Draft linebackers to know for Bills, Part 2

Draft linebackers to know for Bills, Part 2
Posted at 11:16 AM, Feb 17, 2016

The NFL Draft is just one piece of the puzzle for the Buffalo Bills, but with such an importance placed on next season, they’ll need to get their first few picks right. The Bills want the postseason, badly, and making the right moves in late April could be the key to the playoffs.

Each week, 7 ABC Buffalo will go through and outline some of the players you should know in this year’s draft process. If Nigel Bradham isn’t going to be re-signed, the Bills will have to find a new inside linebacker to play next to Preston Brown in 2016.

So, some names to keep an eye on for the Bills in the 2016 draft? The second of four installments of some linebackers to know:

Reggie Ragland, Alabama
6’1”, 259 lbs.
What he’s all about: Possessing the desired size and strength to stand up to the physicality of the NFL, Reggie Ragland uses it quite well on the field. You won’t see him getting knocked off his spot too often by an attempted block, and his strength allows him to balance himself, and then shed the blocker to make a play. To go along with it, Ragland also shows good patience which prevents him from guessing on plays. He also offers some pass rush versatility, although his moves off the edge are limited. Being such a big player, Ragland will find the most difficulty in coverage. He isn’t the best fluid mover — rightfully so — and that part of his game suffers. Even still, Ragland’s abilities against the run can help land him in the first round if he works out well enough during the pre-draft process.

How he would fit the Bills: Ragland could be a conceivable fit for the Bills as a 3-4 inside linebacker if they believe one thing: that Preston Brown can be trusted as a coverage linebacker. On run downs it would work, because it would free up Brown off of blocks and allow Ragland to do what he does best, and that’s to stack-and-shed blockers. However, both Brown and Ragland have their difficulties in coverage. Drafting Ragland would mean they have a plan in place for that, with a specific player in mind as well.



Joshua Perry, Ohio State
6’4”, 253 lbs.
What he’s all about: The first thing that stands out about Perry — besides playing on a defense full of early draft picks — is his size. Perry has the looks of an old-school linebacker with long arms that help him keep blockers off his pads. With those attributes, he’s quite good at setting the edge for the rest of his teammates to pin the runner inside. You can also tell he uses his football intelligence to get himself in the right spots, as well as diagnosing plays rather quickly. Perry is one of those players that may never get the accolades, but, is a crucial piece to keeping a well-oiled machine going. With his size, Perry is a bit slower and has some trouble in coverage as a result. That also hurts his versatility. Even with those concerns, Perry is likely a Day Two selection in April.

How he would fit the Bills: If you re-read the last paragraph, that description should remind Bills fans of someone — linebacker Manny Lawson. Perry served the same role for Ohio State as Lawson did for the Bills, and has a lot of similar attributes to his game. Perry is likely a strongside, two-down linebacker — which is exactly what Lawson is, too. They could make a forward-thinking pick for Perry to have him learn under Lawson, but with a Day Two pick, that doesn’t help the Bills in 2016 — which is what they need. That said, you can’t totally rule it out because Perry has all the makings of a starter in the NFL.



Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
6’0”, 224 lbs.
What he’s all about: Unlike the first two players listed, Dominique Alexander is a bit undersized for the position. That certainly helps his ability to react to the snap, as Alexander shows a good burst and moves quite well for a player at his position. He shows good instincts to diagnose as a downhill run-stuffer and has the tackling ability to make plays. He will need to be helped, though, because he does not have the body to be a middle linebacker and to take on blocks on a consistent basis. He’ll get lost in the traffic and has trouble disengaging from the blocker. With his concerns, though, Alexander looks like an immediate special teams contributor and a potential first-year starter for a team that has the right fit for him. He could go as early as Day Two of the 2016 NFL Draft.

How he would fit the Bills: Alexander is a bit of a ‘tweener based on what he does best on the field, and what his size will allow him to do. His best fit could be as a weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, which gives him the ability to roam the field and help stuff the run. The reason he may not fit as a linebacker in the Bills scheme? The book is still out on his movement abilities and how he’d do in coverage. If he’s a fluid mover during drills at the NFL Combine, Alexander could be an enticing option. If he’s not, though, that could move him down the Bills’ board.



Blake Martinez, Stanford
6’2”, 239 lbs.
What he’s all about: In 2015, Blake Martinez led the way for Stanford by making a total of 141 tackles throughout the season. He has plenty of experience in coverage, he’s got long arms, can disengage from a would-be blocker and is a solid, downhill tackler. However, Martinez isn’t exactly the best movement player which limits where you can use him on the field. His lack of speed will be an issue in coverage, despite all his experience doing it. Martinez is likely a Day Three selection that would chip in on special teams immediately.

How he would fit the Bills: The biggest question about Martinez with the Bills is where they would use him. He’s a fairly similar player to Preston Brown, which would limit him to backup duty and depth at the position. Working in his favor, Martinez has experience as a 3-4 inside linebacker with Stanford’s scheme. If the Bills are looking for depth at the position, which they sorely lacked once Ty Powell went down with an injury in 2015, Martinez could help with exactly that.



Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia