The Buffalo Bills are 5-6 through the first 12 weeks of the 2015 NFL Season, and while the team isn’t officially eliminated from playoff contention yet, it appears that this will mark the 16th consecutive season the team watched the tournament from their homes. However, there’s a lot to be excited about on both sides of the ball and the 2016 NFL Draft will be an avenue that Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley utilize to acquire players that fit their vision for what the team should look like.Today, we’ll take a look at Baylor’s Junior nose tackle Andrew Billings
From now until the 2016 NFL draft, I’ll be publishing my thoughts on various draft prospects that I’ve watched and offering opinions on their traits—both positive and negative—supplemented with video clips explaining my analysis, before detailing how the player would likely fit in within the Bills’ schemes.
I wrote up a primer on the team’s salary cap situation while highlighting potential free agent fits that you can find HERE if you missed it before.
Previous Prospect Breakdowns
Today, we’ll take a look at Baylor’s Junior nose tackle Andrew Billings—a 6’2” 320-pound disruptive force in the middle of the Bears’ defense. Billings has an ideal build for the nose tackle position, possessing a strong, thick lower body that allows him to anchor, or hold his ground against double-teams, with a compact upper-half and long arms that he knows how to use to his advantage. He’s an incredible athlete with a relentless motor and from all accounts, he’s a fantastic person off-the-field as well.
Most fans consider nose tackles to be massive “space-eaters” that impact the run game simply by occupying multiple blockers in order for his teammates to make plays. That’s not the case with Andrew Billings. While he is capable of eating double teams, he’s an explosive athlete that consistently penetrates the pocket using quickness and violent hands to disengage from opposing linemen.
Here against the Oklahoma Sooners, Billings gets low off the snap and squeezes through an oncoming double-team before bringing the running back down for a loss.
In the following rep against Kansas, Billings bull-rushes the guard before using his long arms to toss him aside and record another tackle for loss.
When the time comes to hold his ground against multiple linemen in order for his linebacker to stuff the run, Billings is more than capable of doing so, as you can see in the next play against Kansas. Billings stays low and surrenders no ground, managing to move the linemen out of his gap. As the linebacker comes up to fill the gap, Billings’ overwhelming power forces the two linemen into their running back where he’s brought down for a gain of two.
As disruptive as Billings can be against the run, he’s not a flawless prospect by any means. His aggressiveness can be a blessing and a curse as he’ll tend to play reckless at times. After watching a few games, it became more and more evident that Billings would too often leave his gap to try and make a play that just wasn’t there for him.
In the following play, Billings is aligned as a shaded nose tackle to the left side of the defensive formation. Upon the snap, he just runs wild, focusing more on beating his man than executing his assignment as an “A” gap player. Billings gets spun around and the running back runs right through a wide open—you guessed it—A gap.
The problem shows up again here, as Billings once again is solely focused on beating the man in front of him, rather than executing the designed play.
The quickness, disruptiveness and aggressive hand usage that shows in Andrew Billings’ run defense is also there when he’s rushing the passer. Billings has an understanding of leverage and how he can manipulate offensive linemen with a variety of pass rush techniques—from a bull-rush, a wide stunt or a rip/swim move.
Here against West Virginia, Billings aligns as a shaded nose to the left of the defensive formation.
Upon the snap, Billings explodes into the center, performs a rip move but gets pushed around the pocket. Billings is able to extend his arm to maintain his balance, distancing himself between the lineman. This allows him to turn the corner and make the sack.
Billings’ ability to burst through gaps with an Aaron Donald-like ease, considering the fact that he weighs 320 pounds is just incredible.
A well-rounded player, Billings also has a power to his game that complements his quickness and forces opposing lineman to constantly wonder what’s coming next. Here you can see him drive his arms into the pads of the Kansas center who gets stood up as Billings bull-rushes him into the quarterback.
He can also cause disruption and pressure when seeing double-teams, as you can see in the following play against Oklahoma. Billings takes on the double and just violently fights through them before disengaging, re-setting and showing off the closing speed to bring down the quarterback for a sack.
How Andrew Billings Would Fit With the Buffalo Bills
Andrew Billings is a versatile, explosive and physically gifted defensive lineman that has a skill-set that will allow him to play a variety of positions along the defensive line. He’s strong enough to line up directly over the center as a true nose tackle and defeat double teams when two-gapping. He’s also quick and powerful enough to create pressure and penetration with his athletic ability that projects well to both the one-technique (in between the guard and center– a “shaded” nose tackle, commonly used in hybrid one-gap 3-4 systems) and the three-technique (in-between the guard and tackle, the role typically reserved for quick and technical, yet undersized defensive linemen).
Billings is still raw and isn’t a finished project yet, but he reminds me a little bit of Sheldon Richardson coming out of Missouri, who Rex Ryan selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, shocking many analysts.