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NFL Draft Notebook: First Round Favorites

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The 2021 NFL Draft is coming, and the Buffalo Bills will be looking to add pieces that can push them over the top in the 2021 season. For the past several weeks I’ve been breaking down players that the Bills could target at each defensive position. Today, we’re going to look at who the most likely first-round targets are one month out from the draft. 

Free agency has answered some of the roster questions facing the Bills. Emmanuel Sanders was signed to replace John Brown, and the top four receivers seem set (Diggs, Sanders, Cole Beasley, and Gabe Davis). It seems unlikely that the Bills will select a receiver with the depth they have and using their first-round pick last year to acquire Diggs. Perhaps the biggest signing of the offseason was Matt Milano. I wouldn’t completely rule out a linebacker in round one, but it’s not a glaring need anymore either. 

The main defensive positions I expect the Bills to target in the first round are defensive end, defensive tackle, and corner. Offensive line is a distinct possibility at #30, but my objective is to target defensive players. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five players I expect to be under consideration for the Bills with the 30th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. 

1.) Christian Barmore, DT Alabama (6’5”, 310 lbs.)

Barmore is a talented, pass-rushing defensive tackle and is exactly the type of player the Bills need up front. If you watched the College Football Playoffs, you likely saw Barmore destroying Notre Dame and Ohio State’s offensive lines. Buckeye guard Wyatt Davis, a potential first-round pick himself, was completely dominated by Barmore in the title game.

When Barmore is locked in, he’s an unstoppable force. The knock against him is that he takes plays off and isn’t consistent from play to play. I trust the Bills’ defensive coaches to get the most of Barmore, and I wouldn’t pass on him at #30. When he’s on, he’s the most disruptive defensive force in this draft. 

2.) Carlos Basham, DE Wake Forest (6’3”, 281 lbs.)

Basham has been mocked to the Bills many times over the past few months, and there’s no reason to deviate from that now. In my opinion, he’s one of the safer picks in the draft. He doesn’t have the high-level athleticism of some of the defensive ends who will be selected before him, but he was more productive in college than any of them. Basham is a powerful pass rusher and a stout run defender. He’s an intelligent, high IQ type player who plays with solid technique and a big-time motor. 

At the Senior Bowl, Basham was routinely moved inside on passing downs to provide an interior pass rush. At 280 lbs, I could see him being moved to tackle on 3rd downs to get additional pass rushers on the field. Basham will likely be available when the Bills are on the clock, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s available into the early second round if Buffalo is able to trade back a few slots and add some more draft capital. 

3.) Daviyon Nixon, DT Iowa (6’3”, 305 lbs.)

Nixon is one of my favorite players in this draft. He’s not as physically talented as Barmore, but there are zero concerns about his work ethic, consistency, or motor. Nixon is an all-around defensive tackle who will play all three downs in the NFL. Nixon played in Community College before transferring to Iowa, where he became an All American and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2020. Nixon led the Big Ten in sacks, unlike Jayson Oweh who had….none.

Nixon is equally strong against the run and pass. He’s a disruptive force that lives in his opponents’ backfields. Nixon will most likely be on the board at #30 and could be another early second-round target should the Bills trade back. The Bills can use some defensive line help against the run and in the pass rush, and Nixon is a guy who offers both.

4.) Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech (6’2”, 205 lbs.)

Every year, we see a player projected to go in the top 15 that slides down to the end, or even out, of the first round. This year, I could see Farley being that player. He might be the top corner in terms of talent, but he sat out the 2020 season and has struggled with injuries in the past. Now we are learning that he just recently had back surgery and wasn’t able to work out at his pro day. In a draft full of talented corners, I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams shy away from Farley and his uncertainty. 

Despite the injury questions, the Bills would have to give Farley serious consideration if he’s on the board at #30. At that point, the pure talent and ability outweigh the potential injury problems. It’s the kind of pick that could be a game changer for this defense. 

5.) Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB Syracuse (6’2”, 212 lbs.)

Melifonwu is a huge cornerback with good athleticism and explosion. He brings tremendous size and length to the position, but unlike many other tall corners, Melifonwu has fluid hips and is smooth in his backpedal. His length and explosion to the ball would be an intriguing fit opposite Tre’Davious White. If he outgrows the corner position, his size, speed, and ball skills would allow him to make a seamless transition to safety.

You can never have too many ball-hawking cover men in this day and age. This draft is especially deep at the corner position, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see five or more off the board in the first round. 

There’s still a month to go before draft time, and there will certainly be some more movement before then. Two defensive ends many Bills fans are excited about, Gregory Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips, reportedly left scouts blown away during their pro day workouts. It seems unlikely at this point that either make it out of the top 20, much less to the Bills at #30. If either of them unexpectedly falls, you could move them to the top of this list.

What do you think #BillsMafia? What defensive players would like to see the Bills target in the first round?

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