The Buffalo Bills got more help for quarterback EJ Manuel on Friday night by drafting blot-out-the-sun offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio of the University of Alabama.
Kouandjio is 6-foot-6ø and 322 pounds and has the longest arms of any of the top 20 tackles in this year’s draft – at 35 and ¾ inches.
He figures to step in as the Bills starting right tackle and would give the team massive bookends on the on the edges of the offensive line. Buffalo left tackle Cordy Glenn is 6-6, 345 and has 35∫-inch arms – the longest of any tackle in the 2012 draft.
“Prototypical right tackle, a very aggressive run blocker,” said Bills general manager Doug Whaley. “People are going to say against smaller defensive ends he had some trouble. He’s not going to be playing against 6-2, 190-pound defensive ends in the NFL. So we’re comfortable he’ll be able to protect the right side. We’re excited about his size and his length. And what he lacks in a little foot quickness, he’ll make up with length, making them take a bigger arc to get to the quarterback.”
Kouandjio figures to take the starting spot held last year by Erik Pears, who remains on the Bills’ roster. He’s expected to be the second new starter on the line, joining guard Chris Williams, a free-agent signee.
The Bills ranked 28th in the NFL last year in sacks allowed per pass play, although, the quarterback play had a lot to do with that total.
The Bills bolstered their 28th-ranked pass offense in Thursday’s first round by drafting Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Buffalo traded down three spots in the second round, from 41 to 44, before picking Kouandjio. They got a fifth-round pick in return, No. 153, from St. Louis.
“We had a group of players that we were very comfortable with in that range that if he did go,” Whaley said of Kouandjio, “we had another guy we’d be extremely happy with picking.”
The Bills opted for Kouandjio ahead of players such as Missouri edge rusher Kony Ealy, Georgia Tech edge rusher Jeremiah Attaochu and Virginia tackle Morgan Moses.
Kouandjio, 20, was born in Cameroon and moved with his family to the United States at age 5. He was raised in Maryland.
Kouandjio started 26 games over the past two years for Alabama, all at left tackle. He was a consensus first-team All-America choice as a junior in 2013 and had some dominant performances, particularly against Louisiana State.
He struggled against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl against an undersized speed rusher, the 190-pounder Whaley mentioned.
Kouandjio suffered a knee injury in the 2011 season that required surgery to repair both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. He did not miss any games the next two years. But as a result of the injury there were numerous reports this spring that he had failed the physical of some teams.
Whaley said the Bills have no health concerns about him.
“Our medical staff passed and him, and we don’t have a problem with him long term or now,” Whaley said.
The Bills want their offensive line to be more physical. They think Kouandjio helps that cause.
“Out of 10, I think he’s about 8, 8½,” Whaley said of his run blocking. “He has some technical issues that he’ll have to brush up on. I have supreme confidence in our coaching staff and our head coach being an old offensive line coach. One thing you can’t teach is aggressiveness and toughness and he brings both of those to the table.”
“We expect him to be contributing early,” Whaley said. “I can’t put a time table on it. It depends on how he comes in and grasps the offense. Your first- and second-round picks have to contribute early.”
The Bills’ third-round pick, No. 73 overall, came too late for this edition.
Buffalo enters the final day of the draft today with four picks, one in the fourth, two in the fifth and one in the seventh. Positions they could target include running back, cornerback and another depth player on the front seven.