Now that free agency has slowed down and most of the major pre-draft activities have concluded there seems to be more of a consensus forming around team needs and player rankings heading into the draft. With the draft still 50 days away a lot can change but given what we know now I think there is a reasonably good chance that the Bills will be picking one of the following five players in the first round; Mike Evans, Taylor Lewan, Eric Ebron, CJ Mosley, or Hasean Clinton-Dix. And I think we can even make a good case of narrowing that down to two players, Mike Evans and Eric Ebron.
Here is how I came to that conclusion.
- Given Doug Whaley's comments at the combine i think it's safe to assume we won't be drafting a QB in the first round.
- There is a consensus forming around the top 5 ranked non QB's in the draft; Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins and Jake Matthews. It's very possible that the first 8 picks will be made up of those 5 players along with the 3 top rated QB's. If Clowney, Mack or Watkins are available at 9 I think we take him, and that is probably true of Robinson and Matthews as well. I'm going to assume all 5 will be gone by the 9th pick.
- The second tier of draftable players is a little hazier but seems to break down along these lines
Wide Receiver - Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Odell Beckham
Tight End - Eric Ebron
Tackle - Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin
Defensive Line - Kony Ealy, RaShede Hageman, Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, Aaron Donald
Linebacker - Anthony Barr, CJ Mosley
Cornerback - Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard
Safety - Hasean Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor
- Putting that second tier in the context of the Bills needs and draft philosophy we can start to make some assumptions
Wide Receiver - Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin are the exact type of big bodied play-makers that the Bills have been talking about acquiring since the end of last season. Given a choice between Evans and Benjamin I think Evans is a slightly better player. With Evans playing at a position of need and representing good value at 9 I would think our chances of drafting him are high. Conclusion: Mike Evans, High Probability.
Tight End - Eric Ebron also fits the mold of the big bodied receiver the Bills have been looking for. Even with the re-signing of Scott Chandler I still consider Ebron filling a needed offensive roll, similar to what Evans would provide but at a slightly different position. Given this is a position of need and Ebron also represents good value at 9 I would also place our chance of drafting him at high. Conclusion: Eric Ebron, High Probability.
Tackle - Taylor Lewan is a better pure tackle than Zack Martin so I think we can rule Martin out. The Bills do like versatility on the OL but not at number 9. Right tackle is certainly a position of need but there are two factors that lead me to believe we won't be taking Lewan at 9. The first is that the tackle position is supposedly extremely deep in this draft and starting RT's can be found in the third round. The other is that historically the Bills, and most other teams, don't value this position highly enough to take one at 9. Of course that could change with Marrone in charge or maybe Whaley already having an inkling that Cordy Glenn's next contract will be cost prohibitive. Given all that I would still put our chances of drafting Lewan at medium. Conclusion: Taylor Lewan, Medium Probability.
Defensive Line - While there is some talent at DT I think we can rule that out as it's just not a position of need for the Bills right now. DE on the other hand is a position of need and the best 4-3 end in the draft seems to be Kony Ealy. Size-wise he compares pretty favorably to what Schwartz generally looks for in his DE's. I think if the Bills trade down he might be an option but I just don't think the value is there to select him at 9. Conclusion: No Probability
Linebacker - I think the only rush type LB with value for the Bills at 9 is Khalil Mack, so that would rule Anthony Barr out. Barr is a good player but isn't quite good enough yet to force into a Schwartz style defense where he would be an odd fit. Even with the signing of Brandon Spikes, on a one year contract, I do think that the Bills will still be in the market for a 3 down LB compliment to Kiko Alonso. Especially one that can play in the middle of the field like CJ Mosley. Assuming that Mosley checks out medically he does represent good value at 9. Before free agency I would have put his draft probability at high but now that the position isn't such a glaring area of need I would put it at low. It's a position that can be filled later in the draft. Conclustion: CJ Mosley, Low Probability.
Cornerback - While I don't think we can ever rule out CB I just don't think that there is value there at 9 especially given the Bills current depth at the position. I do expect that they will take a CB or two later in the draft. Conclusion: No Probability.
Safety - The BIll's do have a failrly large hole at the FS position and both Hasean Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor would provide decent value at 9. Of the two I think Clinton-Dix better fits that center field role that the Bills will be looking to fill. This would free Aaron Williams to continue at the SS role he started to excel at last year. But I'm just not sure that the Bills value this position highly enough and that Clinton-Dix would provide enough value to force the Bills to make an exception. Because of that I would place Clinton-Dix's draft probability at low. Conclustion: Hasean Clinton-Dix, Low Probability.
- That leaves us with five players that I would rank in the following order of probabiliyy
- Mike Evans (High)
- Eric Ebron (High)
- Tyler Lewan (Medium)
- Hasean Clinton-Dix (Low)
- CJ Mosley (Low)
Thoughts or disagreements?