Summary: Nevada has produced some quality draft prospects in recent years, and Bitonio is their top prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft. He broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore and made all the starts over his final three seasons.
Bitonio improved each year during his collegiate career. In 2012, he did a tremendous job of opening up holes in the ground game for the nation's second-leading rusher, Stefphon Jefferson. Bitonio really took his pass protection to another level in 2013. The senior was a rock solid blind side protector and had an excellent performance against UCLA pass-rusher Anthony Barr, one of the best pass-rushers in college football.
After the season, Bitonio was impressive at the Senior Bowl. He showed good quickness and athleticism to match the All-Star pass-rushers in Mobile. At the Combine, Bitonio was excellent with a fast 40 and a great performance in the field drills.
Tackles like Bitonio are in demand in the passing-driven NFL. He is very quick and agile to negate speed rushers coming off the edge. Bitonio also has a strong enough base to hold up against bull rushers. For the ground game, He has nice technique to get movement out of defenders.
For the NFL, Bitonio could could fit as a tackle or guard. With his quickness and athleticism, he would be a great fit in a zone-blocking system. Bitonio has the versatility to potentially play guard, right tackle or left tackle. The best plan would be to plug him into right tackle in the beginning, and if he excels, he could move to the blind side. If Bitonio were to struggle because of a lack of size and length, he could slide inside to guard. If Bitonio were to move inside, it might be a good idea for him to add some weight, although he may not be able to add much heft to his frame.
Sources tell WalterFootball.com that Bitonio could be a late first-round pick and shouldn't get out of the second round.
Player Comparison: Sam Baker. As a prospect, Bitonio is very similar to Justin Pugh, who was selected in the first round last year by the Giants. However, Pugh hasn't been in the NFL long enough to provide a good comparison. It wouldn't be surprising if Bitonio turns into a better version of Baker. The Falcons veteran has had some solid play during his career, while also dealing with injuries and some underwhelming stretches. Baker turned in a quality 2012 seasons protecting Matt Ryan that earned Baker a lucrative contract extension. Bitonio is nearly identical in size to Baker (6-5, 301) and both players have short arms. Bitonio should be able to overcome his size and length weaknesses to turn into a player who is similar to, but better than, Baker. That would be a nice value selection for a team as a late first-round or second-round pick.
NFL Matches: Carolina, Denver, Seattle, Washington, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Miami, Arizona, San Diego, New Orleans, New York Giants, Baltimore
There are a lot of teams that are interested in Bitonio late in the first round and early in the second round. Perhaps the highest he could hope to go would be the Panthers, Broncos or Seahakws toward the end of the first round. Carolina lost Jordan Gross to retirement and needs a long-term tackle to protect Cam Newton. Denver could stand to fortify its offensive line in front of Peyton Manning, while Seattle needs to rebuild the right side of its offensive line. Bitonio landing with the Seahawks makes a lot of sense as he fits the profile of the type of players they target.
In the second round, Bitonio could go off the board quickly to the Redskins. Washington could lose its right tackle in a year, plus Jay Gruden may want to remodel the offensive line to fit his offense.
Tampa Bay has a huge hole at guard that Bitonio could step in to fill. Eventually, he could move to tackle as well. St. Louis has been interested in Bitonio and could select him in the second round if the organization doesn't take an offensive lineman on Day 1.
Miami has to add multiple linemen in the 2014 NFL Draft to upgrade the worst offensive line in the NFL. Bitonio could fit at guard or tackle for the Dolphins. He would make a lot of sense for Miami if he gets to the team's second-round pick.
The Giants could target some offensive line help with one of their first picks. Landing Bitonio in Round 2 could be a nice value, and his skill set is similar to last year's first-rounder Justin Pugh.
The Cardinals have been rebuilding their offensive line and could go after Bitonio in the second round.
New Orleans could be an option for Bitonio if he slides in the second round. The Saints could use another left tackle option if Terron Armstead doesn't pan out.
Baltimore lost Michael Oher in free agency and has to find a new right tackle. San Diego needs a tackle to pair with D.J. Fluker in the long run and team has focused some attention on Bitonio.
Sources have told WalterFootball that the teams showing the most interest in Bitonio include Carolina, Denver, Seattle, Washington, St. Louis, Arizona and Miami.