The anxiousness is real, the draft is only a day away and it feels like time is standing still. The Bills offseason has seemed like an eternity. We had to wait several weeks to sign players in free agency because of money issues. The available cap towards free agency was very small and the Bills were in need of veterans to fill their roster. They were able to add some really good talent considering their situation.
But teams are built through the draft. Whaley and the front office spend all year studying these players, visiting their schools, watching their tape, speaking with coaches. The draft is the culmination of all of their hard work, and they really need to knock this draft out of the park. It could be the foundation for many years to come.
So when people ask me, so who would you draft? I find it very difficult to answer. Scouting players isn’t my job, my money maker. I don’t leave my family for weeks at a time to go on the road, live out of a suitcase, go without a home cooked meal, spend hours upon hours speaking with coaches or studying tape. Most importantly my family doesn’t have to rely on me to scout well to put food on the table. I have watched my fair share of film, I love that but there is no pressure on me to grade players who the organization could end up paying millions to.
With that said I have thought long and hard on who the Bills should take in the 2016 Draft. I have come to the conclusion based on needs, value, potential of players and how a player projects into the Bills’ systems.
Round 1-19th Overall
So with the 19th pick I have the Bills selecting Safety Karl Joseph. I know MOST fans will think that it is a reach. But look at the selection through this lens. There are many questions surrounding the position. Of course there is the complete unknown about the future of Aaron Williams. He is a tough guy, the Bills emotional leader but lets face it players are walking away from the game more and more. Will the injury cause him to play a different style? How will that affect not only his mental approach to the game but how will it affect the defense?
The Bills’ safeties gave up 14 touchdowns out of the 30 passing TDs that were scored on them last year. It is no secret that the safeties are an integral part of this defense. Corey Graham was phenomenal versus the run last year, he did a great job when asked to be a box safety. But he struggled versus the pass, he gave up 549 yards (2nd most amongst safeties) and 6 touchdowns (2nd most) through the air.
I like the signing of Robert Blanton and I think that he actually may push Graham for the starting position. He is a former corner which Rex loves. But I don’t think he is the future, as he was only signed to a one year deal.
Karl Joseph has all of the tools that Rex wants in his safeties. Range, he can cover a lot of real estate. I think this the main reason the team wants to draft him. Bacarri Rambo manned the center field position a lot in 2015. He made his fair share of plays from sideline to sideline, he brought a playmaking presence to the secondary. But he was also bad in coverage, Joseph has the speed to get to any quadrant of the field. His range is only the first portion of the play. When he gets to the ball he makes plays. Although he is small in stature he plays much bigger. Joseph tries to erase players every chance he gets. He’s a tone setter and Rex loves those kind of players. Rex drafted Calvin Pryor a few years back at the end of the first round to be that player. Pryor didn’t have the intuition or coverage abilities that Joseph does. I believe that Joseph is a top 20 talent even with his injury and a complete safety. Pair him up with Ed Reed in the film room and I see multiple Pro Bowl Selections for this talented safety.
Round 2-49th Overall
I have the Bills selecting defensive end Bronson Kaufusi with the 49th pick overall. He is my favorite player in this draft. Check out some of his stats from last season. He was 10th in sacks (11th in nation for DE), 63 tackles (19th), 42 pressures (11th), 19 QB hurries (19th), 23 QB knockdowns (7th), 40 run disruptions (18th), 17 stuffs (4th), 3 fumbles forced (15th) in nation. I have him projected as an early third round pick but I don’t think he makes it to the Bills in the third round. When I watched this player on film, I saw a kid that already knows the details of being a defensive lineman. That’s why I was not surprised to hear that he is the son of a defensive line coach. He knows how to set lineman up with pass rush moves and he is able to counter with several other combinations. Remember this?
Well Mario and Bronson have very similar body types. The kind that obviously Rex covets.
Kaufusi has the same frame as Mario Williams with the ability to add more weight and strength.
But where Kaufusi separates himself is that he has shown the ability to drop into coverage. Rex loves his fire zone blitzes where he sends the inside backers and drops his Rush or Defensive ends into zone coverage. Kaufusi is more than willing to do that from the 5 or 7 tech defensive end positions. In fact in 2014, he played the Rush linebacker role that Jerry Hughes currently holds down. So Kaufusi has the body type that Rex loved in Mario, but can carry out the responsibilities that Rex expected of Mario in 2015. Kaufusi could man the defensive end position that typically plays opposite Jerry Hughes.
Round 3-80th Overall
With the Bills’ 80th pick in the draft I have them taking Cornerback Cyrus Jones from Alabama. Jones’ stock has risen over the last couple months. I originally had him as a 4th or early 5th round pick, but after going back and watching some more film I think he would fit the Bills’ defensive scheme. He is a player that has learned the best DB techniques while at Alabama and it shows on film. Jones does his best work in press coverage. His disciplined technique shows on film, every rep is consistent and that will translate well into the NFL and into the Bills’ system.
He jabs the wide receiver with his left hand and that disrupts him during his release phase. It forces the wide receiver to the middle of the field allowing Cyrus to get over the top with help on in breaking routes.
He is a very sticky corner and it shows on this play. Michigan State has the ball on the left hash on 3rd and 15, so Jones is aligned inside. This forces the wide receiver to release outside where Jones can use the sideline as a defender. Look how smooth Jones opens his hips and plasters the wide receiver. Very smooth in his transition.
Scouts are saying a lot of the same things about Cyrus that they said about Ronald Darby. He might not have the size to be effective in the NFL and he has trouble making plays on the ball down the field. Which are not totally wrong, but I believe that Jones’ style of play FITS this defense. With the current contract situation concerning Stephon Gilmore, I believe that Cyrus will be drafted by the Bills as an insurance policy. He is a guy that could start outside for Rex Ryan if the Bills let Gilmore go. Having three good cover corners helps Rex scheme up different fronts and pressures because he has the secondary that can cover. Jones is also a player that when Rex wants to bump Gilmore or Darby into the slot versus certain teams, Jones can be relied upon outside. He is well versed in pattern reading coverages, something he did week in and week out at Alabama.
To read the full breakdown click here.
Round 4-117th Overall
With pick #117 overall, I have the Bills selecting Quarterback Dak Prescott. I believe that he fits what the Bills want to do on offense. He is a year or so away which is fine because the Bills have this season and or the 2017 season do bring him along if they so choose. With as much money as they would be paying Taylor a year if they gave him a new contract, franchise tagging him in 2017 isn’t out of the question.
Prescott has completely transformed his game since his freshman year at Mississippi State. He has grown into a more complete QB, not just a running quarterback. My favorite part about his game is his live arm.
He has just as much ability to throw the deep ball as anyone in this class. When he makes his decision the ball flies off his hand.
Dak is a player that I think will benefit from sitting the bench and learning the nuances of becoming a pro quarterback. Taking him in the fourth round prepares Buffalo if they decide that Taylor is not a franchise guy.
To read his full breakdown click here.
Round 4-139th Overall
Now we get into the heart of the draft where the scouts must really make their money for GM Doug Whaley. Since I have the Bills taking Kaufusi in the second to fill that strong end/ 5 tech position in Rex’ multiple scheme they must fill the defensive tackle position. Bills scouts visited the Michigan campus three times. I believe they are targeting defensive tackle Willie Henry with the 139th pick overall. It makes perfect sense too. Henry is a two gapping defensive tackle that played on the inside of the Wolverine defense but also lined up as a 5/4i tech defensive end. He is a player that the Bills can groom to take over for Kyle Williams.
He has nearly 11 inch hands and good reach allowing him to stack and shed lineman.
What I love most about him is his ability to recognize run vs. pass which is a critical trait of two gapping defensive lineman.
He is scheme versatile, on pass rushing situations the Wolverines widened him. So he can be used inside or outside, on run or pass downs which sets up perfect for the Bills.
New defensive line coach John Blake who specializes in teaching pass rush moves will enjoy mentoring this young kid.
Selecting Willie Henry in the 4th round gives the Bills a player that they can groom but also a player that can challenge Corbin Bryant this year. Henry is a better fit in this defense than Bryant and with Bryant only being under contract for this season, Henry would obviously be the future at the position.
For the full breakdown click here.
Round 5-156th Overall
On to the fifth round where I have the Bills selecting WR Kenny Lawler with the 156th pick overall. Lawler is a player who I think could make a huge difference in the Bills’ passing game. He is 6’3″, 203 pounds but he sports over 33 inch arms and 10 1/2 inch hands. He scored 13 touchdowns in 2015, 10 of them were in the red zone. An area of the wide receiving core that needs to improve. Remember how the Bills struggled getting first downs through the air? Lawler converted his receptions into first downs 79 % of the time last season.
He ran in the 4.6s but what he brings as a wide receiver is shiftiness, catch radius and most importantly hands. Defensive backs have trouble covering him for many reasons, and this is why I love him.
If teams want to play him near the line of scrimmage, he has the wiggle to gain a clean release. Lawler’s shake causes the DB to become flat footed and he gets down the field quite easily.
What stands out on film is his obvious ability to snatch the ball out of the air. On this play he climbs the ladder and hauls it in. You can also see that once he catches it he keeps it away from the defender with his long reach, a skill not many receiving coaches teach.
With his thin frame, he definitely needs to bulk up because at times defenders can out muscle him. But just because they jam him, or they stick to him doesn’t mean that he isn’t open…On this play the defender wins versus Lawler during the release phase, but Lawler overcomes in the drive and catch phase of the route. Winning routes is like chess, great job by Lawler.
Another player added that can be groomed long term. Lawler is seen as a possession receiver similar to Robert Woods, who mind you is also in the final year of his deal. But Lawler in my opinion could be the Crabtree like wide receiver that Roman has been looking for. I don’t think Greg Little or Jarret Boykin have the same route running skills or upside that Lawler does. There is a reason that Whaley, scouts and even Wide Receiving coach Sanjay Lal attended Cal’s Pro day. I believe that they are indeed targeting this prospect!
For the full breakdown click here.
Round 6-192nd Overall
The Bills need to upgrade their right tackle situation only having Seantrel Henderson and Jordan Mills so they select Tackle Alex Lewis with the 192nd pick overall. The former Corn Husker definitely has the size to play tackle in the league.
He does have the ability to move to the second level.
He has a decent kick-slide but at times he will become sloppy and cross his feet.
Lewis would be a great addition to the roster as he would be a suitable swing tackle for the Bills. The health of Henderson does concern me and I am not sure what weight he is at as of now, so I opted to bring someone in just in case. Lewis’ stock has been rising so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is off the board in the 5th.
Round 6-218th Overall
Onto the 6th round I have the Bills selecting linebacker BJ Goodson from Clemson with the 218th pick overall. I honestly think that Goodson could go undrafted, but based on Rex Ryan’s infatuation with the Clemson program, Whaley’s love of drafting ACC players I believe they forgo the risk of him signing with another team. Goodson has the size and measureables that former inside backer and undrafted free agent Bart Scott possessed.
He has played in many big games over the course of his career and the pressure never got to him. I love how he was always getting the defense in the right plays.
He isn’t the fastest or most gifted linebacker typical of the modern stereotype, but he will be a backer that excels from tackle to tackle.
Linebackers in two gap systems must be able to fill the windows left open by the defensive lineman, Goodson has that ability.
His tackling strength and power could lead to him being a productive inside linebacker in this scheme.
I just have a hunch that Rex loves this kid and really envisions him as an inside backer that will do the dirty work allowing the WILL LB to make plays. It is a role that he is familiar with and I would love for the Bills to bring him in.
I believe that Doug Whaley realizes the importance of this draft. He knows that the offense has enough tools to win many games. The offense just needs a few tweaks. Bringing in guys like Prescott, Lawler and Lewis only adds to the competition going into camp.
Where he needs to improve is on the defensive side of the ball. I think with the selections of Joseph, Kaufusi, Jones, Henry and Goodson the defense adds pieces that not only fit the scheme but could make a difference on the field sooner than later. These are all prospects that can see the field in certain situations or who could start if in a pinch.
Just for fun here is my back-up mock draft:
- S/LB Su’a Cravens
- DT Kenny Clark
- Edge Yannick Ngakoue
- QB Dak Prescott
- LB Nick Kwiatoski
- WR Kenny Lawler
- T Alex Lewis
- LB BJ Goodson
It has been quite the ride this draft season, thank you for supporting Cover 1.
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