The latest trend in draft news does not look good for Buffalo. The word coming out is that GMs at the top of the draft are much more enamored with the talented non-QB prospects at the top of the draft than they are by Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, and Derek Carr. It's entirely possible that Buffalo may not have any options that please them when it comes time to make the pick at 9. So what do they do? Today, I'll try to make a guess at one scenario Buffalo could attempt. First: the rankings!
This week we're going to go over running backs and fullbacks. There are a wide range of different players in both groups, so you can probably find a player who interests you even in the late rounds.
This isn't a stellar running back class, but teams should be able to find a reasonably productive role player for whichever niche they want in the draft. There are speed guys, power backs, receiving backs, small school stars, and troubled talents looking for redemption. Also, a guy who left the Combine because he heard voices he thought was some sort of alien God telling him he would get drafted by the Seahawks if he skipped his workouts. Adam Muema, you're only on my rankings so that I can remember NOT to draft you.
- Dri Archer (1st round)
- Carlos Hyde (2nd round)
- Ka'Deem Carey (2nd round)
- Tre Mason (2nd round)
- Bishop Sankey (2nd round)
- De'Anthony Thomas (3rd round)
- Lache Seastrunk (3rd round)
- Isaiah Crowell (3rd round)
- Branden Oliver (4th round)
- Terrence West (4th round)
- Storm Johnson (4th round)
- Marion Grice (4th round)
- Charles Sims (4th round)
- Jeremy Hill (4th round)
- Zach Bauman (5th-6th round)
- Devonta Freeman (5th-6th round)
- Tyler Gaffney (5th-6th round)
- Tim Flanders (5th-6th round)
- Rajion Neal (5th-6th round)
- Henry Josey (5th-6th round)
- Jerick McKinnon (5th-6th round)
- James Wilder Jr (5th-6th round)
- Silas Redd (5th-6th round)
- Andre Williams (7th-undrafted)
- Kapri Bibbs (7th-undrafted)
- Antonio Andrews (7th-undrafted)
- Jerome Smith (7th-undrafted)
James White (7th-undrafted)
- Damien Williams (7th-undrafted)
- Adam Muema (Don't draft)
Not going to scout unless I get lots of free time or requests: LaDarius Perkins, David Fluellen, George Atkinson III, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Alfred Blue
Spotlight 1: Dri Archer, RB/WR/Offensive Weapon, Kent State
I'll admit, like Doug Whaley, I can be a sucker for raw athleticism. While I'm careful to check my opinions against the film, if I see a guy put up a sub-4.3 40 or 40 bench press reps or a 40 inch vertical, I'm going to sit up and take notice because it usually represents a guy who can become a great player if he has a good head. Dri Archer is one of those guys. All he did was run a 4.26 40, the second fastest time in modern recorded history, with a blazing fast 1.46 second split. And put up 20 bench press reps, at 5'8" 176 pounds. And put up a 10 foot 2 inch broad jump, at his small size. And a 38 inch vertical leap. He's an athletic marvel, much like Marquise Goodwin was before him.
Put on the tape from Kent State and you'll see a true offensive weapon. Archer was used as a running back, and with his elite speed and exceptional balance, he is incredibly dangerous in the open field. He still needs to improve as a pass catcher, letting the ball into his body too much, and obviously he's not an every down player. But he's a special athletic talent, and if he goes to the right team (Chip Kelly and the Eagles?), he will become a terror. He's a first round grade because Dexter McCluster was picked 36th and Marquise Goodwin, the part time footballer, was a 3rd round pick. Archer has been playing football much more productively than either one and he's on par athletically with both. I don't know if he gets picked anywhere from the first to the third round, but he's a potential gamechanger, and I can't ignore that talent.
Spotlight 2: Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
Besides having a badass nickname, Johnson is one of my more liked running back prospects in this draft because he has a bunch of useful attributes. His open-field awareness is excellent, as he's always scanning ahead for the possibility of a new lane opening up. On pass plays, he keeps aware of the quarterback and the defense and will change his assignment if it opens up the possibility of a positive play. He's a bigger back with strong legs that can fight for extra yardage on weaker tackles. I also think he has excellent balance, especially near the sideline. One problem he has is fumbling - he always holds the ball in his right arm, and not every handoff is handled cleanly. Johnson also needs to develop patience, as he ran right into his blocker more than once in the games I watched. But if you're looking for a guy who can be an exciting running back in the NFL, Johnson is a day three pick who has enough good attributes that you think he can be one.
When it comes to fullbacks, you're generally looking at a less talented, smaller sized collection of tight end type players. With that in mind, I prioritize players who I think have particularly good play in one area (blocking, receiving, or special teams) or who I think have athleticism which could help them have an impact somewhere.
- Jay Prosch (5th-6th round)
- Trey Millard (7th-undrafted)
- Gator Hoskins (7th-undrafted)
- JC Copeland (7th-undrafted)
- Nikita Whitlock (7th-undrafted)
- Reggie Jordan (7th-undrafted)
- Ryan Hewitt (7th-undrafted)
- David Sims (7th-undrafted)
- Ray Agnew (7th-undrafted)
- Chad Abram (7th-undrafted)
Spotlight 1: Gator Hoskins, TE/FB, Marshall
Hoskins is definitely more of a receiver than a blocker as a fullback. He led all college tight ends in touchdown receptions the last two years, with 10 in 2012 and 13 in 2013. At 6'2" 250, he doesn't have the ideal size to be a red zone target, and his 4.73 40 time means he needs to be physical in order to gain separation. The bright side is that he is well versed in physical route running, and he elevates very well considering his size, giving him a good catch radius. As a blocker, he leaves something to be desired, though, which sort of makes him a man without a position. Too slow to be a receiver, too short to be a red zone tight end, not a good enough blocker to be a fullback.
Spotlight 2: Nikita Whitlock, NT, Wake Forest
Yeah, you read that right. Whitlock was actually the nose guard at Wake Forest, earning second team All-ACC honors for an 82 tackle season with 19 TFL and 9 sacks. But he's converting positions for the NFL, given that he's only 5'10" and 250 pounds. He's trying out for teams as a fullback and also as a linebacker. Keeping that in mind, you have to consider him with some projection. Athletically, he has the tools to be a potentially good player. He put up an astonishing 43 reps on the bench press at his pro day, and his 4.82 40 and 33 inch vertical leap aren't bad scores for a fullback or MLB. As a two-way conversion project, Whitlock is waiting to be molded into a productive player. He might not get drafted, and he might not make a team his rookie year, but he might end up as a fan favorite with whichever team he latches onto.
Today, the Bills got unlucky. Today, the following players were off the board: Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Eric Ebron. Today, the Bills are going to trade down.
Buffalo trades their first and third round picks to Dallas for the #16 pick, the #47 pick, Dallas's 3rd round pick, and Dallas's 7th round pick
Round 1: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Well projecting this trade was easy. From among the choice of the top QB in the draft, Aaron Donald, any cornerback, Taylor Lewan... It's very understandable why Jerry Jones would be interested in trading up. It helps that the Cowboys have a bunch of picks. Also, the Bills have experience doing the same type of trade from last year - so the negotiations should go rather smoothly.
Picking the player to take in the first round - that was hard.
Let's assume that the 9th to 15th picks go something like this:
9 - Johnny Manziel to the Cowboys (JERRUHHHHHHH)
10 - I'm gonna go ahead and project that the Lions traded up for Sammy Watkins. So Cleveland, Jacksonville, Oakland - one of them takes Blake Bortles here.
11 - Anthony Barr to the Titans.
12 - Taylor Lewan to the Giants.
13 - Haha Clinton-Dix to the Rams.
14 - Aaron Donald to the Bears.
15 - Justin Gilbert to the Steelers.
So my board is lined up a little different than Buffalo's, but if I try to merge them, here's who ends up on my potential pick list: Darqueze Dennard, CJ Mosley, Jimmie Ward, Kyle Fuller, Kony Ealy, Calvin Pryor.
If I was going BPA, Dennard or Mosley would be my choice. But I don't want to be exiting this first round without addressing any needs for the team. So even though it doesn't thrill me, I take Kony Ealy, the 6'4" 273 pound defensive lineman from Missouri.
Let's start with the good: 4.57 40 at his pro day, long arms, 14 TFL, 8 sacks, 1 INT, 6 PD, 3 FF in his last season. Has good strength and positional versatility, able to line up at OLB or DT in addition to DE. Flexible bend around the edge. Has an array of pass rush moves. Now the bad: I think he much prefers the rip/dip move over his other techniques and that limits his effectiveness. He also comes up high out of his stance and lets linemen into his body. He has to refine his technique before he can be a 3 down starting DE, but he has the talent to make it happen.
Ultimately, I'm not thrilled by picking Ealy in the first round, but at least I traded down first, at least he comes before a significant talent drop-off, and at least I addressed a need. Let's keep it going into the second round!
Round 2a: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
I've been meaning to work this guy into a mock draft, and I decided it's time to sit down and do it. If you were to ask me, besides the top 3 receivers in the draft (Watkins, Evans, and your choice of Lee/Beckham Jr), which receiver gets you the most excited about his future? I would say Allen Robinson. If he falls to pick #41 we should consider ourselves extremely lucky - I have a first round grade on him, and would be okay with picking him at pick #16 depending on the board.
Allen Robinson is a 6'3" 220 pound wide receiver who has been a big part of the Penn State offense for the last two years, putting together 174 catches for 2450 yards and 17 TDs in that timeframe. He's an explosive athlete who I like to compare to Cordarelle Patterson - fast, flexible, makes quick moves in the open field for YAC, and physical when fighting for the catch. And when I say explosive, I mean EXPLOSIVE - Robinson put up a 42(!) inch vertical leap and an 11 foot even broad jump at his pro day, to go with a sub 4.5 40 time. Those numbers aren't flukes, either. He had a 39 inch vert and a 10'7" broad jump at the Combine. Then he added 12 pounds to his frame and improved his numbers a couple months later.
He dropped in some people's boards because of a 4.60 40 time at the Combine, but the numbers in his other drills showed that he has the latent explosion that people want in a receiver - especially after improving to a 4.4X time at his pro day. If you're looking for a playmaking #1 receiver, I don't think Allen Robinson is there yet, but I think he will be within a year or two. I really hope Buffalo is able to draft him, if they can't get a guy at the top of round 1.
Round 2b: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Having addressed two needs with talented players, we use our extra pick to get a bit of a lottery pick on someone who was considered a top 15 pick for most of the early draft process. At 6'6" 322 pounds with huge arms, Kouandjio is a big bulky tackle in the Cordy Glenn mold. He is experienced and can start immediately at RT. He's very strong and punishing in the run game, but has slower feet than Glenn, which may limit him to RT.
Then there is the medical issue (gotta love these Alabama players entering the NFL with injuries. THANKS SABAN). Kouandjio has arthritis in his knee. It is probably the cause of his slow movement. Dr. James Andrews says Kouandjio should be fine, but others believe his knee is on a countdown and Cyrus might only have 5 years in the league. I know nothing about arthritis, but my research from Wikipedia tells me that there are several treatments for osteoarthritis, and exercise, surgery, knee braces, and weight loss can all be used to mitigate the effects. Given the treatment options and Dr. Andrews' diagnosis, it sounds like Kouandjio should be workable. With that in mind, I feel okay drafting Kouandjio, knowing that if he works out, I get a great talent at a bargain price, and if he doesn't work out, maybe we can collectively sue Nick Saban out of football and bring on the reign of the Hurry Up No Huddle offense!
Round 3: Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
Entering round 3, I can do a bit of a board reset. The top 3 needs (OT, DE, Offensive playmaker) have been met. From here on out, the pressure is off and I can turn to drafting anyone I think will make the team better. I start with a safety who probably picked off a few of EJ Manuel's passes in practice a couple years ago. Brooks is a 5'11" 198 pound safety prospect who kind of reminds me of a not quite as athletic, not quite as dumb Donte Whitner. Now before you get all up in arms, remember that we're talking about Donte Whitner as a 3rd round pick, not Donte Whitner as a top ten pick. Calm? Alright.
There are some things I really like about Brooks. He's a rangy defender with a 4.41 40 who has the size and athleticism to handle FS, hybrid S, SS, or even spot duty as a cornerback. He reads the quarterback well instead of attempting to play off the receiver. He's always swarming around whoever has the ball, and is a tough and durable player. That being said, his hands are inconsistent, as is his tackling technique. On one play he'll wham someone so hard you wonder if their head is still attached, and on the next he whiffs altogether. One time he'll make a beautiful diving interception, and the next he'll alligator arm at a pass and it'll fall cleanly into the receivers hands. Brooks is definitely a flawed prospect, but he's a talented one, and it can't hurt to add him to the safety rotation with Williams, Williams, Meeks, and Graham.
Round 4: Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame
We continue adding to the defense in round 4. I think my plan for this draft is to build up the defense as much as possible. We added the two things EJ needs most to keep developing. Now we're going to give him a strong defense with plenty of depth so he gets lots and lots of second chances.
Bennett Jackson is one of my favorite cornerback targets in this draft. At 6'0" 195 pounds, he has great size for the position. He's spent some time on the track team and he converted from WR to corner in 2011, so he's still learning the position, and there's definitely room to grow. You can tell he's a cerebral player - he's very quick to react when the offense sets up for runs and screen plays. His eyes follow the QB well, even in man coverage, allowing him to make plays on the ball or leave his man to track down the actual target. He defends his routes physically but is lacking in strength, which causes him to get pushed around by receivers, especially on blocks. He has a high backpedal, and his hip transition is stiff, but with a 4.46 40 and his track background you have to think there is potential for more fluidity as his technique gets corrected.
You can never have too many good defensive backs. After adding Brooks and Jackson, the Bills now have a full complement of talented athletes in the secondary, able to handle any passing situation a team might throw at them.
Round 5: Brandon Thomas, OT/OG, Clemson
In round 2 we grabbed a guy who might have limited tread on his tires in Cyrus Kouandjio. In round 5, we now hedge our bets with a player who won't be able to play for the 2014 season, but could conceivably be a long term starter from 2015 onward.
Thomas is a 6'3" 315 offensive lineman with a guard's size but a left tackle's footwork. He has average strength for tackle and probably needs to bulk up his lower body (much like Chris Hairston did when he was drafted out of the same school), but showed good technique overall. He was being talked about as a second round pick until he tore his ACL a couple weeks ago, and it can't hurt to add him to the roster and let him redshirt while we run with Kouandjio/Pears/Hairston. Best case, we succeed with Kouandjio and Thomas becomes the LG.
Round 7a: Tyler Starr, OLB, South Dakota
Starr is a really intriguing prospect. At 6'4" 250 pounds, he has great size for the position. He's very much a reactive player. He feels like what I would see if Mike Pettine (yes, the coach) was 18 and played linebacker. A very creative player who disguises his gap assignment before the play, is very flexible around the corner, finds the ball well, and is susceptible to giving up big plays because he takes bad angles and doesn't have good athleticism. He has a good initial burst, but his top end speed is really lacking, and his tackling relies on him building up a head of steam to make a big hit.
I think he's definitely a work in progress, a 4-3/3-4 SAM LB prospect who needs to be reined in a bit and taught to refine his game and read plays better. But if he can stick on special teams early in his career, you might end up with a starting SAM linebacker, or at least an Arthur Moats type, which is plenty to ask for from a 7th round pick.
Round 7b: Roosevelt Nix, DT/LB/FB, Kent State
There are actually two Nikita Whitlock types in this draft. The other one is the 5'11" 250 pound Roosevelt Nix, a defender from Kent State who was first team All-MAC in all 4 of his years as a starter. Finding a spot for Nix is difficult - because he only played DT at Kent State, there's no film of him playing as a MLB or FB, his likely positions in the NFL. So you have to extrapolate the skills given what you do know. He has average athleticism to handle either position, and he seems to be a high motor player with good awareness on the field. At the very least, he can stick on special teams and be a two-way situational player. After adding Nix, the Bills have gained more depth on the defense and special teams units.
The Bills weren't able to get one of their favorite players at the top of the draft. Instead, they traded down, got three new starters, and then added a slew of defensive depth (plus a developmental offensive lineman) in the later rounds. What do you think?