Bills’ Levitre will help, starter or not

By Anthony Bialy  |   Monday, May 11, 2009  |  Comments( 76 )

Buffalo Bills
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Andy Levitre might be able to play two offensive line positions. But can he start at one? The Buffalo Bills thought the multitalented blocker was worth multiple picks, as they sent their 75th and 110th overall choices to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for the right to add him 51st in April's NFL draft. With a plan in place to use veterans as tackles, this team can in turn hope Levitre is one player who provides several options.

The Oregon State man played smart football in college, which allowed him to overcome his dimensional limitations and play tackle. Unfortunately, he may not be able to pull off the same trick as a pro. Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 306 pounds, he doesn’t own a traditional edge blocker’s size; on top of that, scouting analyses have questioned Levitre's strength and speed, which aren’t good questions to have to ask about a tackle. At the same time, he sees the game well and accordingly moves swiftly, skills which could let him go on the offensive as a run-blocking guard in Buffalo.

Plus, the pressure’s off on him making it to the exterior. With the Bills planning to employ Langston Walker and Brad Butler as starting tackles, Levitre can turn his attention to winning one of the middle jobs; if he doesn’t grab a guard spot, he could back up both areas as a competent choice. Either way, the Bills aren’t counting on Levitre to start at tackle from his first pro game. The problem is whether that’s a good use of resources for a team that used the 51st pick to acquire him.

Buffalo paid a fairly high price to draft Levitre in Round 2, and it would have been nice if it grabbed an ironclad starter for the cost. But the team could argue that it needs blockers who can be stationed anywhere: The Bills are trying to end the chaos that’s enveloped the entire offensive line. It’s barely exaggerating to claim they’re building from scratch.

Walker and Butler are the only returning starters, and neither will stay put now that Walker is flipping to the blind side while Butler shifts to his right. While Levitre could open the season playing guard, he could also be useful as someone who could jump in where needed. He’s a multitalented alternative who’s more useful than a majority of last year’s starters.

In the meantime, he can argue with Oregon product and fellow rookie Jairus Byrd about which school rules the state and which in turn sucks. But the two share more than the geographic proximity of their respective universities.

Just like how Byrd may move from cornerback to safety, Levitre is a candidate to leave his collegiate tackle slot behind. Both may shift because each encouragingly possesses the sense and instincts to play somewhere new. As with Byrd, Levitre appealed to his new team precisely because of his adaptability.

The initial disappointment over Buffalo failing to nab a true offensive tackle at the draft has been tempered by the promotions of Walker and Butler. Still, Levitre was useful before then, even if he doesn’t fill the role most anticipated his team would address in the second round. The Bills decided that a lineman with the savvy to take over at many spots offers more value than one who could only take over for Jason Peters. Plus, Levitre is cheaper than discarded left guard Derrick Dockery, not to mention probably already better if he paid attention at all during rookie minicamp.
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