Potential Bills in 2014 NFL Draft: Offensive Linemen to Watch in Week Four

Both of Tennessee’s offensive tackles, Antonio Richardson (pictured) and Ja’Wuan James, are potential first-round picks and Bills targets in the 2014 NFL Draft. (Photo: Daniel Shirey — USA Today Sports)

Zack Martin, G, Notre Dame, Sr. (6’4’’, 308lbs)

Martin has started 39 consecutive games at tackle for Notre Dame since 2010. In each of the past three seasons, Martin was named Notre Dame’s offensive lineman of the year. While Martin plays left tackle for the Irish, I project him as a guard in the NFL.

Martin is an extremely intelligent blocker. When pass blocking, he has a tremendous feel for where pressure and blitzes will be coming from, and he has great awareness. He has a good anchor and can protect well despite not having great length. Martin has a good kick slide and solid lateral movement skills.

Martin is not a mauler in the run game but is very sound. He is better suited for a zone scheme than a power scheme and is more of a technician. He wisely gets his head between his man and ball carrier and runs his feet. While one may not label him as having a mean streak, he competes well and consistently gets the job done.

I like Martin in the late-second to third round part of the draft, with the upside to be a long-term starter. For more analysis on Martin, check out Glenn Gifford’s article on him from this offseason.

Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee, Sr. (6’6’’, 318lbs) 

James became Tennessee’s starting right tackle as a true freshman and has started 40 consecutive games since. Saturday’s game against Florida will give James a great opportunity to display his skills against a very good Gators defensive line featuring Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell.

When studying his film, James’ athletic ability and movement skills really standout. James looks the part of an NFL tackle with his athleticism and ideal frame and length, and he has the game to match.

James is a smooth pass protector with great feet. He has good lateral movement and can naturally stay in front of his man.

When run blocking, James has great burst off the ball and can generate good push. He can also get to the second level and boundary to make blocks on smaller, quicker players, another testament to his athletic ability.

Assuming he doesn’t get injured, James will have 50 starts under his belt at the end of his career to go along with his excellent on-field play. James checks out very well in every area, which could lead to him being a first-round selection in the 2014 draft.

Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee, Jr. (6’6″, 327lbs) 

Richardson became the Volunteers’ starting left tackle as sophomore in 2012, performing well enough in training camp to claim the left tackle spot and move senior Dallas Thomas, who went on to be an early third round selection in this year’s draft, inside to guard.

Many of the traits I previously mentioned about Ja’Wuan James are traits you can attribute to Richardson. Both are great athletes with great frames and both are balanced blockers.

Richardson is a more physical player than James and can also redirect better while pass blocking. Those two areas give the slight edge to Richardson as a prospect at this point.

On the other side of the equation, a key element to consider when comparing Richardson to James is the amount of starting experience the two players have. Richardson has only started 15 games at Tennessee while James has already started 40 games.

James has more experience, but Richardson has more upside and a higher ceiling. It would not surprise me at all for both of these talented Tennessee offensive tackles to end up as first-round draft picks.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Antonio Richardson, Colin Brown, David Yankey, Florida, Ja'Wuan James, Jon Halapio, Notre Dame, Offensive Linemen, Potential Bills, Prospects to Watch, Stanford, Tennessee, Zack Martin

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