Wanted to get another mock draft in before the Shrine game and Senior Bowl practices start.
Let's get physical.
This draft is all about increasing the size, toughness, and mauling capabilities across Buffalo's offense and defense.
It's obviously skewed towards a certain mentality - one that I don't think fixes everything, but that would be very fun to watch on draft weekend. Let me know if you agree.
Round 1: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Robinson has the potential to be a Jason Peters type of LT, but is only a 21-year-old redshirt sophomore (who just declared for the draft) and is still fairly raw as a pass blocker. What he does have is great size (6'5", 320 lbs), great athleticism, and the strength to manhandle a defender in the run game. Watch him against Alabama or Missouri and you'll see him pushing linemen 3-5 yards downfield on running plays. His pass blocking is already adequate, but would improve with more coaching to something great. If he stayed in school, he might have turned into a top 3 pick at LT. Instead, he starts at RT for Buffalo and becomes insurance in case Cordy Glenn gets injured or doesn't re-sign with the team.
Round 2: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
I know I said I would increase the size of the team, but Donald is a special case. That's because he's basically Kyle Williams reincarnated (Don't ask how that happened while Kyle Williams is still alive). With 28.5 TFL (not a typo) and 11 sacks this year alone, it's easy to see how much of a playmaker Donald is.
At 6'0" and 275-285 lbs, Donald is undersized, which is why draftniks currently place him below players like Louis Nix or Will Sutton. Honestly, if he weighed 305 and had the exact same production he does now, he'd probably be a top 5 pick already. But when you watch him on film, Donald's size doesn't matter. He handles linemen with ease, pushing them with his long (for his size) arms to close gaps in the run game, or disengaging one arm to tackle a runner coming by. On pass rushes, he swims and rips and does anything he can to slip past the defender and get to the quarterback. His short size helps him to get better leverage against taller linemen - so that's a plus. And his motor runs nonstop, just like Meatball.
DT isn't a direct need for the Bills, but it's important to have backups who actually have potential. Adding Aaron Donald is like adding Jerry Hughes last year - he isn't necessary, but has talent and the defense will definitely be better when he gets snaps. If/when he becomes a starter, I could see him making several Pro Bowls. Assuming Aaron Donald makes it to Buffalo's 2nd round pick - not a given with him being a potential riser, but currently project-able - I'd definitely take him due to that talent.
Round 3: Billy Turner, OT/OG, North Dakota State
Why not keep building up the lines? At 6'6" and 315 lbs, Turner comes from the prototypical LT physical mold. He comes from a smaller school, is a little unpolished, and hasn't yet filled out his frame, which is why I think he'll be available for the Bills in round 3. Turner is a three year starter for NDSU, and is effective at walling off the pocket with his body and using his strength to push defenders away in the run game. His legs are a little skinny and he looks like he could add 10-20 lbs in the weight room. There are a couple areas of technique where Turner struggles - he lunges a lot more than you'd like a lineman to, his pad level is pretty high, and his handfighting is unrefined. Here, I project him as a guy who could start at LG (or at least battle for the starting job), or would be able to sit on the bench and become an even better player after the first year. And, like Greg Robinson, he has the potential to be a Jason Peters type LT - we need players like that on the line.
Round 4: Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
We keep getting bigger in round 4, drafting the 6'6" 220 lb Brandon Coleman. Coleman is basically a poor man's Kelvin Benjamin. If you consider that I'm not a huge fan of Benjamin to begin with, you realize that the descriptor is a bit underwhelming. But Coleman has the size and body control, like Benjamin, to make tough catches, both in traffic and in the red zone. Also like Benjamin (and to a worse extent), Coleman has a tendency for balls to slip through his hands, on both difficult and simple catches. If he can improve his concentration, he could become a force on the outside of the hashes. Coleman also has some injury concerns, as he had knee surgery a bit less than a year ago and seemed to be slower in 2013 than he was in 2012. If he can recover back to the speed he had in 2012 when he scored 10 touchdowns and had 718 yards receiving, then he'll be a great starter in the league. With 18.9 yards per catch, he's a big play threat, and that's something the Buffalo offense needs. (Personally, there are other tall WRs I'd rather have in the fourth round, but I'm trying to use players that other people posting mock drafts haven't used, so that the casual draft follower can get to know a wide variety of players)
Round 5: Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt
You can never have enough defensive backs on the roster. Even with Gilmore, McKelvin, and Robey as a solid top 3, it would help to add another player who can actually play the position and not give up 200 yards passing if he has to start. At 6'0" and 185 lbs, Hal has classic CB size, and plays the outside position well. He has good awareness of where the ball is going, and is skilled at directing his mark out of bounds where he can't make the catch. He has good but not great cornerback speed (a 4.45 type of guy), but has deceptively fast closing speed - when the ball is in the air, he can make up the last 3 yards just in time to hit the ball away from the receiver.
He's also a classic corner in that he's pretty useless outside of pass coverage before the pass is completed. He is easily blocked out of the play on a run, and gives up the edge constantly to running backs. If someone is near him and he has a chance to make a tackle, he usually ends up diving at the feet and missing. He doesn't have the short-area quickness to make him an effective blitzer. While he makes lots of plays on the ball, he only has 3 career interceptions, so don't expect him to be a big playmaker other than PBUs. In short, while he's not a complete cornerback, he's good in coverage, and he'll be able to hold his own against bigger receivers if he has to fill in for Gilmore or McKelvin - something Nickell Robey can't do.
Round 6: Preston Brown, ILB, Louisville
A challenge every draft is finding a player to fit your needs when the available prospects just aren't very exciting. In recent years, it's been challenging for teams to find good centers or safeties, because the classes have mostly been very weak. This year, the weak group looks to be inside linebackers. Outside of CJ Mosley, I hadn't found a player who fit the template I was looking for: Big, takes on blocks, rarely overruns the play, wrap up tackler. I was beginning to wonder if there were any players like that in this draft.
Fortunately, I found Preston Brown. At 6'2" 255 lbs, he's a big thumper of a linebacker who would slot in next to Kiko as the Mike ILB in Mike Pettine's defense, where Nigel Bradham and Arthur Moats have been rotating. Brown does a small set of tasks very well - he fills a gap, engages linemen, disengages if the runner comes near him, and makes a tackle if the runner is near him. He's slow in his backpedal and not very good in coverage, but he simply seals off the running game. I saw plenty of 2 yard or fewer runs in the game film I watched, because Brown did such a good job collapsing the center of the line and leaving no room. With Brown collapsing the gaps within the offensive line, Kiko will be free to clean up the plays with tackles, or cover receivers downfield as needed.
Round 7: Cornelius Lucas, OT, Kansas State
We finish this draft the way we started, by drafting a massive offensive lineman. In the later rounds, there are three types of players you can get: Guys at undervalued specialist positions like FB and P, unathletic players who put up big numbers but probably can't handle NFL-level talent, and athletic/talented players who are still undeveloped.
Cornelius Lucas definitely fits in that last group. At 6'9 and 330 lbs, he would easily be the biggest player on the team. He didn't start until the 2012 season because of motivation problems - he reportedly didn't have his heart into football until the opportunity opened for him to grab the starting LT position in his redshirt junior year. For the next two years, he gained minor accolades as a first or second team All-Big 12 offensive lineman.
Lucas's main draw is the huge, Jonathan Ogden level size, which allows him to wall off defenders. His pass blocking is better than his run blocking - with surprisingly agile feet, he can slide defenders behind the pocket effectively. He doesn't seem to generate enough leverage to be effective blocking for the run, with his tall size working against him. He could improve his handfighting and the angles he takes on run blocking, and like all big players, could use some time in an NFL conditioning program to ensure he's at his physical peak. There are also questions about how serious he is about football, given that he didn't really try for his first three years in college. But as a 7th round flyer, he represents insurance if Chris Hairston never comes back from his injury, and again has the physical prowess to develop into something more valuable in the future, which is a theme I've kept throughout this draft.
Buffalo emerges from this draft with a lot of increased depth in certain areas of the team, but some spots with major question marks. The offensive line is revitalized with 2 new starters and a new backup: From left to right, Cordy Glenn, Billy Turner, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Greg Robinson, with Cornelius Lucas and Chris Hairston (if healthy) or Erik Pears (if not) as swing tackles and Antoine McClain or JJ 'Unga as a swing guard. The offense also gains a red zone WR. On defense, the defensive line gets an infusion of talent to back up Kyle Williams, a potential starting MLB is found in the late rounds, and a much needed backup cornerback for the outside is added. In fact, if Jairus Byrd re-signs, the defense is suddenly at least 2 deep across every position without any notable holes.
On the other hand, there is still a lack of talent at TE, with the team hoping that they re-signed Scott Chandler or that Tony Moeaki contributes something because they missed out on drafting a starter. QB is still a question mark, the HB/FB depth is unchanged, and if Jairus Byrd doesn't stay the safety position suddenly looks really bad. Still, this is now a tougher, stronger team, and if it can overcome weak play from a position or two, it will make a playoff run.