Here’s my first-round draft primer for casual Buffalo Bills fans who are very interested in the NFL draft as a fan but know essentially nothing about the players that’ll be taken and want a reference guide to be brought up to speed. Here’s a list of guys I think are in play for the Bills to take tonight, sorted by position and in order I think that position is likely to be addressed with that first pick.
Defensive End: I fully anticipate Jaelan Phillips (Miami) and Kwitty Paye (Michigan) gone and would nearly as surprised if Azeez Ojulari (Georgia) is there at pick No. 30. If the Bills keep the pick and don’t move up, the most likely draft candidates are Gregory Rosseau (Miami), Jayson Oweh (Penn St) and Joe Tyron (Washington). Tyron has a higher floor but lower ceiling, meaning he’s least likely to suck but also least likely to become a stud, whereas Rosseau and Oweh are boom-or-bust type guys. Oweh in particular is a guy that can someday lead the NFL in sacks like a Shaq Barrett or be out of the NFL entirely within a few years. If they go here with the pick, don’t expect much production as a rookie—this would be a long-term investment with Hughes/Addison/Epenesa/Obada pretty much intact for 2021. My personal preference if they stay at 30 and go this route is Oweh (I’d say Ojulari but I think he’s done before 30).
Cornerback: Patrick Surtain II. and Jaycee Horn will be long gone so I aint’ spending time thinking about them. Greg Newsome II (Northwestern) I really like a lot, but you PROBABLY have to trade up to get him. Caleb Farley is a top half of the first-round talent but has several injury red flags, including a ACL a few years ago and back issues for 2 years that required surgery. He also opted out of the 2020 season (Covid) in college (Virginia Tech). Again, a great talent (I mean, he’s a dawg out there) but I’m not sure Brandon Beane wants to roll the dice on a guy in a year where getting full medicals is harder than ever (Covid, no Combine, personal visits, etc). I think Asante Samuel Jr (FSU) and Eric Stokes (Georgia) could be dark horse candidates that some “experts” would call a reach. My gut feeling is Newsome is the only CB I’d be doing cartwheels over taking in the first round. I think the second round is chock full of good CBs (Elijah Molden and Ifeatu Menifonwu are two of the most notable) and Friday’s round two is a personal preference of mine, unless Newsome is there to get. (That said, I got a gut feeling about Samuel Jr)
Running Back: The only RB I truly think is in play for the Bills at pick 30 and possibly even in a trade-up scenario is Travis Etienne (Clemson). He’s a home run hitting, game-changing type of back that’d be so much fun in a Brian Daboll offense, a chess piece the Bills don’t have on offense. He’s an underrated runner of the football and a great weapon in the passing game as well. I think he would be an asset to Josh Allen by taking more short passes and perhaps resulting in less hits on Allen. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE the Bills taking him. Najee Harris is probably the best RB on the board but I don’t think as good a fit for Buffalo specifically, because he’s a better version of something they already have in Zack Moss, whereas Etienne is a completely different type of back. The downside/negative of taking a running back with the first pick is it represents poor draft value. Running backs rarely get signed to second contracts and when they do it usually ends badly with an overpay (see guys like Todd Gurley). Side note: If Etienne happens and for what it’s worth I did take him in my last mock draft—it was nice knowing ya Devin Singletary.
Interior Offensive Line: Unless Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC), a guard happens to slide to Buffalo at 30 the only center/guard option in round one for the Bills is likely Landon Dickerson (Alabama). I love him as a player. He can play guard this year and take over for Mitch Morse (huge cap hit next year) in 2022. He’s a captain, a leader and great player. However, much like Caleb Farley he has TONS of injury concerns, including a torn ACL just last year. In a normal year NFL teams could get more comprehensive medicals on these guys but obviously these last 13 months have been unprecedented times. As a result, I imagine this may leave Beane wary of pulling the trigger-which is too bad because if this guy is and remains fully healthy, he’s a perennial Pro Bowl type of talent that could anchor an O-line for years.
Defensive Tackle: Christian Barmore (Alabama) is the lone candidate whose selection wouldn’t surprise me. He’s a 3 tech defensive tackle who can also play the 1 tech, giving him versatility. I’ll admit pairing him with Ed Oliver would certainly be intriguing. Like defensive end, his selection should result in not putting immediate expectations on him—think similarly to last year’s Bills first pick, AJ Epenosa being brought along slowly. However, with Star Lotululei potentially in his last Bills season and not a ton of substantial depth at the position (Harrison Phillips, Vernon Butler and Justin Zimmer are all just “alright”) it’s one of those draft picks with long term in mind I’d be pretty good with.
Wide Receiver: I personally think there’s almost no chance the Bills take a receiver with the first pick, but there has been some buzz on it. Emanuel Sanders is only here for this year, Gabriel Davis had a great rookie season but has to prove he can handle a bigger role, Cole Beasley just turned 32 year old —and you can always operate under that premise that your franchise quarterback can never have too many weapons. For that reason there’s a handful of guys that’ll get drafted somewhere in the 20-40 range that could at least potentially be realistic for Buffalo, a list including Kadarius Toney (Florida), Rashod Bateman (Minnesota), Elijah Moore (Ole Miss) or Terrace Marshall Jr (LSU).
One Wildcard: I do not expect (whatsoever) the Bills to take a LB with that first pick but Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is a guy that is sort of “position-less” because he does so many things. He could be on the field for running downs at LB instead of AJ Klein but also out there for passing downs because he’s athletic enough to play a big nickel type of role as well. As a Notre Dame fan I’ve seen him play many times and freegin love this cat, but he will NOT be there at pick 30 and I don’t expect the Bills to give up assets to move up for a player that almost feels like a luxury, but it’s still worth noting that “JOK” would be one helluva bold addition.
Last Note: Obviously quarterback isn’t in play in round one and I firmly believe the same holds true for offensive tackle, tight end, linebacker (other than Koramoah) and safety.