NFL draft preview: Interior offensive line is sneaky Bills need


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Dave Edwards projects as a starter at Guard in the wake of the offensive line shuffle caused by the release of center Mitch Morse.

This is the second in a series of position previews for the 2024 NFL draft. Today: Interior offensive line.

The interior of the offensive line could trend in a favorable direction for the Buffalo Bills in the 2024 NFL draft.

The Bills have three starters in place on the interior of their line in guards O’Cyrus Torrence and David Edwards and center Connor McGovern, who will slide over from guard to replace veteran Mitch Morse.

However, depth at the position is a concern. The Bills likely will want to address the position somewhere between the second and sixth rounds.

“At the guard position I think is where you can wait a little bit,” said ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. “You can’t wait at tackle too much. A lot of those guys are going to go early. ... Most of the guards have second-, third-, fourth-round grades.”

Overall position ranking: 5/10.

Bills view. The Bills just invested a second-round pick last year in Torrence, who had an outstanding rookie season. McGovern is signed for two more seasons. Edwards, who saw duty last season in six-offensive-linemen sets, got a vote of confidence from line coach Aaron Kromer by being signed to a two-year deal.

The problem is the Bills had the luxury last season of having two experienced interior backups in Edwards (45 career starts) and Ryan Bates (19 starts). Bates was traded to Chicago.

Now the only interior reserve with NFL playing experience is free-agent signee Will Clapp, who can play center or guard. Guard Alec Anderson spent all last year on the Bills’ 53-man roster but never was activated.

General Manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott believe in building up the trenches. If a player they love is available at No. 28 in the first round and their favored receiver is gone, could they take a guard-center? It would be a curveball. It would push Edwards back into a reserve role. It’s probably not happening but one could make an argument for it.

Bills’ need ranking: 7/10.

The best. Most draft analysts categorize Washington’s Troy Fautanu as a guard in the NFL, even though he started mostly at left tackle in college. Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson, the Rimington Trophy winner (best college center), could go in the top 25.

Names to know. Duke’s Graham Barton is a plug-and-play starter at center or guard who started 34 games at left tackle for the Blue Devils. His light feet draw comparisons with Morse. A lot of mock drafts have him gone by No. 25. If he lasts to 28, the Bills might be tempted.

At No. 60, a guy who may be worth it to Buffalo is Connecticut’s Christian Haynes. He has long arms, made 49 straight starts and impressed at the Senior Bowl.
What about the middle rounds? Candidates include Boston College’s Christian Mahogany (a power run blocker), Kansas’ Dominick Puni (a Division II transfer who played tackle last season), Utah’s Sataoa Laumea (44 straight starts), South Dakota State’s Mason McCormick (57 straight starts at left guard), Arkansas’ Beaux Limmer.

“Laumea at Utah is a guy in the fourth or fifth round I like,” Kiper said. “Mason McCormick of South Dakota State is a good Day 3 guy. A talented kid who was inconsistent on tape but when he was good he was really good is Layden Robinson at Texas A&M. Keep an eye out for him as a Day 3 guy. You’re gonna be saying in two, three years, ‘Why did he drop?’ On his best day, Layden Robinson looked like a second-round pick. He may not go until the fourth or fifth round.”

Michigan’s Zak Zinter, a captain and three-time Academic All-Big Ten pick, might have been a top 75 pick but he broke his leg in November. He could be an early Day 3 pick. Penn State center Hunter Nourzad, a Cornell transfer, has NFL starter ability.

Intriguing. West Virginia’s Zach Frazier won four state high school wrestling titles, compiling a 159-2 record. He has three uncles and a grandfather who were state wrestling champions. He made 46 college starts and was the first true freshman to start on the WVU offensive line since 1980. He’s likely gone by No. 60.

Sleepers. Kansas State’s KT Leveston, a tackle who will shift to guard and a four-time Academic All-Big 12, committed one penalty in the last two years. ... Michigan’s Trente Jones started only 13 games but took over for Zinter late last season. He’s a four-time Academic All-Big Ten. ... Gottlieb Ayedze spent four years at Frostburg State then one at Maryland. He’s a project with mobility. North Dakota State’s Jalen Sundell is a developmental prospect from the FCS-level power (and the alma mater of Bills defensive chief Bobby Babich). Sundell is mobile but needs a lot of strength training.

Rk. Player, College Pos. Ht. Wt.
1 Troy Fautanu*, Washington OG 6-4 317
2 Graham Barton, Duke C 6-5 313
3 Jackson Powers-Johnson*, Oregon C 6-3 328
4 Zach Frazier*, West Virginia C 6-3 313
5 Cooper Beebe, Kansas State OG 6-3 322
6 Christian Haynes, UConn OG 6-3 317
7 Zach Zinter, Michigan OG 6-6 309
8 Dominick Puni, Kansas OG 6-5 313
9 Sedrick Van Pran-Granger*, Georgia C 6-4 298
10. Christian Mahogany, Boston College OG 6-3 314
* — Underclassman.