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Draft Profiles – Andrew Billings – Bengals

Week four of my Bengal draftee profiles, and it brings me to my favorite pick of the draft. In the run-up to the draft, I scoured the mock drafts. One name I kept seeing in the first round for the boys in stripes was Andrew Billings, the massive defensive tackle out of Baylor. I am a Big Ten fan, so I hadn’t seen much film on Baylor – so I started hitting YouTube and scouting sites to find film on this behemoth. I liked what I saw. To say I was elated when the Bengals stepped to the podium with the 122nd pick and took Billings would be an understatement. I really think this kid will be an outstanding addition to the roster and could have an All-Pro caliber career.

The legend of Billings started in high school, where he broke Mark Henry’s (yes, the pro wrestler) 22-year-old powerlifting record. Billings put up 805 pounds on the squat, 500 pounds on the bench, and 705 on the powerlift for a 2,010-pound max. While he may not throw those numbers around now, they serve him well in his overall game. Billings stands 6’1” and tilts the scales at 311 pounds, but he plays surprisingly quick for his size. There are times on film where Billings darts (yes, a man that big can dart) through the gap before the offensive lineman can react. He used this speed to rack up a team leading 5.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in his final season at Baylor. His initial burst oftentimes gives him a clear path to the backfield – and when he puts is hands on whomever has the ball, they are going to the ground.

If Billings doesn’t beat the offensive lineman off the ball, he has the strength to set those feet and walk the blocker straight back. This is where his powerlifting background shines through. Watch his film, at times it looks like the guy blocking him is on roller skates. Billings plays with a brutal strength that will serve the defensive line well. It is going to take two blockers to stop this kid, opening up lanes for Atkins, the defensive ends, and the linebackers. Solid performance from Billings will make the other parts of the defense shine.

So, what does Billings add to the Bengals? The team already has a solid defensive line, with All-Pro stud Geno Atkins (a fourth-round pick, number 120 to be exact) setting the tone in the middle. Domata Peko, Marcus Hardison, Brandon Thompson, and Pat Sims set the rest of the defensive tackle rotation – and all are solid players in their own right. One thing we have seen with Paul Guenther’s defense is a constant rotation in the defensive middle, keeping bodies fresh to insure maximum effort. Add a 6’1” 311-pound space eater to the mix and you have a heck of a defensive line rotation. If Billings can play the way he did in college (and the way I expect he will), we could see the beginning of the end for the aging Peko. Watch for Billings to take snaps away from the orange-maned staple of the defensive line as the season progresses. Honestly, this will end up being good for both men – Billings will get valuable experience and Peko will be able to stay fresh for his reps.

This rotation will be good for Billings, as the biggest knock on him was that he is a “two-down” defensive lineman. This basically means that some pro scouts don’t see him as much of a pass rusher. There are times that Billings relied more on his brute strength rather than using technique to rush the passer – this may work in the NFL, but not as well as it worked in college. In addition, scouts weren’t really big on Billings’s height. He may not get in the line of vision of many quarterbacks as they drop back to pass. Combined with shorter-than-average arms, he may not be able to get in the way unless he is in the passer’s lap.

Is Billings a polished/finished product? No, he wouldn’t have been around in the fourth round if that was the case. That said, snagging Billings in the fourth round sure has the early looks of a major steal. I know the scenario may be a bit overplayed; but, we could see him play with a major chip on his shoulder – trying to prove that he really was a first-round prospect rather than the fourth-round pick he became. A man that big, that athletically gifted, playing with anger? Offensive lineman facing the Bengals should be worried. The athletic foundation this kid has will be built upon and the Bengals could be looking at another fourth-round defensive line gem.