One month to go until the draft! Who's excited? Are you excited? I'm excited!
As I mentioned last time around, I'm going to start filling you in on my player rankings so you can get a sense of the player quality in the draft. Today we're going to look at wide receivers, possibly the deepest and best receiver class we've had in the last ten years in the draft. Of course, there's a mock draft at the end too!
- Sammy Watkins (1st round)
- Mike Evans (1st round)
- Marqise Lee (1st round)
- Odell Beckham Jr. (1st round)
- Jordan Matthews (1st round)
- Allen Robinson (1st round)
- Brandin Cooks (2nd round)
- Davante Adams (2nd round)
- Kelvin Benjamin (2nd round)
- Jarvis Landry (2nd round)
- Donte Moncrief (3rd round)
- Jared Abbrederis (3rd round)
- Bruce Ellington (3rd round)
- Cody Latimer (3rd round)
- Tevin Reese (4th round)
- Josh Huff (4th round)
- Brandon Coleman (4th round)
- Devin Street (4th round)
- Martavis Bryant (4th round)
- Jeff Janis (4th round)
- Robert Herron (4th round)
- Paul Richardson (4th round)
- Cody Hoffman (4th round)
- Jalen Saunders (4th round)
- Mike Davis (4th round)
- L'Damian Washington (5th-6th round)
- Michael Campanaro (5th-6th round)
- Jeremy Gallon (5th-6th round)
- Quincy Enunwa (5th-6th round)
- Matt Hazel (7th-undrafted)
- Chris Boyd (7th-undrafted)
Spotlight 1: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
This guy isn't on Buffalo's radar because of his size (5'10" 180 lbs) or lack thereof, but someone looking for a Tavon Austin type of player is in luck this year. He's a slippery player with outstanding top-end speed, excellent separation skills, and the reliability to always come up with the catch. He's more of a complete WR than an offensive weapon like Austin was. He's a willing blocker and usable as a returner too. I do notice he has a bad habit of backtracking in an attempt to get more yards, and ending up tackled for a loss - something CJ Spiller has done a lot. But for teams in need of a playmaker at the bottom of round 1 or top of round 2, Cooks will be an enticing target.
Spotlight 2: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
I don't think Buffalo will draft Abbrederis either, who at 6'1" 195 lbs doesn't really fit the prototype they are missing in a wide receiver. But if you want a guy who can get open against Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis, I think Abbrederis might be the best option in this draft. That's because he reminds me a lot of Stevie Johnson. He's an excellent route runner, with a bunch of head fakes, jukes, subtle grabs and push-offs, and other tactics that mess up a defender. Combine that with a great vision of the defense on the field, and Abbrederis seems to always be open. He's not going to stretch the field, but he'll be a fantastic possession receiver.
I'm almost out of first round picks to project to Buffalo without rehashing some guys. Maybe next time I'll start mocking some trades! Let's see who's on the board this go-round:
Round 1: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
I think that Mike Evans is above his teammate on Buffalo's board, but there's a distinct possibility he goes to Tampa before Buffalo gets him. If that's the case, even though a RT at 9 isn't the best use of resources, it's hard to argue with a player who'd be the #1 pick in most other drafts.
Matthews has literally everything going for him except a lack of elite athleticism. He is literally picture perfect on all of his movements. The guy doesn't make mistakes. He is the one player I would be okay with moving Cordy Glenn to RT for. Because he is the perfect LT prototype - not a dominant run blocker, but a good one, and a fortress on pass protection. He has the NFL bloodlines and years of knowledge from his dad, Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. Whether Buffalo uses him at RT or LT (he's played both spots), they are getting a dominant player with him.
Round 2: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Remember how Aaron Donald is one of my favorite players in the draft? Well if this guy weren't currently rehabbing an ACL injury, he'd be challenging Donald for top billing. At 6'1" and 290 pounds, Easley is a smaller tackle in the Geno Atkins and Aaron Donald mold - a lightning fast prospect with a low center of gravity and a knack for pass rushing.
Easley's claim to fame is his initial burst. It's incredible, frankly. I have seen a GIF somewhere, and I wish I could find it, of Easley beginning to move forward into the center at essentially the exact moment the center snaps the ball. I have seen him tackle the center before the center could get into his stance following a snap. It's awesome. Easley is just a fun player to watch. He has little quirks in his style and seems like a funny guy. Here's a GIF of him doing a barrel roll before the snap to adjust where he lined up, for no real reason (GIF reverses and loops):
Easley isn't just fast, but he's strong. He stacks up linemen well and is rarely beaten at the point of attack. He has a relentless motor. Of course, like Kyle Williams, our resident interior pass rusher, he's prone to taking himself out of plays by rushing too far forward. His field vision isn't great, and apparently he doesn't have the patience to watch a football game all the way through on TV (he'd rather watch cartoons).
Then there's the injury question. Easley has torn both ACL's, one in 2011 and one in 2013. On the bright side, they were different ACL's, so it's not like he tore the same one twice. On the other hand, two torn ACL's, ouch. The rehabbing is a concern that drops him from where he probably could've been a top 15 pick, and it's understandably questionable how explosive he'll be when he comes back. But given how great he was even on one surgically repaired ACL, it's reasonable to expect good things. For a second round pick, value like this is hard to get.
Round 3: Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
The Bills may not be admitting it, but the running back situation is pretty tenuous. CJ Spiller has been paid a top 10 RB's salary for his whole contract but only ever earned it for one season, and he's able to opt out of the final year of his contract. Fred Jackson is another year older and really should be transitioning to a Kevin Faulk role. Ronnie Wingo inspired zero confidence by the coaching staff, and Anthony Dixon is most known for special teams prowess. It seems like Buffalo's offense will not be running at 100% until they get the running back Marrone and Hackett are looking for - a strong, reliable runner who gets positive yardage and can do a little of everything.
Tre Mason may be the guy they're looking for. He comes out of the Auburn triple-option offense which made it to the BCS Championship last season, and was a star there. He rushed for 1816 yards, breaking Bo Jackson's school record, and 23 touchdowns. At 5'8" 207 lbs, he has a solid build with a very low center of gravity. He's a mature runner, with excellent vision and patience to find the opening in the defense and burst through the hole. He has strong legs, which allow him to burst forward when he finds a hole and drive through potential tackles. He's not a good pass blocker and is almost untested as a receiver due to Auburn's run-heavy offense, but shows a lot of potential to be a steady #1 back for years. There are a bunch of moderately exciting running backs who will probably be drafted in the 3rd and 4th rounds this year, and it's quite possible Buffalo ends up with one.
Round 4: Jemea Thomas, FS, Georgia Tech
Thomas is a bit of a tweener prospect in that he could probably play CB but is a bit too slow to do that, so he probably fits best as a slightly undersized free safety. What I like about Thomas is that he's eager to get in on the play and moves fluidly in coverage. He's an instinctual player, which gets him in on the play often, although it makes him susceptible to play action. He's a bit of a project, much like Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks were before him, but secondary depth is always appreciated.
Round 5: Josh Mauro, DE, Stanford
The Bills already addressed the depth in a couple areas on the team, and they keep that going with Mauro. At 6'6" 271 lbs, he has classic DE size, which is something Buffalo just doesn't have on the team (Mario Williams is built like a freakishly athletic 3-4 DE, and Jerry Hughes is a linebacker's build). Mauro was used all over the line at Stanford, so he's not just a DE but more of a DL who can fill in where needed. The sense I got of Mauro was just a steady player. He kept contain, he rarely generated push in the run game, he rarely shed a block to make a play on the quarterback, but he was rarely pushed aside or pancaked. In the long term, I think he could grow into a role as a 5-technique end, but he's a good backup to have. Not every late round pick has to be boom or bust!
Round 7: Howard Jones, DE/OLB, Shepherd
Speaking of boom or bust, got a fun name for you. Nothing like adding a small school sleeper in the draft, right? Howard Jones comes from Division II Shepherd University, and the only way you'll find film of him is to look up his Hudl profile. However, he opened some eyes at the Combine with an outstanding set of workout numbers: 4.60 40 yard dash (0.07 seconds slower than Jadeveon Clowney, 0.05 seconds faster than Khalil Mack), 40.5 inch vertical leap (first place for DL, 3 inches higher than Clowney, 0.5 inches higher than Mack), 10'4" broad jump (same as Clowney, 4 inches shorter than Mack). In short, Howard Jones is athletically on par with the top pass rushers in the draft.
At 6'2" 235 lbs with long arms (34 1/8 inches), Jones is a tweener whose best role may be as a SAM LB, rushing from a stand-up position like Jerry Hughes was used last year. He could be moved like a chess piece from gap to gap before the snap, and wreak havoc with his speed and strength once the play begins. Obviously coming from Division II, he is severely inexperienced in proper technique. He can't set the edge in the run game and needs to seriously develop his pass rush moves, because he won't win just with athleticism in the NFL.
But for a 7th round flyer, a guy with this potential is hard to beat.
Buffalo exits this draft with a new starting RT who could even play LT better than Cordy Glenn if necessary (The only person I will say that about in this draft). They add a pass rushing DT with serious elite potential in the second round. They get a new running back to be their next workhorse or at least platoon with CJ. They then fill up on the depth, adding both steady reserves and athletic project players. It's not my favorite draft, but if everything pans out it becomes a scary future team to go against.