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Buffalo Fanatics: Mock Draft 1

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Najee Harris and Alex Leatherwood

Fern Bannatyne

Pick 30 (Round 1):  Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri

This year’s draft should be an intriguing one for Bills fans, given that the team doesn’t have any glaring needs and there are so many differing opinions on how to improve the team.   Most agree that the focus should be on getting the team over the hump, and in particular, finding ways to counter the Chiefs as the kings of the AFC.   I also believe that the team’s free agency decisions will strongly influence their draft strategy.   If the Bills don’t sign one of the key starters hitting free agency (Darryl Willaims, Jon Feliciano, or Matt Milano), then they will likely prioritize finding the departing player’s replacement.

During Brandon Beane’s end of season press conference, his responses to questions about Matt Milano caught my attention.  Beane mentioned that Milano “earned the right to go to free agency and see what his market bears”.  That comment certainly makes it sound like Milano could end up out of the Bills’ price range, which would immediately leave a hole at the ever-important weakside linebacker position on this defense.

Enter my 1st round pick for the Buffalo Bills in the 2021 NFL Draft and immediate rookie starter if Matt Milano departs:  Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton.  Bolton is an explosive, physical, and energetic linebacker who has the instincts and decisiveness to make him a great fit for this defense.  His violent and physical style should fit with the makeup of this team and make him a fan favorite here in Buffalo.  His most ideal fit may be MIKE linebacker, but I’ve seen enough of him dropping into coverage to be confident of his projection on the weakside.  If there is a weakness with Bolton, it’s probably his physical profile.  At six feet tall and approximately 230lbs, he’s never going to be the biggest or the longest linebacker, and his lack of stature sometimes manifests in trouble getting off blocks.   But the positives far outweigh the negatives, and I have quite a bit of confidence that Bolton is going to be a day one, above-average starter in the league and eventual leader in the locker room.

Other players I considered choosing, although I do think some or all of these players will be gone by pick # 30, are Travis Etienne, Jaelen Phillips, and Gregory Rousseau.  At the end of season press conference, Beane also mentioned that having a better running game is key to this team’s improvement.  Beane mentioned that although our passing attack is potent, there’s always going to be games where running the ball is important.  Getting younger, cheaper, and more dynamic at edge rusher should also be a strong point of emphasis in the offseason.

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