranks. The bulky tackle is fully aware of the positives that come from further work with Johnson, who obviously already knows his strengths and weaknesses.
"It could be good because anybody could just go ahead and glorify you," said Saffold. "But somebody that knows your weaknesses can make you better on the road to being a part of the NFL. It's just being able to be aware that he knows your weaknesses, and to be able to work a lot harder."
Johnson's influence on Saffold wasn't just limited to his production on game day. The tackle admits the two shared many conversations during his time at Indiana regarding a more serious and practical arena: life and the responsibility that goes with it.
"He helped me a lot on the field," Saffold said, "but he also helped me off the field. You've got to be responsible when you're out there by yourself. I've had a lot of talks with him when it was just me and him talking about life. He's helped me be a better man, myself. And ultimately, that helps you on the field.
"My character definitely changed my freshman year, being able to be that loyal guy that was able to help your teammates. Because I was more accountable, I ended up taking more responsibility when I was playing. I continued to work more on that this summer, and just being more accountable helped me throughout my career."
Saffold's performance at the NFL Combine in February earned him some pretty impressive marks, which no doubt placed him on many pro teams' respective radars. He ran a 5.21-second 40-yard dash, with 5.10 being his quickest time. He pumped out 27 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press en route to being labeled the seventh-best available offensive tackle.
His agility against the pass rush and his strength as a drive blocker are some of the assets that set him apart from many of the others in the eyes of scouts.
Numbers aside, it's also Saffold's durability that stands out. He started 41 consecutive games in college, even with a spine injury suffered in 2008. With the addition of a brace, which he stopped wearing in the 2009 campaign, Saffold fully returned to form.
"I did have a spine injury, but right now that's not even a problem for me," he said. "I used to have to wear a brace, but I was still able to play every game. I haven't had any problems, and I haven't been limited to any type of activity."
Whichever team ends up selecting Saffold, who has been projected as a 2nd- or 3rd-round pick, the 22-year-old just wants to prove his worth in the professional ranks. An opportunity is all he asks.
"Basically, I need to show everybody that I'm ready to take advantage of my opportunity," he said. "I'm going to go out there and I'm going to take it. I have to make sure that I can focus on myself and show everybody what an Indiana football player is."