As soon as the second round started, the Buffalo Bills tried to do everything they could to trade up -- with one man in mind. Team after team either said no, or the price tag they wanted was simply too high for the Bills' taste. That is, until the 41st pick and what the Chicago Bears asked for.
The Bills gladly gave up two fourth-round selections to move up in the order eight spots, to get a player that they believe will be an impact player in 2016 -- Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland. We've heard the Bills wax poetic about his game, but what exactly does he bring to the table?
Here are seven facets (with video) to Ragland's game, which is why he ended up becoming the Bills second-round pick in 2016:
1) Instincts, Recognition, and Attacking
- For linebackers, the difference between the average, good, and great is how well they are able to diagnose plays, trust their instincts, and where they make tackles on the field. Some linebackers can rack up tackles through a year, but that isn't a true determination of the player being worth lofty consideration. Here you see Ragland display all three things that bring linebackers to the next level: instincts of where the play is headed, recognizing the play, and then attacking without hesitation. He doesn't make the play, but it's because of him shooting the run gap that this attempt gets blown up.
2) Stack and Shed
- This is a total football jargon term, but the premise is simple: For linebackers, it's the act of 'stacking' the offensive lineman by getting in close to their pads and off his, and then in one swift move, 'shedding' the blocker by extending his arms and ripping away in time to make the play. Rushing at Michigan State right tackle Donavon Clark (drafted in the 7th round by San Diego), Ragland executes the very definition of stacking and shedding. It's something he's quite good at, which makes him an ideal fit at middle linebacker in any system.
- For Rex Ryan to get back to his defenses of old, he'll need defenders that specialize in versatility. As luck would have it, Ragland was asked to do just about everything at Alabama -- including rushing the passer. On plenty of occasions the Crimson Tide lined up Ragland at defensive end in a four-man front, and as you can see below rushing from the right side of the defense, he can bring a little to the table as an edge rusher and delivers a big hit. The more a player can do, the more an offense has to guess where he'll be from one play to the next.
4) Seek and Destroy
- This term is pretty self-explanatory, and with Ragland, there's an emphasis on the word 'destroy.' It's all about a player's ability to recognize the play, plant their foot in the ground, and getting to the ball carrier to deliver a big hit. Ragland does this quite a bit, and knocks an offensive player back by putting all his weight into the hit. You can see Ragland in zone coverage in the play below, he sees the play develop, and then plants his foot to go deliver a big hit. This is the play that Ragland described as his favorite hit in college.
5) Forcing Plays Inside
- A lot of times it's about finishing the play for linebackers, but their impact on stopping a rush attempt is not always judged in them completing the tackle. Here you see Ragland drop his helmet to push the blocking attempt backwards, and he also shades outside to contain the run from getting outside the numbers. Ragland forces the ball carrier back inside to meet a bevy of his defensive teammates, and they quickly end the play.
6) Coverage Ability
- Quite a bit has been made about Ragland's coverage ability since he was drafted, and while his most natural fit would likely be at middle linebacker, he does have experience in coverage as well. Here he is in the National Championship game, turning and running with the 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end Jordan Leggett -- and doing so capably. There is enough from his college experience to show teams that he could play weakside linebacker, but it's his 'stack and shed' ability that could turn him into a special middle linebacker.
- Here is another example of Ragland making an impact on a play without being the one to make the tackle. Ragland takes on the Wisconsin guard -- 6-foot-7 and 322-pound Walker Williams -- and not only does he hold his ground, but he uses his core strength to clog the running lane with the blocker. It helps the defense close down the running lane, and the running back gets dropped for a minimal gain. Ragland's take-on abilities make him a fascinating player.