For all of the clamoring for the Buffalo Bills to select a quarterback in the first round of April’s NFL Draft, there are strong cases to be made at other positions.
One that could be deemed as being every bit as obvious as the man behind center is the center, himself, especially in the wake of Eric Wood’s career-ending neck injury.
If the Bills go that route, the name appearing consistently at the top of every draft prognosticator’s list for the position is Billy Price, from Ohio State.
Price was a four-year starter for the Buckeyes, but spent the first three at guard before moving to center. At an estimated 6-foot-3 1/2 and 313 pounds, he gets high marks for his size, strength, athleticism, durability, and smarts.
Price took over as Ohio State’s center after Pat Elflein — also a guard for all but one year with the Buckeyes — joined the Minnesota Vikings as a third-round draft pick last year, and had an impressive rookie season.
“Price is actually a better player (than Elflein), in my opinion,” Greg Gabriel, a former NFL scout who analyzes the draft for Pro Football Weekly, said by phone. “He’s a little better athlete, stronger. Elflein went in the third round and this guy will go higher than that. Some guys got him in the bottom of the first. I don’t know if he goes quite that high. Is 21 or 22 (overall, where the Bills currently pick) too high? No. It’s just how you set up your board.
“But he’s a hell of a player.”
It’s fair to think the Bills might not be in a hurry to address center. They could plug fifth-year pro Ryan Groy into Wood's spot and be just fine, as was the case when Groy started the final seven games of 2016 after Woods suffered a season-ending broken leg. The Bills led the NFL in rushing that year.
Still, it wouldn’t be a crazy idea for the Bills to draft someone who could enhance their depth at two interior-line spots, if not become an immediate starter at center or guard.
Dan Shonka, another former NFL scout who run Ourlads scouting service, is equally bullish on Price.
This is the Ourlads summary on Price he provided The Buffalo News: “The competitive Price makes the line calls and has a quick snap and step move. Plays square with a good knee bend and base to anchor a bull rush. Has the strength and leverage power to turn a defender out of the hole. A good athlete who can redirect quickly to patiently handle a spin move.
“Has the lower body strength to get movement in short yardage and goal-line runs. Gets good hand position on the down defender and drives his legs on contact. Has the skill and technique to mirror a nose tackle in one-on-one pass protection. Plays the game on his feet. Takes the proper steps when pulling, folding, or logging his assignment to engage and control the defender.”
Gabriel points out that Price’s guard experience only enhances his value. He also thinks Price could be an immediate starter for most teams at center or guard, and considers him an eventual Pro Bowl selection.
Although Price comes from Ohio State’s spread attack, Gabriel is confident he can fit any blocking scheme.
“He’s very, very physical,” Gabriel said. “Strong, very solid, all around player.”