Following the 2016 NFL Draft, the undrafted free agent frenzy began and the Buffalo Bills were able to land Oklahoma Sooners’ linebacker/edge rusher Eric Striker. Striker was one of the more productive players in the NCAA, earning First-Team All Big-12 honors for three consecutive seasons. Eric Striker is an incredibly fun player to watch, not just because of his playmaking ability, but also because of the energy, passion and relentlessness in which he brings to the football field.
In his three years as a starter with the Sooners, Eric Striker racked up 185 tackles, 46.5 tackles for a loss, 23 sacks, 11 pass breakups, two forced fumbles and an interception. Striker’s 5’11” and 227-pound frame, coupled with the questions regarding his ideal position at the next level led to him not being selected in the draft, while Su’a Cravens—a player that was used in a similar role and has the same questions regarding his athletic ability and positional fit was a second round pick. Nonetheless, the production Striker put up with the Sooners along with the versatility he brings to a defensive front makes his status as an undrafted free agent a bit confusing.
In 2015, Eric Striker racked up 67 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and an interception. He generated 50 quarterback pressures and his 116 pressures over the last two years rank third-most in the FBS. Let’s take a look at what Eric Striker brings to the table and how he could potentially fit within the Buffalo Bills defense.
Eric Striker Run Support
Despite Eric Striker’s smaller stature, he was a force against the run, as 42 of his 67 tackles in 2015 came against the run, while his 29 “stops” ranked 2nd most among edge rushers in the 2016 draft class. Striker didn’t test well at the NFL Scouting Combine, but on tape you see a player with ridiculous burst off the snap, the closing speed and acceleration to chase down ballcarriers from the backside and the physical force to occasionally set the edge, forcing running backs to cut back inside.
In the following play against West Virginia, Striker is lined up as an edge defender to the right side of the defensive formation. He anticipates the snap, getting a head start before chasing down the running back and recording a tackle for loss.
Here against TCU, Eric Striker shows off his power, change of direction ability and burst as he crashes into the offensive line, knocking the guard to the turf before quickly re-directing to bring down Trevone Boykin for a loss.
Striker regularly displayed fantastic closing speed on runs directed away from him, as you can see in the following rep against the Clemson Tigers. He gets off the ball in a hurry and is too quick for the running back to block Striker, let alone get in his way, as Striker squeezes through the small gap and chases down DeShaun Watson for another tackle for loss.
Eric Striker proved that he was capable of having an impact against the run with more than just speed as the following play from the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl against Alabama shows. Aligned as the SAM linebacker on the edge, Striker bursts off the ball and muscles his way through multiple blockers to bring down T.J. Yeldon, a big, powerful running back at the line of scrimmage.
Striker is a heady player that shows good awareness of his surroundings. In the following play against TCU, he shoves off a would-be block by the H-Back and makes a great play to make a stop at the line of scrimmage.
Eric Striker Pass Rush Ability
Eric Striker was one of the more prolific pass rushers in the NCAA over the last few years, using his explosive first step, snap anticipation, speed and bending ability to overwhelm offensive linemen and terrorize opposing passers. While his 5’11” and 227-pound frame will prevent him from being a true edge rusher at the NFL level, he has the traits to be a productive pass rusher in a situational role.
His snap anticipation and burst off the line is unrivaled. Look at the image below, and look at where Striker is (highlighted) in relation to his fellow defensive linemen.
Here against TCU, Eric Striker makes initial contact with the left tackle, using his hands to beat him inside. He explodes towards the quarterback in the endzone and nearly brings him down for a safety, but Boykin is able to get rid of the ball.
This burst, awareness of where the ball is and short area quickness shows up again in the following play against Alabama. Striker beats the right tackle around the corner with his speed, but quarterback A.J. McCarron rolls out. Striker jump-steps to his right before bursting ahead and forcing a throwaway.
Eric Strikers’ speed was often too much for opposing tackles to handle, as the following few plays will show. Against TCU he beats the right tackle around the corner, forcing the quarterback to step up in the pocket, only to be sacked by an Oklahoma defensive tackle.
In the Alabama game, Eric Striker flat out embarrassed current Buffalo Bills’ tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, recording seven tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and six pressures against the 2014 second-rounder.
Striker uses his speed to get past Kouandjio, but shows off his athleticism and flexibility by bending the corner and wrapping up McCarron for a sack.
Against Baylor, Eric Striker is playing off the ball. He anticipates the snap and gets a running start to the line of scrimmage. He’s able to avoid the running back’s attempt to block him and meets his teammates at the quarterback to record a half-sack.
Eric Striker Coverage/Hustle
Eric Striker can be moved around and used in space in coverage situations, as he has the range, instincts and closing speed to make plays in the passing game. He plays with passion and truly plays through the whistle on every snap.
Here, he’s lined up at inside linebacker and is a blitzer. He jumps in an attempt to swat down the pass to the flat and misses, but instead of giving up, Striker hustles to the ball and makes the tackle.
Another pass rushing situation, another excellent display of hustle by Eric Striker here, as he overruns the arc, allowing the quarterback to scramble out of the pocket. Striker keeps his eye on the quarterback and chases him down, taking a great angle to avoid traffic and bring him down for a minimal gain.
Striker has the range to drop into coverage, as you can see in the following play that results in a pass breakup.
Eric Striker may not have prototypical measurables for a linebacker, but when you watch the film it’s clear that he has the talent to warrant a spot on a 53-man roster. His energy, speed and aggressiveness will make him a valuable asset on special teams at the very least, while his positional versatility and variety of skills will allow Rex Ryan to be creative with how he uses him.