BY DAN BEGNOCHE
It's speculation time around the NFL, and first-round prospects are bouncing up and down mock draft lists as analysts attempt to predict each team's top priority in the next month's draft.
For the Buffalo Bills, however, their top priority has been fairly static since the end of last year -- they need an offensive lineman.
Following the acquisition of Rams left guard Chris Williams early on this offseason, the next area the team is focusing on is right tackle, a position currently being held down by soon-to-be 32-year-old Erik Pears. Pears struggled in his run blocking duties last season, posting the fourth-worst performance among tackles in the league, according to ProFootballFocus.
In his most recent mock draft, analyst Mel Kiper chose Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews for the Bills' No. 9 pick, saying, "he’s demonstrated an ability to, frankly, dominate on either side" of the offensive line. With left tackle Cordy Glenn showing his abilities since his second-round selection in 2012, that leaves Pears in the hot seat.
The team's offensive line captain, center Eric Wood, told Sal Cappacio on WGR 550 Friday he'd welcome some competition on the line, particularly if the draftee has the chops to start his rookie season.
"Anytime we can add what should be a really talented player to our offensive line group I'm all for it," he said. "I would assume he'd come in and compete for a position, and anytime you're competing for a starting spot and we have more talented bodies in there, it's going to make us all better. If that was the case I'd be all for it, but that's completely out of my hands."
What he and his fellow linemates can control is their workout regimen between now and training camp. With the addition of Williams and potentially another body before OTAs, being able to meld as a unit will be key. The line allowed 48 sacks last season, two years after leading the league in sacks allowed and a year after allowing only 30.
"It won't take any longer than OTAs and training camp," Wood said of the chemistry they'll look to build. "Usually by the time training camp is out and preseason is over, you've got a good feel for everyone you've been playing around if everyone can stay healthy. That's kind of the big issue. If everyone can stay healthy for OTAs and training camp, you can really gel as an offensive line, and that happened for us the past couple years."
Follow Dan @DanBegnoche
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily