I am approaching these mocks as though I am Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott. Meaning as the days and weeks progress, I will try and “read the tea leaves” in predicting trades and player selections. As of now, the needs are endless, and there have been only a few hints as to where the Bills could be leaning. As the weeks progress and needs are filled and player and pro day visits come in, these mocks will change drastically.
This week I am mocking as though Levi Wallace, Robert Foster, Spencer Long, and Josh Norman are only sure-fire off-season additions. This means I have many “needs” that must be filled through the draft.
Major Needs: Edge Rusher, Wide Receiver
Moderate Needs: Secondary Running Back, Offensive Line Competition, Linebacker
Needs: Tight End, Defensive Tackle Depth, Secondary Depth, Punter
#22 AJ Epenesa, Edge Rusher, Iowa – 6’6″, 280
AJ Epenesa’s combine almost assures he will be there for the Bills at pick #22. While he isn’t a bendy, finesse rusher like many would want, he fits exactly what Sean McDermott is looking for. He will be stout setting the edge and powerful enough to bully tackles and get 6-10 sacks a season. Will he ever be an elite edge rusher in the NFL? Probably not. But he will probably always be a guy just on the outside of that conversation. Think Greg Hardy without the baggage. Not to mention, McDermott loves his Iowa guys.
Trade: Picks #54, #188, #207 to Carolina for #38 and #221
#38 Tee Higgins, Wide Receiver, Clemson – 6’4″, 215
I am personally not the biggest fan of Tee Higgins. I don’t think he has the speed to ever be a #1 alpha wide receiver. I am concerned that he just outright skipped the NFL combine. However, this draft isn’t about me. It is about the Bills Front Office. Both Benjamin Albright and Joe Marino, two very reputable sources, have been told by people on the inside that the Bills are quite fond of Higgins. Here the Bills trade up with their old friends in Carolina to secure him early in the second round.
Duke Williams had 10 targets in the wildcard game against the Houston Texans despite hardly playing all year. Allen proved in that game he can make the tight window throws necessary to have a receiver like Higgins in his arsenal. Think of Williams as a souped-up version of Duke Williams.
Trade: Pick #86, #125 to Seattle for Pick #64
#64 Terrell Burgess, Nickel CB / Safety, Utah – 5’11”, 192
The Bills move up on day two to fill two needs in one with Terrell Burgess. Another option here is small school safety Kyle Dugger. The Bills were one of the first teams to start scouting him. Josh Norman has come in to compete with Levi Wallace opposite Tre White, so, in this scenario, boundary corner is settled. Hyde and Poyer are locked in at the starting safety spots. However, Poyer is a free agent next year and Taron Johnson is injury prone and struggled against bigger receivers in the slot. Burgess is a player who can eventually succeed Poyer at safety and in the meantime contribute as an upgrade in the Dean Marlowe/Siran Neal role.
#155 Shaquille Quarterman, Linebacker, Miami – 6’1″, 241
First and foremost, the Bills are bringing in Quarterman for a free agent visit, so you know the interest is there. If no free agent is brought in, Quarterman would immediately compete with Vosean Joseph and Tyrell Dodson to fill a part of the role left by the retirement of Lorenzo Alexander. My guess is these players would not see the field as much as McDermott would start to implement more of his “Big Nickel” philosophy and make this position no more than a two down option.
#167 Patrick Taylor Jr., Running Back, Memphis – 6’3, 227
My biggest regret in this draft is not grabbing a running back I like earlier in the draft. As Brandon Beane would say, it is “just how the board fell.” In this scenario, Yeldon is your running back #2 and Taylor comes in with a chance to push him. At 6’3, 223 Taylor can be a bruiser, but he has some shiftiness and pass-catching ability. His tape will remind you of former Bill Chris Ivory.
#221 Lynn Bowden, Gadget WR, Kentucky – 6’1″, 199
The Bills have made contact with Bowden, and he provides tremendous flexibility for a late-round pick. If Tee Higgins is the Bills choice at wide receiver, he offers almost no special teams value. This gives Robert Foster a leg up on a wide receiver position because of his ability to play gunner on punts. Bowden is a selfless player having switched to option quarterback at Kentucky due to multiple injuries at the position. He can compete with Isaiah McKenzie as the “gadget” receiver and with Andre Roberts as a return man. He is known for his shiftiness in space and has the speed to develop as a down the field receiver. At worst, he is a great practice squad stash.
Positives of This Draft
The Bills add day one contributors in Epenesa, Higgins, Burgess and possibly Quarterman. Taylor and Bowden have long term potential as offensive contributors.
Where This Draft Fails
I made a conscious decision not to address offensive linemen in this draft. I feel the Bills will address this in free agency. Worst case scenario, you get Waddle back to act as swing tackle to Nsekhe and move Ford inside and keep Long as your versatile swing guy on the interior. Not ideal, but it was a decision I made based on the information we have so far.
I think the Bills really want to add a defensive tackle. They have been linked to DJ Reader in free agency and Ross Blacklock in the Draft. However, in this scenario, there are just too many other needs. They can coax Liegut back, and have he and Vincent Taylor compete to be DT #4. Not ideal but serviceable.
There simply is no way based on their needs the Bills can take a Tight End early in the draft. After Day Two, I could not justify adding a player I cannot confidently say is better than Kroft, Smith, and Sweeney.
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Feel free to hit me up on Twitter to let me know what you think. My handles are @JudgeMathes and @TheBillsGuys!