While there are some interesting and promising signings, don’t be alarmed if most of these players fail to make the 53-man roster in 2020. The Bills have their deepest roster in years and are well stocked with young talent at many positions. But don’t count out one of these guys having a monster camp and finding a roster spot or at least making their way onto the practice squad.
The Bills have signed 8 UDFAs so far. Here’s the list in order of importance.
1. Trey Adams (OL), Oregon
This is the guy to watch. It was just a few years ago that Adams was on every scout’s radar and was even being talked about as a possible first-round draft pick. Fast forward three years and after a barrage of injuries (ACL, bulging discs in his back) and Adams isn’t the same player he was then. He still managed to garner All-Conference honors in the Pac 12 in 2019. He’s got great size (6’8, 318 lbs) and decent quickness. He’ll have a chance to compete for a spot at RT and if he’s able to stay healthy, he could be the steal of the UDFA signings. Mel Kiper had him rated the 73rd best prospect which would put him as a 3rd round talent.
2. Josh Thomas (S), Appalachian State
Thomas is another intriguing signing for the Bills. The two-time captain and 1st Team All Sun Belt safety is one of many players from smaller schools who never got a chance to make his mark at a Pro Day. The NFL Combine only invites so many players, and a majority are from Power 5 conferences. Thomas had his best game when App State went on the road and played South Carolina from the SEC. Thomas recorded 10 tackles and 1 TFL and helped lead the Mountaineers to a 20-15 win. He anchored a secondary that was the nation’s #3 pass defense in 2018, allowing only 8 TD passes for the entire season. He could be a diamond in the rough.
3. Marquel Harrell (OL), Auburn
Harrell made 31 starts at Auburn over the past three seasons, including every game in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Harrell earned 3rd Team All Sec honors as a junior in 2018. Harrell didn’t get an invite to the NFL Combine but was able to take part in Auburn’s pro day, as it occurred in early March before everything shut down. Harrell showed good strength with 25 reps on the bench press. His 5.2 forty time was average and would have ranked 20th among offensive linemen at the combine. He’s a good run blocker with good power but is a little stiff. Again, fliers on offensive linemen are always advisable, and Harrell is one that had good success in the highest levels of college football.
4. Garrett Taylor (S), Penn State
Taylor was a productive college safety for the Nittany Lions. He’s a two-time Honorable Mention All-Big Ten player and was Penn State’s second-leading tackler this past season with 84. He’s an average athlete and isn’t much of a ballhawk, which is likely why he wasn’t drafted. He only recorded four interceptions in his two years as a starting safety. Where Taylor thrives is in run support and as a tackler. He’s definitely worth signing, but I’m not sure his limitations as a pass defender will allow him to ever be more than a special teams guy.
5. Brandon Walton (OL), Florida Atlantic
Offensive linemen are always worth taking a chance on. Walton started every game for Lane Kiffin’s FAU team in 2019. He offers good size (6’4, 311 lbs) and versatility. Walton started at multiple positions during his college career and can play right or left tackle or even kick inside to guard. That type of versatility is important for an UDFA trying to make an NFL squad. While Walton does have good length and solid footwork, he has a tendency to get overwhelmed with speed rushers at times. FAU doesn’t play a high level of competition every week either, so the adjustment to the speed of the NFL could take some time for him.
6. Ike Brown (CB), Florida International
Brown started 23 games for Panthers in his career and was consistently one of their top defensive backs. He has a good frame for a corner (6’0, 191 lbs) and good speed. He ran a 4.46 forty at his privately held at the end of March. Quality of competition is a concern as is the fact that he never made any all-conference teams in his four years at FIU. But he’s a solid college football player with decent measurables. Worth a flier but it seems unlikely he’ll ever be on the active roster.
7. Antonio Williams (RB), North Carolina
Williams, an Ohio State transfer, was a productive part-time starter for the Tar Heels in 2018 and back up in 2019. He was also a special teams standout, which is likely what appeals to the Bills. While Williams offers a decent blend of size and speed, it’s unlikely he finds a spot in a loaded running back room in Buffalo. The Bills already have a promising young tandem in Devin Singletary and 3rd round draft choice Zack Moss. Veteran RB TJ Yeldon is still on the roster as well, as is free agent signing Taiwan Jones.
8. Reggie Gilliam (TE/FB), Toledo
Gilliam started as a walk-on and now is signed on an NFL roster. He’s already a success. As a player, he was primarily a blocking tight end and a special teams standout. He only has 18 career receptions, three of which went for TDs. Where Gilliam shined was on special teams. In 2018, he was 2nd Team All-MAC as he led the country with four blocked punts. For his career, he has six blocked punts. That ability almost certainly has to be the main reason the Bills have shown interest in Gilliam. He’s a longshot to earn a roster spot, but his path from walk-on to leading the nation in blocked kicks to being signed by the Buffalo Bills is inspiring.