Who are the Bills’ NFL Draft targets based on private workouts?

04/20/2019
DB+

The draft is finally upon us, and by now, General Manager Brandon Beane likely has his board set. The film is analyzed and broken down, the background investigations are complete, and all of the meetings with prospects are in the books. One of the more important types of meetings that took place was the private workouts. Most people only analyze top-30 official visits made to One Bills Drive, but what I found interesting is that Beane has always drafted at least one guy that they worked out privately. Teams typically work out several players during the pre-draft process, so the number of players worked out is unknown, and therefore the percentage drafted is murky, but let’s take a look at the history behind Beane’s tendencies in Carolina with then GM Dave Gettleman and what it may mean this draft process.

History

Based on my research, from 2015-2017 GM Gettleman and Assistant GM Beane drafted at least one privately-worked-out player every year that Beane was in Carolina. The players were:

*2015 – OT Daryl Williams, 4th round

*2016 – DT Vernon Butler, 1st round

*2017 – CB Corn Elder, 5th round

Beane was hired by the Bills after the 2017 NFL Draft, so Head Coach McDermott and former GM Doug Whaley ran the draft. In that draft, the Bills selected two players who had at least a private workout. Those two players were:

CB Tre’Davious White, 1st round

QB Nathan Peterman, 5th round

In 2018, Beane drafted two players that worked out privately:

QB Josh Allen, 1st round

WR Austin Proehl, 7th round

One other thing to note when it comes to private workouts is that Beane has acquired several players who were worked out privately for the Panthers during his time as the assistant GM in Carolina. Those players are:

DT Jordan Phillips, 2nd round pick by Dolphins (Assistant GM Joe Schoen)

CB Kevin Johnson, 1st round

CB Breon Borders, UDFA by Raiders

WR Malachi Dupre, UDFA Packers

2019 NFL Draft

As you can see, there is a pretty good chance Beane will draft or sign some of the players they worked out. A private workout is one tool for teams to use to get a better look at a prospect. Top-30 visits don’t allow teams to work out the player, so these private meetings are a good avenue for a team to use to see a player up close and personal ON the field. Typically, the position coaches will conduct the workout and tailor it to the team’s scheme. They will test a player’s ability to pick up the scheme, techniques, and assignments (STA). Based on my research, these are the players who had private workouts for the Bills this draft season and their projected round:

  1. Cameron Glenn, S, Wake Forest, 6th round
  2. Casey Bednarski, K, Minnesota St. UDFA
  3. Curtis Akins, LB, Memphis, 6th round
  4. Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss, 4th round
  5. Deandre Thompkins, WR, Penn St, UDFA
  6. Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic, 5th round
  7. Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma, 4th round
  8. Gary Jennings, WR, West Virginia, 5th round
  9. Kaleb McGary, T, Washington, 2nd round
  10. Kingsley Keke, DT, Texas A&M, 3rd round
  11. Nick Easley, WR, Iowa, 6th round
  12. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa, 1st round
  13. Qadree Ollison, RB, Pitt, UDFA

Tier One Targets

Three players who I would put in a hypothetical ‘tier one’, meaning they are the most likely to be drafted, are G Dru Samia, OT Kaleb McGary, and WR Nick Easley. Samia and McGary worked out privately for the team but also met with the Bills at the Combine and their pro days. Both are also seniors who played in the Senior Bowl, which is another huge factor in this regime’s decision making. Based on the upgrades along the offensive line this season, guard and tackle aren’t immediate needs, but they will be in the near future.

Both have a ton of game experience, which shows in their football intelligence and technique. Samia and McGary have started 47 and 48 games respectively over the course of their college careers.

But both would benefit from a redshirt year. For Samia, a season behind a room of veterans would give him time to improve his play strength so that that he can consistently win battles against NFL competition. McGary’s redshirt season would allow him to improve his play speed, as he has not faced many top tier pass rushers in the Pac-12.

Finally, I present Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley. Easley is a relative unknown and probably more of a priority free agent, but he’s a player that I think the Bills would take a flyer on later in the draft, similar to Austin Proehl last season. Proehl was privately worked out by current wide receivers coach Chad Hall and was drafted in the 7th round. Easley was first on the Hawkeyes in targets and receptions with 82 targets and 53 receptions for 516 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2018. He does most of his damage from the slot, and his elite athleticism is the foundation for his ability to get open in short areas.

He’s a crafty receiver that would be the perfect backup player to develop behind Cole Beasley;  their game is eerily similar.

Tier Two Targets

I’d say the likelihood of the Bills drafting one of these players is right around 50%, primarily because of where their talent and positions meet their projected draft round. First would be Ole Miss tight end Dawson Knox, a versatile tight end that had a private workout and official visit with Buffalo. He’s projected to be one of the top tight ends taken in this draft, but I am just not as high on him as most. I have him in the fourth round range. I won’t ignore how well he tested at the Combine, but that elite athleticism didn’t really flash on film often enough for me to draft him on day two. His lack of production, which inlcudes never scoring a touchdown, was because he was buried down the list of targets on the Rebels’ offense. Knox finished sixth in targets with 28 last season, grabbing 15 receptions for 284 yards and zero touchdowns.

But he’s a player who has tremendous value because he can align as an off-line tight end and lead in the run game or line up in the slot and present matchup problems for linebackers and safeties.

He is an archetype darling for Beane, measuring in over their average tight end height of 76 inches, weighing over 253 pounds, running a 40-yard dash well under 4.7 seconds, and having a three-cone time of 7.11 seconds. At this point, his play at the next level is purely a projection.

I wasn’t surprised to hear the Bills worked out former Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Kingsley Keke, as he is exactly the type of defensive tackle they are looking for to replace Kyle Williams. Keke has a diverse skillset that relies on explosiveness off the line and violent, quick hand usage that can throw a lineman’s balance off.

He was given the Mr. Versatile Award as well as the Strength and Conditioning Defensive Aggie Award at the team’s annual banquet because of his ability to play defensive tackle and defensive end on any given down. He weighed in at 288 pounds at the combine, but I am sure the Bills would like to see him closer to 305 which is what he reportedly played at. Primarily known as a run defender, Keke flashed some of his pass rush ability that got him 31 total pressures in 2018, including five sacks, down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. He flourished in one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl, beating the hands of some of the most talented offensive linemen in this class. Here you see him use upfield burst and his patented double-handed swat to win the rep against Elgton Jenkins.

Tier Three Target

Iowa tight end Noah Fant is one of the most dangerous receiving threats in this entire draft. His blend of size and athleticism doesn’t come around often, and he won’t be on the board for long come Thursday night. The Bills privately worked him out, probably to get a better idea of his run blocking skill set, because he has shown that he can be a monster in the passing game if given the opportunity.

I believe he is a great fit for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system, but drafting him ninth overall is too rich for my blood, and there’s almost zero chance he is available at pick 40. So obtaining his abilities is a longshot unless they trade back into the first round to snag Fant in the second half of the first round.


Who are the Bills most likely to draft in the first round?

 

0 Comments