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Ngata wanted to play for Bills

Bills fans can wonder what might have been when they watch Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata on Sunday.

Ngata expected the Bills to draft him in 2006. He would have filled a glaring need on the defensive line with the departures of Pat Williams and Sam Adams in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

But the Bills stunningly passed on Ngata in favor of strong safety Donte Whitner with the eighth overall pick because they felt Ngata wasn't a "chase player'' (a lineman who can pursue plays beyond the line of scrimmage) and thus was an bad fit for the 4-3 scheme being installed by then first-year head coach Dick Jauron.

We can all see the nonsense in that thinking now. Ngata has become arguably the most dominant run-stuffing interior defensive lineman in the NFL, while the Bills have fielded one of the league's worst run defenses for most of the last five years.

The 6-foot-4, 350-pound Ngata is a big man with jaw-dropping quickness and athletic ability. Not only does he stop the run, he has emerged as a disruptive pass rusher. He leads the Ravens with four sacks. He also can drop back in coverage and has three interceptions, returning one of them 60 yards for a touchdown (for the record, Whitner has four career INTs).

“When I was getting drafted people were saying there were a bunch of things wrong with me,’’ Ngata said this week during a conference call with the Buffalo media. “I don’t hustle to the ball. I’m not a pass rusher. I kind of wanted to prove those guys wrong. Ever since I’ve been in the league, I wanted to show that I can run to the ball, I can make plays. Every year I felt like I’ve been able to improve and I want to keep improving.’’

Whitner has been a solid player for the Bills. He just hasn't made enough difference-making plays once would expect from a top-10 draft pick.

Although Whitner might have been the safer pick at the time, the Bills' defense would have been better off if then-General Manager Marv Levy had drafted Ngata.



Bills | NFL
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