Updated 4/24/2020 11:00 A.M.
The 2020 NFL Draft for Bills fans will be quite different without the team having a first-round pick. The tradeoff is now they have their No. 1 wideout in Stefon Diggs. But General Manager Brandon Beane and his front office personnel will have to wait until pick 54 in the second round to make their first choice, hoping a particular player drops out of the first and into the second round. That sort of value will undoubtedly arise early on Day 2 and really throughout the draft. With that said, I map out some Bills targets based on Beane, Assistant GM Joe Schoen, and Director of Player Personnel Dan Morgan’s archetypes, background, meetings, on-field traits and, of course, the Bills’ team needs.
Pick No. 54
EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos – Penn State
- Meetings: NFL Combine (Formal)
- 2019: 40 Tackles, 15 TFLs, 9.5 Sacks, 2 FF
- Career: 111 Tackles, 37 TFLs, 19 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles
Gross-Matos fell as I expected and, I believe he is one of the players that Beane would “scheme” to acquire by trading up and he probably has been since last night. Gross-Matos lacks the type of up-field burst and pass rush moves that the NFL likes to see in the first round, and at times his effort on the back-side of runs is lackluster. But he has the prototype size for the Bills’ defense standing 6’5″, 266 pounds with 34 7/8-inch arms and uses that length to stack and disengage when lined up versus tackles and tight ends. He displays some versatility having been used inside and outside and can be used as the penetrator or looper on stunts and games. Aside from his size, I love his ability to ‘carioca’ rush up the field, giving himself two lines to the quarterback while simultaneously generating torque to beat down the edges. His trademark push-pull move is very effective.
RB Jonathan Taylor – Wisconsin
- 2019: 320 Attempts, 2003 Yards, 21 Touchdowns. 26 Receptions, 252 Yards, 5 Touchdowns
- Career: 926 Attempts, 6174 Yards, 50 Touchdowns. 42 Receptions, 407 Yards, 5 Touchdowns
Taylor has a first-round grade in my book and behind YGM is my second favorite choice behind a premium position like defensive end. While only one running back went in the first round – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, many analysts believe a run on running backs will happen in round two. While I would not be upset with Beane making a move or even staying put for Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, I believe Taylor is the best fit for the Bills offense and best landing spot for this prospect. Taylor has a lot of mileage with 968 touches in three years, but while most see that as a negative, not missing a game over the course of 41 games with the beating he took week in and week out is all the context I need. Taylor presents the perfect complement to Devin Singletary because he possesses the best vision in this class on inside runs. He processes the leverage of the defense quickly, allowing him to set up his blocks several steps ahead of the defense. Once he sets those blocks up, his 4.39 speed erases angles for pursuing defenders and can get him into the open field. That kind of speed helped him rack up 55 touchdowns. Ball security is a major wart but is something that can be corrected. Given his character, production, accolades, and on-field traits, he will be a prospect that Beane will look to acquire because in the end, he is a “touchdown-maker.”
CB Jeff Gladney – TCU
- 2019: 24 Solo Tackles, 7 Assisted Tackles, 1.5 TFL, .5 Sack, 1 Int, 14 PD
- Career: 107 Solo Tackles, 39 Assisted Tackles, 6.0 TFL, 1.5 Sacks, 5 Int, 37 PD
I absolutely love the competitiveness, football IQ, and overall ability to choke off routes. He’s another guy that I have a first-round grade on who could slip into the second. His game is reminiscent of Tre’Davious White in that he can mix it up between press man and off-zone coverage and have success. He reads route combinations in trap and pattern matching coverages with the best of them and makes a ton of plays on the ball. Gladney racked up 37 pass deflections and five interceptions at TCU. He has a fiery side that comes alive when he is in press-man coverage against top-tier competition, but it isn’t all attitude. Gladney has the feet to motor-mirror big-time receivers and forces contested-catch situations often. He is not content with surrendering the underneath throws, which is why he has a lot of plays on the ball, but that trigger-happy approach can make him susceptible to double-moves. However, he does have the speed and ball skills to recover and get right back into the play. Gladney is the CB2 the Bills have been waiting for, and if he’s within striking distance, I could see Beane going and getting White his partner for the foreseeable future.
WR Laviska Shenault Jr. – Colorado
- Meetings: NFL Combine
- 2019: 56 Receptions for 764 Yards and 4 Touchdowns
- Career: 149 Receptions for 1,943 Yards and 10 Touchdowns
Shenault is another player I have a first-round grade on that could be available at 54. He’s the exact type of talent that Brian Daboll’s offense can utilize. He’s not the big-bodied receiver that everyone is yearning for. Instead, he is that thick, muscular alpha dog type who is simply a play-maker. Shenault is a physical receiver throughout the route stem and possesses elite tracking and very good body control when the ball is in the air. Once the ball is in his hands, he is electric. He has 221 pounds stacked on a 6-foot-1 frame, which is paired with running back-like contact balance that makes him very dangerous. In 2019, Viska was brought down by a solo tackler only 14 times on 70 touches. It’s those traits that will allow Daboll to use him as his gadget play guy like he used Isaiah McKenzie on jet and orbit reverses as well as taking direct snaps from Mitch Morse in third and fourth down situations (if Daboll so chooses). His injury history and lack of top-end speed (4.58 40-yard dash) have dropped him down boards, but he has routinely played through pain in his career and no doubt plays faster than his 40 time. The Bills saw him play against USC during the year and met with him at the NFL Scouting Combine, so I’m sure they have done their homework on him. The facilities at One Bills Drive and depth at receiver will allow Daboll to ease Shenault in and manage his workload in year one. But when called upon he has shown that he is willing and ready to perform.
CB Jaylon Johnson – Utah
- Meetings: Facetime Meeting
- 2019: 34 Solo Tackles, 2 Assisted Tackles, 1 TFL, 2 Interceptions, and 11 PD
- Career: 88 Solo Tackles, 14 Assisted Tackles, 3 TFL, 7 Int, 21 PD
Johnson is a second-round talent whose game reminds me of E.J. Gaines. Johnson has been taught an array of coverage techniques at Utah. He can motor-mirror, step-kick, and play in press or in off coverage. He can get physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage but does struggle with transitions at times. Overall, he does his best work in off coverage. He understands route combinations, how they are meant to attack coverages, and he communicates well with his teammates. With boundary corner Tre’Davious White being able to lock down whoever Leslie Frazier needs him to, the opposing corner must be able to play in off coverage, generally to the passing strength, and Johnson can do that. He spaces routes well, always playing high-to-low to minimize big plays, and that mindset is exactly what Frazier asks of his defenders. Finally, Johnson’s attention to detail and film study habits are top-notch, and they will lead to many plays on the ball at the next level just from his ability to recognize formations and play concepts. Bills scouts were reportedly in attendance for at least one game of Johnson’s, and that was the UCLA – Utah game in November.
WR Michael Pittman Jr. – USC
- 2019: 101 Receptions for 1,275 Yards and 11 Touchdowns
- Career: 171 Receptions for 2,519 Yards and 19 Touchdowns
Pittman is one of the cleanest and most polished players in this year’s draft. He also so happens to be 6-4, 223 pounds and possesses the ability to beat man or zone coverage. Pittman runs detailed short-area routes against zone coverage with purpose. He gracefully works around zone defenders then shows his numbers to his quarterback in clear passing lanes. But he also has the ability to beat man coverage down the field by maximizing his 4.52 speed and keeping his frame clean while getting vertical, then showcasing an insane above-the-rim game and über-reliable hands-on deep balls. Pittman only dropped five passes in his entire career, which included zero on third or fourth down last season. His play speed is slower than his actual timed-speed, which can allow aggressive press corners to dictate his routes and immediately get into his pocket. His skill-set forced a lot of bracket coverage, and yet he still produced. Pittman could come in and be Josh Allen’s possession receiver who can run quasi-TE routes in the short and intermediate areas but then also create some explosive plays down the field when opposing defenses’ third corner or safety is matched up against him. Bills GM Beane was in attendance for Pittman’s 156-yard and two-touchdown performance against Colorado and Bills scouts saw Pittman Jr. rack up 13 receptions and 146-yards versus Arizona State.