Hello again. Today’s installment will be about the Buffalo Bills and how their Offensive Line is or is not a value for Fantasy Owners. The O-Line consists of Left Tackle Chris Hairston, Left Guard Andy Levitre, Center Eric Wood, Right Guard Kraig Urbik, and Right Tackle Erik Pears. As of last week, this lineup is the favorite to be the starting lineup in 2012.
Left Tackle Chris Hairston was drafted in the 4th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Bills. He has good size for the protection of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s “blind side”. When Demetress Bell, the previous starting Left Tackle went down with an injury last year, Hairston stepped in and did an admirable job. The Bills drafted another behemoth, Cordy Glenn, in the 2nd round this year and he will push Hairston to continue building on last year’s modest success.
Left Guard Andy Levitre was selected in the 2nd round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Bills. Being a tad short at 6′ 2″ he had to develop a couple traits that would enamor him to NFL Scouts. He is known as a tenacious, mauler with smarts. He is a decent puller who flattens as he goes. He is durable as he has started every game in the NFL since being drafted.
Center Eric Wood was chosen in the 1st round of the 2009 NFL Draft by Buffalo. He is widely recognized as the leader of the Offensive Line. When he is healthy he directs the line like a Maestro as he recognizes stunts and blitzes well. He suffered a gruesome broken tibia and fibula that prematurely ended his 2009 season and has only missed two other games since. His greatest honor to date is that NFL experts have compared him to Hall of Fame Center Mike Webster due to his “throwback” tendencies.
Right Guard Kraig Urbik was taken in the 3rd round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was inactive most of the time he was in Pittsburgh and released just prior to the start of the 2010 season. He was subsequently claimed off waivers by the Bills and here he starts. He is a multi-positional player which adds to his value. He is a great size for a guard is more mobile than he looks. He is a high motor player who, when healthy, is considered an above average Right Guard.
Right Tackle Erik Pears was selected by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted Free Agent in 2005. He has bounced around with Denver, Jacksonville and Oakland before landing in Buffalo. He has incredible height (6’8″) and can wall off defenders with his long arms. He anchors well but can be beaten by technical speed rushers on occasion. The Bills plan on keeping him in Buffalo as they signed him to a multi year deal after what they saw last year.
Now to analyze the numbers…..
Buffalo ranked 12th in Run Blocking as they permitted their RB’s to rumble for 4.67 yards per carry which exceeded the NFL average of 4.31 yards per carry. Their only loss from 2011 was Demetress Bell who was injured some of last season before signing a Free Agent Contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. While Bell was injured, Chris Hairston had replaced him admirably, so look for the Offensive Line to allow the Bills RB’s to continue to run the ball effectively in 2012. Buffalo’s RB’s were stopped at/or behind the line 18% of the time which was better than the NFL average of 19%. They converted on 3rd or 4th down runs 67% of the time which was markedly better than the NFL average of 62%. Buffalo ran the ball a paltry sum of 333 times last year and the majority of those runs were directed up the middle of behind the Guards to the tune of 60% which exceeded the NFL average by a full 10%. They experienced their least success when they ran behind RT Erik Pears as they only got 3.21 yards per carry. They experienced their most success bouncing outside of Erik Pears as they averaged 5.20 yards per carry which was 2nd in the NFL in that direction. It appears that the offense will continue to run out of the shotgun a lot so they rely on screens to Spiller and Jackson and they run quick slants to their WR’s . The RB’s will continue to receive less carries than than the NFL average summary unless the retooled defense can put them ahead in which case Jackson and Spiller could get lots of touches. So in summary, I would not bat an eyelash when choosing Fred Jackson or C.J Spiller this year because they will get yards running and receiving behind this productive O-Line.
The Bills ranked 1st in Pass Protection. Ryan Fitzpatrick was only sacked 3.8% of his dropbacks due to great O-Line play and the “Shotgun” formations. Fitzpatrick is quick to make his reads but when he had to hold the ball, the Offensive Line afforded him time to reevaluate. The NFL average was sacks on 6.7% of dropbacks so the Bills were much better than most. I would look for them to throw a bit less this year. Everything hinges on the defense….If the defense can keep the offense in the game, which I believe they will, I would speculate a few less receptions per receiver this year. Time management is a commodity that can’t be overlooked. Last year the Bills were playing from behind most of the time so they had to throw to get themselves back into the game. This year, I will say, that they will be ahead more so they can run the ball to give them control of the clock.
Thanks to footballoutsiders.com for the statistics.
Tomorrow I will tackle (figuratively of course) the Carolina Panthers