In light of the latest Buddy Nix comments, I have reengineered my mock draft into one that that mirrors the desires of the Bills staff. For those of you who missed the press conference, Nix displayed potential draft needs or wants coupled with his views on the team’s free agents. Focusing on the draft, Nix expressed the desire to acquire a pass rushing OLB (preferably with a 6-4, 260 lb build), at least one receiver (with speed and/or compete for the #2 slot), an offensive tackle, a tight end, two corner backs, adding depth to the linebacker corps in general and taking a QB if the time seems right.
Obviously there are trade-offs to take in consideration, not to mention the large number of additional players the Bills signed throughout the year (much like last year). Areas that Nix did not address include adding depth to the defensive line, safety position and the interior line. Areas that clearly do not need additional personnel include running back and nose tackle. Between trading on draft day and not seeing players show their skills at the combines yet, it’s hard to gauge what the Bills will satisfy first. But here’s my take on the issue.
1. OLB Courtney Upshaw – Alabama
WR Michael Floyd, OT Riley Reiff, ILB Luke Kuechly, OLB Whitney Merculis,
2. OT Mike Adams – Ohio State
OLB Vinny Curry, WR Alshon Jeffery, CB Chase Minnifield, OT Zerbie Sanders
3. WR Juron Criner - Arizona
DL Derek Wolfe, OG Lucas Nix, CB Stephon Gilmore, WR Dwight Jones
4. CB Donnie Fletcher – Boston College
ILB Emmanuel Acho, QB Russell Wilson, OT Nate Potter, CB Trumaine Johnson
4. TE Michael Egnew – Missouri
OLB Frank Alexander, WR Jarius Wright, OG Brandon Washington, TE Ladarius Green
5. QB Brock Osweiler – Arizona State
SS Sean Cattouse, CB Cliff Harris, OT Matt Reynolds, QB Case Keenum
5. ILB Jerry Franklin – Arkansas
TE George Bryan, WR Jordan White, DL J.R. Sweezy, ILB Carmen Messina
6. CB D’Anton Lynn – Penn State
FS Jerrell Young, TE Rhett Ellison, OT Tony Bergstrom, CB Tashaun Gipson
7. OLB Cordarro Law – Mississippi State
ILB Chris Marve, WR Patrick Edwards, C Ben Bojicic, OLB Miles Burris
For the first round, provided the Bills re-sign WR Stevie Johnson, I have the Bills drafting OLB Courtney Upshaw [6-2, 265, 4.76] of Alabama. Undoubtedly a major problem for the Bills in the 3-4 hybrid defense is generating a pass rush on the outside. Upshaw lacks great speed, but is very smart and is able to adjust to plays especially the run game. Additionally Upshaw has a variety of moves enabling him to play SAM OLB, JACK OLB or 4-3 DE. Over the last two years Upshaw has recorded 104 tackles (32.5 for loss), 16.5 sacks, 12 QB hurries and 6 forced fumbles.
Another player worth noting in the first round is WR Michael Floyd [6-3, 224, 4.54] of Notre Dame; needing a true #2 WR or a #1 WR is Stevie cannot be re-signed. Floyd has height, speed and good hands having caught 179 passes for 2,172 yards and 21 TDs over the last two years. Another player worth looking at is LT Riley Reiff [6-6, 300, 4.94] of Iowa. Given that Bell is often injured (and a free agent) while Hairston and Levitre struggled at times, the Bills could look for a cheaper, healthier and meaner player on the left side. Reiff has dominated over the last few years and is strong both blocking in passing and running situations alike; the only thing is a team like Miami could take him before.
Also worth looking at in the first round is ILB Luke Kuechly [6-2, 237, 4.80] of Boston College. Part of the 49ers success in being the #1 run defense has been their linebacker corps. Kuechly has been a beast over the past two years against the run and pass accumulating 374 tackles (22.5 for loss) and 6 interceptions. Lastly, another OLB prospect I expect to rise during the combines is Whitney Merculis [6-4, 265, 4.68] of Illinois. Merculis (a junior) may be a one year wonder, but had an incredible 57 tackles (22.5 for loss), 16 sacks, 6 QB hurries and 9 forced fumbles. Merculis has more of the build CHIX is looking for at OLB, and he has a wide range of moves helping Illinois rank top 10 in defense.
For the second round I have the Bills selecting LT Mike Adams [6-6, 320, 5.28] of Ohio State. This is on the assumption that between Bell not being retained for the aforementioned reasons. Adams has the size that Gailey likes in his linemen and Adams has shown dominate blocking skills in both the pass and running game.
In the third round I have the Bills draft WR Juron Criner [6-4, 215, 4.62] of Arizona. Criner needs to work on his speed, but otherwise has had a productive year due to his good size outside and hands. As such, Criner has good potential to compete for the #2 WR spot. Over the last two seasons Criner has caught 158 passes for 2,200 yards and 22 TDs.
For the Bills fourth round selection I have them taking CB Donnie Fletcher [6-1, 195, 4.53] out of Boston College. The Bills are looking for another big corner to develop after Florence and McKelvin both struggled heavily. Fletcher over the last two years has been good in coverage and run support and has made 89 tackles, 7 picks and 8 passes broken up.
For the Bills (second) fourth round selection via the Lee Evans trade to Baltimore I have them taking TE Michael Egnew [6-5, 245, 4.60] of Missouri. Given that the Bills may not have Scott Chandler next year, CHIX may look to grab a rookie talent. Egnew may not be the most impressive blocker, but he has good hands, speed and build. Egnew has caught 140 passes for 1,285 yards and 8 TDs over the last two years.
For the Bills fifth round pick I have them jumping at QB Brock Osweiler [6-7, 240, 4.83] of Arizona State. With Thigpen struggling to show anything special, the Bills could be looking at securing a long term backup with starting potential. Osweiler will need a few years of coaching to develop, but has shown a lot of potential and is a big guy to bring down in the pocket. While he lacks mobility, Osweiler is a gunslinger having completed 326 of 516 passes for 4,036 yards and 26 TDs to 13 INTs this past year.
I am also going to throw in another fifth round selection courtesy of Seattle from the Lynch trade (calls for an undisclosed pick based on performance and Lynch had a strong year). In this case I have the Bills bringing in ILB Jerry Franklin [6-1, 245, 4.60] of Arkansas to bolster their linebacker depth. Franklin has over the last two years made 201 tackles (23 for loss), 7 sacks, and 10 QB hurries.
For their sixth round pick of the draft I have the Bills taking CB D’Anton Lynn [6-0, 208. 4.53] of Penn State. Lynn has not been all that dynamic of a playmaker, but is solid in pass protection and healthy. As part of one college’s top defenses, Lynn has made 124 tackles, 4 picks and 12 passes broken up over the last two seasons.
For their seventh round pick, I have the Bills bringing in a second OLB Cordarro Law [6-2, 261, 4.67] from Southern Mississippi to further develop their pass rush. Law has been a major asset for the Golden Eagles pass rush having made 112 tackles (33.5 for loss), 15 sacks and 8 QB hurries in the last two years.