Dougie Mack’s 2014 Draft Manifesto
This is my 2nd installment of the Manifesto, as I only try to write these for important draft years. For any loyal fan, ending the futility and playing after week 17 definitely qualifies in the ‘things we hope to happen before we die’ category.
My mindset for the manifesto focused on what the Buffalo Bills might do in this draft. I tried to focus on the weakest areas, in places where improvements or upgrades are warranted. Now, some of these areas might be addressed in free agency. That would alter some things, but I stand by my overall analysis.
AUTHORS NOTE: I’m doing this before the combine, strictly from watched tape. And I FIRMLY believe that a players tape is more important than how much they bench or how fast they run in a straight line. However, those 2 things matter when trying to decide between two players who have proven themselves on tape.
POTENTIAL FUTURE STARS I LOVE (But not on the Bills radar)
Jadeveon Clowney (DE South Carolina) – Clowney should be the number 1 pick, no questions asked. The fact that people question his work ethic is a tad troubling; however, talent will outshine the negatives. Think of the best pass rushers from the past 30 years, they all have size and length, strength and quickness. Add in a bevy of moves, Clowney at worst will be a Jason Pierre-Paul type, but at best, he has some qualities that remind me of the great Bruce Smith. So yeah, he’s more than worthy of being the top pick.
Jason Verrett (CB TCU)- While small, 5’10", 180, this guy is the top cover corner in the draft. What I like about him, as compared to other top db’s, he will press you at the line and run with you after the jam. This guy moves his hips well and has extremely good cover skills. The small size pushes him back in the draft to late 1st or early 2nd, which is so damn absurd that it borders on ridiculous. Flat out, this guy has all the traits that make a stud cover NFL corner. Dee Milner went top 10 last year, and this guy is so much better than Dee Milner. If he could add 10 pounds of muscle, he’ll be a pro-bowler for years to come.
Johnny Manziel (QB Texas A&M)– Mr. Polarizing. Regardless of what happens, good or bad, he will be judged like nobody else. In that regard, he’s the 2014 version of Tim Tebow. The only difference, Manziel has more arm strength and NFL accuracy. Tebow never had those necessary tools. Now, I admit Manziel has his flaws: short, not the strongest of arms, not your prototypical pocket passer. That said, Manziel has all the intangibles to be an above average quarterback, who will bring excitement with each game. His scrambling abilities and football acumen are through the roof.
The games against Alabama (2012 and 2013) prove that the guy can play. And those that say he will get injured, I’m not sure where that comes from. He hasn’t missed a collegiate game despite taking several hits. Yes, NFLer’s are bigger and stronger, but you can’t tell me Johnny won’t be able to adapt. He reminds me a lot of Russell Wilson: Both small in stature, but also in the intangibles that you can’t test for. Intangibles are what separate winners (Brady, Brees, Rodgers) from the NFL strugglers (Geno, Stafford, Romo). I firmly believe Manziel has those intangibles. Worst case, he gets hurt early and often, never having a chance and being labeled as a Ryan Leaf type draft bust. Best case, a mix somewhere between Russel Wilson and Brett Farve. With 4 teams in desperate need for a quarterback, he will surely go top-5.
1st ROUND BUSTS (None for Buffalo. At least I hope not)
Derek Carr (QB Fresno State)– His collegiate numbers were great. His arm is phenomenal. And to his credit, he looked like a top-10 selection in the senior bowl game. Be warned, looks can be deceiving. I question Derek Carr’s accuracy and decision making. The film I watched on him highlighted a plethora of receivers either slowing up to come back for the ball or having to adjust to make a fantastic catch (check out Devonte Adam’s film. This should showcase my point here).
On top of this, he has a propensity to sail balls. Many big armed quarterbacks that throw heaters, sail balls. What makes it more troublesome for Carr is his already questionable accuracy. My last knock on him is ‘competition’ games—meaning the game against top flight competition. This is where Manziel (vs Bama), Bridgewater (Cincy, Miami and UCF), and Bortles (The Louisville game) all stepped up to prove their worth. In Carr’s bowl game, against USC, his only top flight defensive competitor, Carr laid an egg. Passing for a season low in yards and touchdowns. This is really concerning considering the USC defense will be nothing compared to an NFL defense.
Carr might have a chance to have a successful career if he slips, goes the 2nd round route and is given time to learn the NFL game. That way he could hone his arm and work on throwing into windows, the way Ryan Mallett has. (Mallet might be a serviceable NFL quarterback when given his opportunity). I don’t think Carr will have this luxury, as I think he’ll go top-10, and with a top-10 pick comes high expectations.
Haha (Sean) Clinton-Dix (Safety Alabama)- Confounding is the word that best describes how so-called experts say he is a top-15 pick. I do not see it. As an NFL safety, you must cover immense amount of ground, be able to read an offense and have off the charts intuition. There’s a reason Ed Reed made so many big plays. Same with Polamalu. Clinton-Dix displays almost none of that to me. He is not a big hitter. I question how much ground he actually covers. And I haven’t seen any stand-out intuition. Unlike past Alabama safety Mark Barron, who was the chief in the back end of the vaunted Alabama defense, so much so that I would have loved the Bills to draft him (he went before us to Tampa).
On film, I watched Clinton-Dix make the wrong read or take the wrong angle more times than I saw him make the right play. Buyer Beware with him. I don’t think he’ll be much of anything as an NFL safety. A middling guy who sticks around the league, maybe. But a standout worthy of a 1st round selection, NO WAY.
And let the record state, Walt Aikens in the 3rd round presents much more potential than Clinton-Dix does. (more on this later).
Kony Ealy (DE Missouri) - Here’s the perfect example of a player who excelled on an excellent defensive line, making the player seem more valuable than he really is. My best example of this concept is the NC State defensive line from the 2006 draft. That team produced 3, 1st round draft picks: Mario Williams, who earned it. Manny Lawson, who is average at best. And John McCargo, who is out of the league and an utter bust. The Missouri defense featured Michael Sam, Kony and Markus Golden (who will be an early pick in 2015). Therefore, unlike Ja’Deveon, Kony was not squared up versus the very best each and every play. He was one guy in the cog of solid cogs, making him under the radar and allowed to roam and attack as he pleased.
What adds to my perplexed state, Kony’s film was lackluster at best. Against Florida, he displayed almost zero pass rushing moves. He did register a role out sack, but it was not like he was breathing down the quarterbacks’ neck. Then I watched his tape versus legit 1st rounder Greg Robinson in the SEC championship. To say he was dominated by Robinson is an understatement. Kony could not shed a block to save his life against Robinson. Again, he did register a strip sack, not against Robinson. He slanted through the line at the perfect time versus the guard, chasing down the quarterback and causing a strip sack. That was a pretty good play. But one solid play out of 2 games of film is not really what I’d want with my 1st round pick. In my humbled opinion, this guy doesn’t have the quickness or the pass rushing moves to be anything, but a wannabe pass rusher hoping to get snaps on the defensive side of the ball.
Cyrus Kouandijo (Left Tackle Alabama) – I wouldn’t put him in the full brunt of the bust category. He’s not on the same potential disappointment level with the other 3 guys. I will say, Cyrus will be a bust if a team drafts him in hopes that he will be a future left tackle. Now, if a team drafts him and switches him to the right side, he at least has a fighter’s chance. His strengths are size and form, most of the time. That said, he cannot stop a speed rusher on the outside. They get the corner nearly every time with little resistance.
On top of that, when a speed rusher blasts the corner, his footwork doesn’t look good. He gets flatfooted and panics by trying to club them. At the pro level, this will leave him very vulnerable to the outside-in pass rushing move. Two other things stood out to me: one, he doesn’t get to the 2nd level very well. Two, at times he grabs while run blocking.
A pertinent note: while studying film I’ve noticed many of these line prospects holding quite a bit and college officials do not call it too often. In the NFL, more times than not, those grabs will be called (Unless it’s the playoffs of course). Not saying Cyrus will be an utter bust. I can see him as a decent RT. But as a top-20 pick, and a team clamoring for a LT drafting him, I see all the qualities of a bust in him.
Onto the BILLS
There are a few reasons I placed players where I put them on the Bills Big Board.
Logically you want studs when drafting top-10, and projects don’t have much a place.
I’m basing these picks as the Bills making the playoffs for the next few years; therefore, this might be the last draft in awhile where we are drafting top 10.
My possible 1st rounders are based around the premise that 3 quarterbacks and Ja’daveon Clowney will be drafted before the Bills pick at #9. If a 4th quarterback goes before the Bills pick, even better.
Our positions of the most need (in this order): O-Line, WLB, TE, WR
Those of you who think tackles grow on trees should watch some film of some of the top tackle prospects: I can see why top-flight, NFL caliber tackles are tough to come by. Jeez.
Bills 1st Round Draft Big Board (My picks would follow this exact order. If say #1 and #2 are gone, then I’d choose #3)
Sammy Watkins (WR Clemson) – A quarterbacks’ dream and definitively the best receiver in this draft class. Watkins’ number one attribute are his tremendous hands. The way he snatches the ball from mid-air is unlike anyone I’ve ever scouted. He plucks, not letting the ball get to his body, which prevents unwanted and unnecessary drops. It sounds dumb, but plucking a ball as he does is a skill very few possess (think how Jerry Rice used to snatch a football, that’s what Watkins does). Add to that, a well built, 6’1", 205 lb frame that can add some more muscle. I also love how he’s not scared to punish a defensive back by lowering his shoulder with a boom. Throw in legit 4.3 speed and you have a dangerous offensive weapon. Watkins possesses the uniquely dangerous combination of housing a screen or catching a deep ball.
Like I say, Watkins is a premium prospect without many in his comparison class. His unique blend of all-around talent will make him great; therefore, I’m saying, Dez Bryant, except Watkins has better hands and a better attitude. This makes Sammy Watkins my favorite player that the Bills could add from this draft class.
Jake Matthews (LT Texas A&M) – Matthews is the smoothest pass blocker in this draft class. Everything he does flows in flawless harmony. He stays upright, uses his arms in perfect leverage and has just enough mean-streak to make for an ideal tackle. When you scout him, and then watch other top-tackles, there really isn’t any comparison. I saw very few mistakes in anything he did. Matthews would be on my ‘Potential Future Stars’ list, except the Bills should be targeting him; therefore, I saved his write-up until here.
Add to his many positives, the fact Matthews spent 2 years at Right Tackle, and you have a perfect fit for the Bills (where he’d find himself for a few years at least). An offensive line with Glenn and Matthews locking down the ends and Wood in the center sounds like the makings of one of the best in the league. It reminds me of when I heard the names Hull, Richter, Wolford and Ballard strung together. The best way to make EJ better, make sure EJ is comfortable in the pocket for as long as possible. Matthews is a sure-fire prospect, and he would definitely enhance EJ’s confidence.
ONE LAST POINT – In terms of Matthews, in most draft classes he is a lock for a top-3 pick. The ONLY reason the Bills have a chance for him at #9 is the fact that so many teams might be taking quarterbacks, forcing a stud like Matthews to get overlooked and slip a little. He would be a definite-unquestionable steal at #9. And this chimes in with my (b) point from above, when will we be able to get a guy this good again?
Greg Robinson (LT Auburn) – Saying ‘see-ya’ after his sophomore year at Auburn, this somewhat raw, somewhat polished prospect left with valid reason. His name has shot up the boards, and I know the old adage, ‘Beware of the Fast Risers.’ Robinson’s stock is so far up that some have actually had the audacity to say he’s better than Jake Matthews. While that’s a foolish statement (Matthews is cemented as the top tackle. He’s that good), Robinson is not too far behind, leaving little ambiguity that he is the 2nd best tackle in the 2014 draft class.
For his size, Robinson is a grizzly-monstrous freak. He’s tremendous in the run game, and he gets to the second level with tenacity. This guy seems to take genuine pleasure in getting down the field so he can take shots at smaller db’s and safeties. Tackles who can motor down the field provide even more value, and Robinson trumps to the top of this category (even better than Matthews).
Robinson’s unknown is his pass blocking. At times he gets locked up on his heels’, leaving him out of position. Now it doesn’t happen every time, but on more than one occasion, a speed rusher left him dangling in no-man’s land. In the NFL, if your footwork suffers, you will be a liability. The good news, Robinson would only have to anchor the right side for the Bills, leaving him more wiggle room and plenty of time to develop. His style of play, especially in the run and screen game might be the best thing CJ Spiller could ask for. And if he develops into a prolific pass blocker, Robinson would become the best tackle in the league. That is why many have him shooting up the draft boards.
In terms of the Bills, I think Robinson is our 3rd best value. If Watkins and Matthews are gone, Robinson presents a top-5 talent (again, thanks to the quarterbacks) at #9. Again, I don’t know the next time we’ll have an opportunity to draft such a specimen, so if he’s there, and the other are gone, Greg Robinson should be our pick.
Khalil Mack (WLB Buffalo) – A chiseled specimen who is as gifted as they come in this draft class. What stands out about Mack, and the reason he is a perfect fit for any defense, is he knows his responsibilities. If he has outside contain, he’ll corral his territory, stringing out a running back. If he’s supposed to drop into coverage, he’s better than average at it. And if he has to rush the passer, he’ll get there. He’s the prototypical three-down outside linebacker, which just so happens to be a position that the Bills need. I also love that he already has the strength and muscle to play in the league; he’s not one of these ‘bulk-up’ to play projects (Aaron Maybin was a bulk up to play guy, how’d that work out).
Playing next to a guy with Kiko’s talents would benefit Mack in a tremendous ways, as Mack has never played on a defense with studs; forget about ever playing with a fellow all-star linebacker. And for the 2014 Bills, Mack’s immediate upgrade would be most pronounced in his ability to help our run defense, an area that has plagued us for years. He reminds me of Navarro Bowman. And that’s a real-deal comparison.
Anthony Barr (OLB UCLA)- Love this guys’ pass rushing potential. He’s big and lean, with the distinct frame to add bulk. He’s raw with only two years of football at the linebacker position. He’s going to have to have to improve on his run defense/ contain and will have to develop zone coverage responsibilities. Any negative will be more than made up with his pass rushing abilities. Once tenacious NFL coaching sets-in, showcasing new pass rushing moves, his value will be doubly-enhanced. This guy has Terrell Suggs written all over him. If you need a pure pass rusher, Barr is the perfect pick.
PROECT ALERT - I mentioned early that the Bills should draft a guy who’s ready to play now at #9, Barr would fall out of that category. If we chose him, Barr would be a 3 year guy; meaning, it’d take 3 years before he started paying huge dividends. However, long term, Barr could carry the torch once Mario Williams’ contract ends (no coincidence, 3 years). But the fact that I don’t think Barr could impact the 2014 team much is the reason I put him 5th on the overall draft board. (If the other 4 are taken, I’d have no qualms with Barr).
MY TRADE DOWN A FEW SPOTS, STUD PLAYER SCENARIO:
LET ME BE CLEAR: We should NOT trade if: Sammy Watkins and Jake Matthews are available. Those two present too much value. If they are gone, I understand there might be slight uncertainty surrounding the other 3, and we might find more value later.
If the Bills do decide to drop to say, the #15-20 range in the draft, Jace Amaro should unequivocally be the pick; as he’s the best tight end and a huge value. Even better, he fills a large-need while gathering another high draft choice.
Jace Amaro (TE Texas Tech) – EJ needs a big weapon for those indefensible seam routes and a large red-zone target: Amaro checks off both categories with an UPPER CASE CHECK. He is far and away, the best pass catching tight end in the draft. This guy played plenty of slot-receiver in college and was used very similar to how New Orleans uses Jimmy Graham (occasionally on the line). The weirdest part about him, he’s actually a really underrated blocker. I watched several plays where he’d lock on a linebacker and drive them backwards.
But without a doubt, his greatest quality is as a seam-breaker, the likes of which the Bills haven’t had, maybe ever. Amaro caught at least 8 passes in 10 games last year, very impressive for a seam-busting tight end. Obviously, as mentioned earlier, Amaro has many traits of Jimmy Graham, and you’re telling me this wouldn’t help EJ?
As a side note, some have Eric Ebron from UNC over Amaro. I don’t see it. In my opinion Ebron is not as good a blocker as snippets suggest. He’s average, not great. For the Bills blocking style, Amaro would be just fine for us. The second part, Amaro has much better hands and possesses better route running skills than Ebron. If the Bills traded down, and decided to choose Ebron over Amaro, I wouldn’t hate them for it, I just think Amaro is a perfect fit as a new-age Tight End. Again, new-age tight-ends to me are Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas. Amaro fits in their mold: a decent-enough blocker, but a more than adequate receiver who can actually change games. There’s a reason many analysts have the Patriots nabbing him at #30. They know his ability and value.
RUMORED 1st ROUNDERS I DO NOT WANT:
CJ Mosley (LB Alabama) – This is not a knock on CJ Mosley as a player. I think CJ will actually be a very good pro. If we didn’t have Kiko. I’d welcome this with open arms. However, we do have Kiko, plus a d-coordinator who runs a 4-3. Mosley is an inside guy, much in the vein of Kiko being an inside guy. I really wouldn’t want to move either from their natural position. Therefore, I feel that Mosley is a player best left untaken by the Bills. Especially if natural position guys like Mack and Barr are there for the taking. Again, this is not a knock on Mosley, he should be a top-15 guy, I just do not think he’s a good fit with the Bills.
Mike Evans (WR Texas A&M) – Why not Mike Evans? I have the Bills top-prospect as Sammy Watkins. I have WR as a Bills need. I know the Bills could use a big target for EJ. That said, Mike Evans does not offer the value at #9, especially in a rather deep receiver draft.
Yes, Evans made some plays at Texas A&M and yes he has the big frame. I question Evans’ speed, route running and ability to make plays on a consistent basis in the NFL. Meaning, I am questioning whether Mike Evans will ever be a better pure receiver than Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson.
Many of Evans receptions were off broken plays, where Manziel scrambled and heaved him the ball. This tells me a few things: he was not open right away (THIS IS FAR AND AWAY MY BIGGEST CONCERN). On very few occasions did Evans run a smooth, quick, perfect route where Manziel hit him in-sync. This leads me to question his route running. On top of that, Evans benefitted from a coverage breakdown that Johnny Manziel presents. Many of his big plays were based on broken plays, rather than smooth routes. My last concern is his numerous jump ball catches in college. Those routine college jump ball plays are not as easy to complete in the pro’s. No way, not with hard-hitting safeties bearing down. Besides, do I really want EJ throwing 7 jump balls a game? For my blood level, one or two would suffice; thank-you.
Sure, Evans would probably upgrade our red-zone offense and sure, he could be good for 10 touchdowns, but there are too many questions to make me want this guy top-10 in a year when we are close and others receivers later might turn out to be as good. Evans would be a luxury, but by no means do I think he is a sure fire stud.
Later on, I’ll give some other receiver options that the Bills could draft and gain better value.
Bills 2nd Round Big Board (Depends on what happens)
At pick 41, things get a lot more unknown. This pick will more or less be determined by what we do in the first round:
If we draft a lineman in the 1st: a LB, WR or TE are in play here
If we draft a LB in the 1st: an O-lineman, WR or TE are in play
If we draft a WR or TE: The pick would have to be an O-Lineman or LB
With that stated, my favorite potential player falling to the 2nd round would be Kyle Van Noy. In my opinion, he’s a 1st round talent; and if we nabbed the tackle in round 1, Van NOY would be more than an ideal 2nd rounder. My problem is, I’m not sure if he’ll slip to the 2nd round.
Kyle Van Noy (OLB BYU)– Truth be told, we need to pray, as Bills fans that Van Noy slides to the 2nd round. I’m not sure how he’s not mentioned in the Mack, Barr and Mosley top linebacker conversation. This guy had 13 sacks 2 years ago and while this dropped to 4 sacks last year, he became a more versatile backer because of his added coverage responsibility. Van Noy is only a half-step slower than Von Miller was out of college. This is not a knock, as Von Miller had the fastest 1st step out of any collegiate athlete I’ve seen. On top of this, Van Noy has an arsenal of pass rushing moves: swim, spin and bull rush to keep blockers off balanced. My one negative while watching him was an occasional ball carrier would slip his arm tackles here and again. This is an easy fix with proper coaching.
If the Bills draft an offensive tackle in the 1st round, Van Noy would be an absolute steal in the 2nd, while still filling a rather large need on our team. This guy can play from day 1, and would help to sure up any issues on an already developing defense.
Jordan Matthews (WR Vanderbilt) – A proven receiver who’s had a well-documented career in the SEC despite not having anything resembling an above average quarterback. He has the size at 6’3" and pretty good speed. I love two things about Matthews: One, I love that he lines up all over the field: slot, outside, in trips. This is great because the Bills run numerous packages. This was one of the strengths of Woods. You could line up Woods anywhere, which made him extra-valuable. The second great thing is Matthews’ hands. He makes some extremely difficult catches. This will serve him well in the pro’s. By all accounts Matthews is as hard a worker as you will find; Jerry Rice is his uncle for Christ sakes. On top of this, Matthews runs very good patterns utilizing many double moves. There’s a lot to like.
The one knock, which pushes him out of the 1st round, is questionable separation. From film though, he negates this with his tremendous hands and route running. In addition, the Bills sporadic configurations would be a blessing. Also, I’m less concerned with the separation issue because by all-accounts, Matthews has a ‘whatever-it-takes’ to improve work ethic. This will surely help to overcome this blip. Overall, Matthews would be a great 3rd receiver in Buffalo, hopefully taking over for Stevie one day.
Kelvin Benjamin (WR Florida State) – At 6’5" Benjamin fits what Bills fans have clamored for: great size. He also produced several quality games (Florida, Duke) and many spectacular catches along the way (see the Clemson game). Some have him as a 1st round prospect, that’d be foolish and I don’t see that value at all.
A favorable comparison for Benjamin is Justin Hunter from last year’s draft class. Both are tall (Hunter 6’4") and both needed work on NFL route running. Hunter was selected #34 despite having legit 4.4 speed (some had him in the 4.3’s) and I don’t think there’s any way Benjamin runs that fast. This presents a worry to me: without burner speed, separation becomes difficult, and when you’re not the best route runner, the word ‘bust’ creeps into the brain. I immediately think James Hardy.
The reason I could see him as a valuable commodity at 41 is the Bills wouldn’t need for him to step right in to set the world on fire. Benjamin could slowly work his way into the red-zone packages, eventually being a great target near the goal line. Hopefully he could learn from Stevie and Woods at route running, and become a big time player. Benjamin provides more value at 41 than Evans provides at 9. They are basically the same player, there’s not much that distinguishes between the two players.
Troy Niklas (TE Notre dame) – Frankly, this guy’s blocking really stood out on film. He does an excellent job keeping his pads level and driving opponents backwards. In fact, he blocked better than some of the lineman I scouted. This makes him the premier blocking tight end in the draft. And I know what you’re saying, we already have Lee Smith, who’s only function is blocking. What separates Niklas from blocking only tight-ends are his hands’. Niklas made several catches where he had to extend for the ball while knowing he would be hit by an oncoming opponent. And he must have some athleticism if Notre Dame was running TE screens for him.
Niklas will be an interesting player, if he posts some decent times running to prove the athleticism, I’ll go on the limb and say I like him a lot more than ASJ (the next guy on this list and widely regarded as the #3 TE prospect). And I believe he is truly worthy of a 2nd round selection.
Austin Seferian Jenkins (TE Washington) – This name will come up because the Bills need a tight end. If they choose him, I understand the Bills are doing so on potential and trying to fill a need. BUT, on the film what really stands-out is how handsy he gets when blocking: we’re talking nearly every play. When engaged, he locks opponents around the shoulder pads. In college this was not called at all. In the pro’s, this will surely be called. If he can’t clean up the blocking, he will be of no use and cost the team too many penalty yards, negating any other offensive positives he may present. His size and potential are the reason he’s rated so high. His egregiously offensive, eye-alarming blocking is the reason I’m not the biggest fan.
ASJ is intriguing prospect because he would fill a huge need: a pass catching Tight End. I just can’t help wanting another team to choose him before we pick at 41. That said, I’ll keep him as a reluctant 2nd round possibly for us. I recognize the upside, but I do believe Niklas might be the better pro.
Marquise Lee (WR USC) – It may be a surprise, but I could see Lee slipping on draft day. He’s short and scrawny, plus he’s missed a few games from injury: Red flags in my book. That is one reason for this slippage, and if he does, he could be a steal. Lee will have legit 4.3 speed at the combine. He also possesses great hands and a knack to make plays. All things I love.
If he is available in the 2nd round, this pick would take me 2 seconds, and then in the 3rd second, TJ Graham would have his walking papers. This guy is an amped up version of Graham, and this is even acknowledging Graham is a productive downfield blocker. If we chose him, we’d have four explosive wideouts; all with big play potential. EJ would have no choice, but to improve. He’d get better by default. Maybe Lee slipping to 41 is a pipedream. Maybe there’s a chance, stranger things have happened.
Zach Martin (Offensive GUARD/ tackle Nortre Dame) – You talk about an Andy LeVitre clone, this guy is it. Martin played tackle in college, but he translates real well into a guard. I say this because I’ve never seen a tackle pull as much as this guy, which showcases his primo athleticism. Martin played with a mean streak and slid his feet well. The added bonus to this guy is he can play tackle in a pinch. And who knows, Cordy Glenn was supposed to play guard at the pro level, and now he’s cemented as a quality left tackle. Maybe, just maybe, Martin can dominate with consistency from the right tackle spot. That would make him an utter steal. However, a stud at the Left Guard position makes him more than adequate for a 2nd round pick.
DISCLOSURE: I do not value guards that are chosen in the 1st or 2nd round; however, Martin’s right tackle possibilities, along with his versatility certainly upgrade him. Like I say, we chose LeVitre in the 2nd round, Martin reminds me of LeVitre.
Cameron Fleming (Right Tackle Stanford) - I’ve seen him projected as a 5th or 6th round prospect and I’m miffed as to why. Perhaps it’s because he was a right tackle at college (which is the position Buffalo would need him at). The guy is 6’ 6" 315 pounds, and is very stout at the tackle spot. He looked smooth and effortless in his kicks, and was in proper position at all times. In the screen game, he made several plays down the field, similar to that of Greg Robinson. And with that Stanford run game always grinding, he’s a proven commodity when moving the ball on the ground.
In a positive way, Fleming reminded me a lot of Robinson, and from a pure footwork standpoint, I think Fleming might be better right now. Now I’m not saying he’ll be as good a pro as Robinson, but what I saw on film showed me a guy that should have 2nd round grade. Fleming is someone who will be able to play the right tackle position at the pro level.
Depending on what we prioritize, I see Fleming as real right tackle steal. I would pick Fleming over Martin if our coaching staff values a quality right tackle over a quality guard. If we took Martin over Fleming, it’d have to be because our guard position was so miserable and the coaches have faith that Hairston can come back at full strength.
Also, Martin might be valued as a 2nd rounder. From what I’ve read, Fleming is a 5th rounder. Therefore, it’s not out of the range of possibilities that Fleming is still available in the 3rd round. There’s a lot to like with him.
OFFENSIVE LINE NOTE: I watched A LOT of film on college lineman. And a lot of the top prospects get by with sub-par footwork. It’s amazing more college coaches don’t improve this useful skill. In honesty, Fleming is WAY MORE PRO READY than any of the 10 guys that might be listed ahead of him. Watch him play and then watch a Morgan Moses or Antonio Richardson, my money is on Fleming.
MY TOP 5 1st and 2nd ROUND COMBINATIONS:
Watkins (1st) and Van Noy (2nd)
Matthews (1st) and Van Noy (2nd)
Watkins (1st) and Zach Martin (2nd)
Matthews (1st) and Matthews (2nd)
Matthews (1st) and Niklas (2nd)
AUTHOR’S NOTE: If I had any combination of the 14 players I listed for potential Bills selections for the 1st and 2nd round I’d be pretty accepting.
You’re telling me: Mack and Matthews wouldn’t be a huge asset or how about Robinson and ASJ…
And don’t sleep on Jace Amaro. I could sell myself on the Bills drafting him at #9, if I knew they were getting Van Noy on the back end.
LATER PLAYERS OF INTEREST
After the 2nd round, all bets are off. At this point, you’re looking for guys who might be able to contribute at some point: whether on special teams or an injury fill in. I detailed 9 guys who the Bills might target based on their abilities and our possible needs.
Gabe Jackson (Guard Mississippi State) – I’ve read this guy being mocked to us in the 2nd, that’d be too early for him, but if we can get him later than that, I’m sold. There’s plenty to like with Jackson. He weighs a solid 330, yet he’s pretty quick on his feet. He gets down field and has the looks of an NFL guard. My only knock on him: his hands get too high at times. This leads to some fifty-fifty holds. Again, I wouldn’t spend a pick earlier than a 3rd rounder on a guard, but he’s a player that’d be worth a 3rd round pick.
James Hurst (Tackle UNC)– If he doesn’t break his leg, I’m potentially clamoring for him as our 2nd round pick with a starting right tackle ceiling. While leg injuries to offensive lineman can become pretty severe, if we can land this guy in the 4th or 5th round, he’d be worth a flyer.
De’Anthony Thomas (RB Oregon) – small back with game changing speed. If you can get a 4.3 speed running back in the 5th round, more times than not, you take that shot. His big play ability is too good to pass up. And don’t tell me about former Ducks flaming out (LeMichael James). This guy is faster than James. In my estimation he projects well as Darren Sproles type back and more than worthy of a 5th round project. If he sucks so be it. If he becomes a dynamic player, the whole front office looks good for it.
Charles Sims (RB West Virginia) – Here’s an intriguing prospect especially with our future needs at running back. His size: 6 foot, 215. Fred Jackson’s size: 6’ 1", 216. From film, Sims has a lot of Freddie qualities. He’s great out of the backfield catching passes. He runs plenty between the tackles and gets the most from each run. He’s not the fastest back in the world, but fast enough. Moreover, his best quality is blitz pick-up. This is an area many college and young running backs struggle with. Sims is actually preciously phenomenal at helping to protect a quarterback. Sims has all the makings of a 3rd running back, who could take more of the load as the year progresses. 3rd / 4th round sounds right for our next great running back.
Dominique Easley (DL Florida) – This guy is the same player as Kony Ealy, yet he’s a projected 3rd or 4th rounder. Granted, this is pretty much due to his torn ACL, but still. What stands out is the fact that he moves along the entire defensive front. He goes from right DE to the NT to the left DE to a nose who drops into coverage. I wouldn’t spend a first or 2nd round pick on him, but his potential and at least his versatility make him a worthy 3rd rounder.
Chris Borland (LB Wisconsin) – Remember Zach Thomas, Miami’s undersized linebacker that took them to the top of the defensive ranks? This is Zach Thomas’ clone. If he were 4 inches taller, this guy’s a fringe 1st, early 2nd round pick. As is, he probably a late 3rd, early 4th. You can never have enough quality football players on a team. I know one thing, I bet this guy busts his ass and at least makes the team as a special team stud.
Marcus Smith (DE Louisville) – I want to say I’m incredibly high on his game and he might be a steal, but I CAN’T. He is tremendous at holding the edge. He had 14.5 sacks. He is extremely good at dropping into coverage. It’s scary how good he is at dropping into coverage. However, his glaring weakness is fairly glaring: a lack of a first step. I’m not sure he could ever beat an NFL tackle for a sack. Now this is slightly negated by his run stopping ability, and I do love him as a back-up lineman who could really play quality snaps, but unless he were used in creative blitzes, I don’t picture him as a pass rushing specialist. Possible NFL comparison: Shaun Phillips.
Martavius Bryant (WR Clemson) – This guy was a surprise entry to the draft, but in five years, he might end up as one of the better receivers. He’s 6’5" with more speed than the other tall receivers in the draft (Benjamin, Evans). He made several plays at Clemson where he went up and got a ball. If the Bills are looking for someone to simply stretch the field and make big red-zone plays without worrying about using a high pick to draft a receiver bust; drafting Bryant in the 4th or 5th round may be in order. The talents there, I’m not sure this guy will ever put it all together to be a stud receiver, but he could be a solid 3rd receiver for years to come and as good as the more hyped-up Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin.
CJ Fiedorowicz (TE IOWA) – This guy is a spitting image of Scott Chandler. Big. Above average blocker. Average athleticism. Prone to an occasional drop. He’s not going to be the game changer the Bills are looking for, but if we let Chandler walk, adding a tight end certainly won’t hurt.