This is going to be my last mock draft where I use completely different names in my choices. After this one, I'll do a mock where I choose the players as if I were making the draft selections, and I'll finish the series with mocks attempting to pin down Buffalo's draft day plan. Hopefully this series has been helpful to you and you have learned about some different draft prospects!
First thing I'm going to do is give you an updated reference on the prospects I've detailed in my mock drafts up until now. You can go through those names and get an idea of what skills they bring to the table. Keep in mind that draft stock is fluid, and some names were drafted in places a few months ago that they clearly will not be in a few weeks. For example, Aaron Donald, who went in the second round of my second mock draft. I noted that he was a player likely to rise in the future, and that's just what happened. Also keep in mind that some of the mock drafts were made with incomplete information - for example, drafts made before the Combine workouts. Each name is linked to the mock draft number listed in the parentheses.
OT: James Hurst (1), Greg Robinson (2), Billy Turner (2), Cornelius Lucas (2), Kyle Bryant (3), Morgan Moses (5), Jake Matthews (6), Wesley Johnson (7), Cameron Fleming (7), Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (7), Cyrus Kouandjio (8),
C: James Stone (3),
This time we take a look at the guys who play at the middle of the field: Inside linebackers and centers.
A decent class, with 3 or 4 guys I think could play 3 downs and a few more who would be very good 2 down LBs. There are a couple likeable names here.
- CJ Mosley (1st round)
- Chris Borland (2nd round)
- Jordan Zumwalt (3rd round)
- Shayne Skov (3rd round)
- Yawin Smallwood (4th round)
- Preston Brown (4th round)
- Greg Blair (5th-6th round)
- Max Bullough (5th-6th round)
- DeDe Lattimore (5th-6th round)
- Avery Williamson (5th-6th round)
- James Morris (5th-6th round)
- Andrew Jackson (7th-undrafted)
- Roosevelt Nix (7th-undrafted)
- Jack Tyler (7th-undrafted)
- Glenn Carson (7th-undrafted)
Spotlight 1: Chris Borland, MLB, Wisconsin
Borland is a divisive prospect. I can totally understand if someone out there considers him a first round prospect, and I also understand equally if someone has him as a 3rd or 4th rounder. I have him somewhere in the middle, currently placing him towards the end of my 2nd round rankings. What's the deal? Well, Borland is definitely undersized. He's 5'11" 248 pounds, and has 29 inch T-rex arms. He's also not very athletic, with a 4.83 40. However, I really like Borland because of his instincts and his knowledge of the game. He's a film rat who always seems to know exactly where the ball is going, and for a MLB that's a very important skill to have. Lots of the guys I viewed would attack a gap only to have the RB explode out of a different one. Borland doesn't have that issue. He has a lot of core strength and is a good wrap-up tackler. The question is if his small size and lack of range will hurt him in the NFL. I can't say for sure, but I am intrigued by the possibilities of what could be.
Spotlight 2: Yawin Smallwood, MLB, Connecticut
I really wanted to like Smallwood. With good size at 6'2" 246 pounds, great functional strength allowing him to stack up linemen, and great vision allowing him to flow to the ball, there are plenty of tools there for a successful LB. Unfortunately he's going to really struggle with a lack of speed and agility. Unless the play is right in front of him, it's far too easy for him to lose contain and have the RB or QB cut past him. He's probably going to be limited to the Mike in a 3-4 or a 2 down MLB in the 4-3, in my opinion.
Center is one of those positions that rarely has good depth and rarely has a dominant player come into the NFL. Still, this class has a couple good names this year, so I think it's good that Buffalo has shown interest.
- Marcus Martin (2nd round)
- Weston Richburg (3rd round)
- John Urschel (4th round)
- Travis Swanson (4th round)
- Corey Linsley (4th round)
- Russell Bodine (5th-6th round)
- Gabe Ikard (5th-6th round)
- James Stone (5th-6th round)
- Tyler Larsen (7th-undrafted)
- Bryan Stork (7th-undrafted)
- Jonotthan Harrison (7th-undrafted)
Spotlight: Marcus Martin, G/C, USC
Martin has come on late as one of my favorite line prospects in the draft. At 6'2" 320 pounds with 34" arms, he has the perfect build for a center, being short enough to build leverage against defenders and thick enough to anchor, with long arms to counter against any swim moves and catch blitzing defenders before they reach their target. Martin has excellent core strength and really explodes into his stance after every snap. He moves well, although he gets a bit uncoordinated at times trying to set up a block downfield. And he'll block downfield - he'll run 20 yards with a play if he has to in order to try and hit one more defender away. Martin started primarily at guard at USC, but played center this year. He still has room to grow, but athletically shows the profile of a player who could hold his own against the Vince Wilforks of the NFL.
In this edition's mock draft, we see Buffalo encountering a similar problem as my last mock draft: All of the top players they'd like to target are off the board. Luckily, San Francisco comes calling, looking to trade up for a cornerback they're afraid could go to Detroit at pick #10.
Buffalo trades their first and fourth round picks to San Francisco for picks #30, #56, #61, and #94.
It's a steep drop for Buffalo, but they come out with the ability to add some serious depth around their team in the second day of the draft.
Round 1: Jimmie Ward, FS, Northern Illinois
It's kind of tough to decide on an impact player to build your draft around at the bottom of the first round, knowing that more than 20 names are already going to be off the board. It's even harder when you're trying to avoid using a dozen names that would conceivably be pickable in this position. With that in mind, Jimmie Ward is a name I haven't used yet who brings a nice combination of need and value to the Buffalo Bills. The name should be on everyone's mind - he was Brian's second round pick for Buffalo in the SBN Writers Mock Draft.
The 5'11" 195 pound Ward is a pure free safety who brings exactly what is needed to the position - very good eyes for watching the play, and very good instincts for knowing where the ball is going. He's fluid in coverage, and skilled at using his hands to break up passes and make interceptions. Athletic and fast, he likes to close on the run and is rarely fooled by a cut the runner makes. His tackling technique is inconsistent and he needs to improve there, but there's clear upside here with Ward's natural coverage talent. He could slot in as the starting FS and alleviate any concerns about giving up big plays on the deep part of the field.
Round 2a: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
With their first round 2 pick, the Bills decide to go BPA, taking another defender with great instincts in Kyle Van Noy. The 6'3" 241 pound linebacker is a versatile player who could conceivably play either OLB spot in a 3-4 or 4-3, although his best fit would be on the strong side. Van Noy is sort of like a Khalil Mack-lite, in that he's not nearly as athletic, but he's versatile, rarely makes mistakes, is rarely beaten at the point of attack, and makes a good number of impact plays. He has a wide array of pass rush moves and is no slouch in coverage. He might not be a Pro Bowler, but this is a guy you could pencil in for 75 tackles, 10 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 FF, 2 INT each season. In Buffalo, he would rotate behind Keith Rivers to start out, and should pretty quickly become the starter at SAM.
Round 2b: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
Next the Bills take a player who is my top rated pure RB in this class (as opposed to Dri Archer, who's more of a part timer). The 6'0" 240 pound Hyde is a bruising tailback who rushed for 1500 yards and 15 touchdowns to go with a 7.3 yard per carry average. With a good stiff-arm and powerful legs, Hyde fights off most would-be tacklers for extra yards on practically every run. He has surprisingly quick feet, helped by good vision, allowing him to identify any crack in the defense and attack it with abandon. If Buffalo's coaching staff is convinced that they need a rough and tough tailback to lead their offense, then Hyde is just what the doctor ordered. Of course, as I'd do with any prospect, I have to note that Hyde was suspended three games this season for allegedly assaulting a woman at a nightclub - he didn't receive any formal charges for that event, but it's something to note. On the football side of things, that makes his running production all the more impressive, given that he managed his 1500 yards and 15 touchdowns in only 11 contests.
Round 2c: Marcus Smith, DE/OLB, Louisville
The Bills need to add some defensive end depth on their roster, and the 6'3" 251 pound Smith is a slightly undersized pass rusher with the frame to add some weight, long arms, and the speed and fluidity you like to find in a DE. Smith has a very fast burst off the line to add to surprising strength in spite of his weight. He steps smoothly towards his target, rarely slowing down to change direction as he gets closer. He's very active with his hands, but right now his pass rush repertoire is underdeveloped. As a bonus, he's not going to kill you in coverage either, although he shouldn't be considered a 4-3 LB.
Round 3a: Michael Schofield, OT, Michigan
The Bills mostly went BPA through their first two rounds, and although they were able to fill a couple of the needs they noted, a big area of weakness remains at offensive tackle. In round 3, the team addresses this with the selection of the 6'6" 300 pound Schofield. Schofield isn't going to be a left tackle for the team anytime soon, with below average lateral agility and some struggles against the speediest rushers. But as a right tackle, he'll hold his own just fine. He has well-developed technique, with a clean kick slide and effective use of his arms to wall off defenders trying to get through. He's not going to knock anyone clean off the line of scrimmage, but he doesn't get stacked up that easily either. There are some draftniks who consider him to be a better prospect than his teammate Taylor Lewan - I'm not of that mindset, but there are definite holes in Lewan's game, while Schofield is a lower ceiling guy with a more developed overall play.
Round 3b: Keith McGill, CB/S, Utah
All the indications coming out of OBD are that they are very interested in adding a cornerback from this year's class to their defense. One option they could consider is the hulking McGill, a 6'3" 211 pound cornerback/safety from Utah. McGill transitioned to corner from safety this season and is still learning the nuances of the position, but has shown the athletic profile to potentially be the next great press corner in the mold of Richard Sherman. He played a lot of zone this year at Utah, which I felt hurt his value as he should really be up in the receiver's face to maximize his potential, and true to expectation he was up and down during his season at corner. He's not great at shedding blocks on the edge to make a tackle, and clearly has some learning to do, but I was impressed by his workouts and field drills at the Combine, and I feel better about his potential than I do Stanley Jean-Baptiste (another popular "big corner"). He might not be the prototype Buffalo wants on the outside, but as a 3rd round cornerback prospect, you can do worse.
Round 5: John Urschel, G/C, Penn State
Buffalo isn't ready to count out the possibility of drafting an interior lineman, having brought in a few potential names for visits. Urschel is an intriguing option that could be had on day 3 of the draft, and might end up providing more value than teams expect. The Williamsville native is a brilliant mind who graduated with his bachelor's in math and a 4.0 in 3 years, earned his Master's in math, and is currently working on a second Master's, while teaching classes at Penn State on the side. It's this intelligence, combined with his 6'3" 315 pound build, that make me think he would potentially be an excellent center, despite playing at right guard at Penn State. NFL teams agree, asking him to do snapping drills at his pro day.
On the field, Urschel's play is as surgical as you'd expect from a guy with a master's in mathematics. He has great field vision and awareness of where the play is flowing. He has great balance and very good technique, getting into position well and neutralizing bigger guys with a well placed angled block. With that being said, he is lacking in core strength, and he'd never be confused for a "road grader" at guard. The strength issue might be mitigated somewhat if he shifts to center and gets assistance from his guards on most blocks. Urschel isn't collecting a lot of hype before the draft because he's not a great RG, but he's a sleeper in my book because of the possibility of becoming a better player if he shifts to center. He's someone to keep an eye on.
Round 7: Kadeem Edwards, G/T, Tennessee State
With their last pick, the Bills take a flyer on a small-school offensive lineman with a few tweener characteristics. Edwards is a left guard from FCS Tennessee State who's 6'4" 313 pounds and has huge 35.5 inch arms. Athletically, he profiles as someone capable of being a starting NFL lineman, but he plays with a narrow base and doesn't bend his knees enough, which negated a lot of leverage. He also played a bit tentatively, in my opinion - guards are usually expected to be the "knock you on your ass" linemen for the offense, and he just didn't do that. I almost wonder if his playing style and long arms mean he's better suited to play offensive tackle - less of a "get out of my way" position and more of a "stay away" position. Edwards isn't a great prospect, but he has physical tools and some easily identifiable flaws, so it can't hurt to add him and see if there's a chance of him developing.