It is with equal parts disappointment and excitement that I am posting my first of three mock drafts for 2014. While all of us can (and should) lament another losing record and playoff-free season, we can also cling to the (probably false) hope that the offseason provides downtrodden NFL fan bases. The good news is that, unlike in previous seasons, the Bills need a light bulb to go on in only a single player’s head to field a quality team next year. With that stroke of luck and some well-placed pieces, who knows what could happen. Without further ado:
1) Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech) 6’0 194lbs
I understand how unpopular this pick would be; I also understand that other corners in this draft are currently considered better players than Fuller; I do not care. Pettine’s defense needs corners like a sword needs a whetstone (reference, anyone?). It worked in New York by leaning on the talents of Revis, Cromartie, and Wilson (among others). While we all love Nickell Robey as a player and admire his story, the fact remains that he will always be something of a liability schematically given his size. There is clearly room for him on this football team, but I would prefer it if Robey was not the de facto CB3.
Enter Kyle Fuller. This guy is a potential star in Buffalo’s defense. He is always playing faster than those around him, is equally useful playing near the line of scrimmage (good lord can he blitz) as he is in coverage, and he consistently plays with passion. I have had a difficult time identifying a part of Fuller’s game which is not either good or elite. Is cornerback the Bills’ biggest need? Not even close, but I repeat: Kyle Fuller is a potential star in this defense.
2) David Yankey (OG, Stanford) 6’5 311lbs
It should not be difficult to figure out where the motivation for this pick came from. Left guard was hands down the worst starting position on the team this season, and the Bills desperately need to get better there in a hurry.
Yankey is a gritty lineman who plays with power and aggressiveness. He often jars back defensive tackles on contact, and more than once I have watched him pancake somebody using only one hand. Yankey’s an all around solid football player and is a plug-and-play starter at OG. This is not a flashy second round pick, but it is one that is unfortunately quite necessary.
3) Ja’Waun James (OT, Tennessee) 6’6 318lbs
James is possibly the best player on a surprisingly good Vols’ offensive line. Besides imposing size and power, he flashes good athleticism and smooth feet. James has the look of a starting NFL right tackle that can move guys off the line and equally handle speed and power rushers in pass pro.
4) Devin Street (WR, Pittsburgh) 6’4 190lbs
Street is a player that, while lacking elite speed, has the ability to go up and high point the football. He tracks the ball very well when it is in the air and competes for contested catches once it arrives. Although Street is not the elite WR we all want the Bills to get, he does possess the ever elusive skill set to win jump balls against defensive backs. I also think it is worth noting that Street positively torched Doug Marrone’s Orangemen back in 2011.
5) Branden Oliver (RB, Buffalo) 5’8 207lbs
This is not the UB player you will hear the most about in the coming months, but he is still a very good one. I believe RB3 is quietly one of the bigger needs on the offensive side of the ball, as Hackett’s run-first approach needs as many guys with as many skill sets as possible to carry the rock.
Oliver is, in this humble alum’s opinion, an absolute stud. He consistently flashes power, speed, acceleration, and vision in his running. He also generates extra yards in tight spaces and is useful catching passes out of the backfield. Oliver’s blend of skills fits right in as a backup to Jackson and Spiller, and gives him the potential to grow into a much bigger role down the line.
6) Richard Rodgers (TE, California) 6’4 245lbs
This is an ‘upside’ pick at the tight end position. Rodgers has all the talent needed to be a good NFL tight end, but needs quite a bit more polish as both a receiver and a blocker. He improved a fair amount over the course of his two years playing for the Bears, and if that trend continues Rodgers could very well find himself playing on Sundays sooner rather than later.
7) IK Enemkpali (DE/LB, Louisiana Tech) 6’1 270lbs
This is a developmental prospect for Pettine’s linebacker coaches to work with. Although his path to the field at first is clearly as a special teamer, the most obvious fit for Enemkpali in Buffalo’s defense would be to work as a SAM on the outside. I think he also flashes the speed to drop off the line as a potential MIKE.
Questions? Comments? Mock drafts are always best when treated as conversation starters.