You can't help but be a little enamored with Andrew Billings after you watch him play. He's undersized and not necessarily all that blessed in the athletic ability department, but that dude fights his ass off on the field to make plays. It was such a contrast to the last guy I broke down that it just jumped off the screen. I just love to see a guy hustling to try to get in on every play.
And not just those plays in his general vicinity, either. Dude was running down plays all over the field!
But it wasn't just the obvious plays like those that stuck out to me about Billings' effort. It was also the play where he's getting triple-teamed but he is still fighting to push them all back to the quarterback.
It was the play where he is locked down because of a double team by the center and right guard, but he sees the quarterback trying to step up so instead of just standing there he flings his body (unsuccessfully I might add) in the quarterback's general direction trying to make a play.
He got knocked off the ball by a double team and still fought and fought to make the tackle, then fought and fought some more to bring the running back down even after having been pushed 8 yards down the field.
Now I don't know about you, but those kinds of effort plays get to me every. Single. Time. I give guys probably more credit for them than I should, but I just love to see guys busting their ass all the time when they are on the field. That, more than any words a prospect could ever say to me, shows me the guys who really love to play football.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure that's going to be enough for Billings to be the kind of playmaker that teams covet in the NFL.
Again, he is undersized at just under 6'1 and 311 pounds. He isn't that great of an athlete either, but I will say his 5.06 did impress me a bit. Every once in a while he showed a nice burst over the ball, but by and large Billings played like his pedestrian 1.79 10-yard split. He played at both one technique and zero nose tackle alignments in the five games that I watched and I think that's exactly what he projects to in the NFL.
As a reminder, my personal philosophy is you don't take nose-tackle-only guys in the first round unless they are some kind of physical anomalies. Like, humongous guys nobody can move or really mobile guys who can win consistently as pass rushers on athletic ability if nothing else. Other than that, I don't see a lot of value in drafting a guy who can't play all three downs when the NFL keeps changing the rules to favor the passing game.
Now Billings is good, but he's no anomaly.
He was a productive college football player and a fun cat to watch play. I just can't see him being much of a pass rusher on the next level. Or put differently, I don't see him as being a defensive tackle who you draft in the first round as a pass rusher.
I did love his technique, and I also loved his salty demeanor in everything he did on the field, but while Billings did have some nice sacks and a few pressures, he simply wasn't able to generate a pass rush all on his own on most plays.
I do want to give him props because at least Billings was not content to just shut it down even if pass rushing wasn't necessarily his strongest suit. Whether bull rushing or going with a jab ole, Billings was going full speed all the time and every once in a while he was able to force his way into the backfield.
I will also say that if a team is considering Billings in the first round, one of the likely reasons for that is his ability to rush as a nose tackle. Not that they think he will be a double-digit sack guy, but that he might be able to catch the guard away from the center who is sliding to the three technique, slipping enough times to get four or five sacks a year in addition to being a stalwart against the run.
The sacks part of that might be doable if Billings can do a good job of holding up against the run well. However, while making plays against the run was certainly something that Billings did well in college, at his size, I'm just not sure how much is that is going to translate well to the pros.
There is no doubt that Billings is strong as an ox, as you can see watching him play and also from the 31 reps of 225 pounds he did at the combine. When you're just shy of 6'1 and your arms are only 33 inches long, you're going to have a hard time holding your ground against the bigger, stronger road-grader type offensive linemen in the NFL.
Interestingly enough, one of the things that stuck out to me about Billings after watching his games over and over was how much Baylor had him moving around at the snap, rather than just lining him up stationary to take on double teams.
He did a really good job of moving laterally for a man his size, but on the flip side there weren't a ton of plays to judge how well Billings would hold up if he were a zero nose trying to two-gap instead. And even with the movement, things didn't always go that well for Billings when he lined up as a zero nose.
As a one-technique nose tackle where he was shaded to one side or the other, I thought Billings fared a little bit better as a run defender and that's probably his best spot as a pro.
From that position he can use his quickness a little more to penetrate rather than just try to hold up blockers. That's where his ability to move laterally will also be a bigger asset than a nose tackle in a 3-4. Billings is also likely to get double-teamed less as a 4-3 nose tackle, which would give him the opportunity to beat one guy and make the play.
Obviously Billings will also have a better opportunity in a 4-3 to make some kind of impact as a pass rusher. At the same time, there are no guarantees that Billings will be anything close to dominant in a 4-3 either.
So to recap, you have a guy in Billings who gives great effort and plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but he probably only fits in the NFL as a shaded nose tackle in a 4-3 because of his size and level of athletic ability. I am pulling for him because I love the way he plays the game and that description sounds like a guy who could be a good player, but that just doesn't sound like a first-round pick to me.
Since I don't have access to all-22 for college football games I use the next best thing for my draft profiles, Draft Breakdown. They the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects already cut up and ready to go. Their site is also compatible with the new NoHuddle app which turns your cell phone into a "cowboy clicker" which is pretty damn neat. For the purposes of this breakdown, I watched former Baylor nose tackle play against Rice, West Virginia, Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU. Those represented the third sixth, eighth, ninth and 11th games on Baylor's schedule last season, respectively.