The Bills took a flyer on Bethel lineman Mike Jasper with their final pick in the 2011 NFL draft. After Bills fans read about Jasper's athletic ability and got a look at Jasper's physical talent on YouTube they got very, very excited. Seeing a 6'4 ½" 370-pound man move the way Jasper did the fan enthusiasm is understandable. However, Jasper will need to use every bit of his 32 ½ inch vertical to make the jump necessary to land a spot on the Bills 53-man roster.
The intent of the Bills coaching staff is to line Jasper up as a defensive tackle. With nose tackle size and girth and rare strength he looks like a natural fit. Lining up on the defensive side of the ball is something Jasper hasn't done in more than two years, as he played mainly guard on Bethel's offensive line the past two seasons.
"He's played some defense, some offense," said Bills defensive line coach Giff Smith. "He's really worked hard to get his body in shape."
Jasper's athletic ability is obvious to Smith and the Bills defensive staff. Though he does have experience playing defensive tackle, re-acclimating himself to the position at the highest level of football will still be a challenge.
"People have to be patient with him," Smith said. "He's not going to be a polished product when we first get him out there. But he's got the ability you look for and the value when we were able to get him. I'm excited to be able to work with him."
The way Smith sees it Jasper could not have stepped into a much better NFL situation than he has with the Bills. With proven veterans ahead of him on the depth chart, he'll have time to learn the nuances of the position again.
"I think this is a great situation for him because he doesn't have to perform right away," said Smith. "He'll get a chance to learn from some veterans and learn the scheme and develop and when he's ready we'll put him out there."
Smith admits that the time missed on the practice field this spring with no OTAs or minicamp practices doesn't help Jasper or any of Buffalo's rookies, but knowing Jasper's potential the Bills defensive line coach is eager to begin molding the giant defensive tackle into an NFL player.
"That's the kind of guy that you want to have to develop and bring along," said Smith. "He's a guy that you hope can be a scout team guy for you the first year and learn the ropes. We'll see in training camp. With the depth that we have now and not having to force the issue and put him on the field, hopefully we can just watch him develop and have him help us on the practice field this year."