Three days until the draft! Are you kidding me? It's finally almost over!
I've decided that I'm putting a stop to my prospect viewing. Due to some family circumstances that came up I had to put my evaluations on hold, which means I didn't get as far as I wanted on the DTs and CBs. But at this stage, there's no sense in watching new prospects - you'll just skew your overall evaluations.
Today I'll share with you a working copy of my scouting spreadsheet, I'll go over the past weekend's community mock draft and my thought process, I'll share some #HotTakes about the draft (in general, not relating to the Bills), and my first of two attempts to project what the Bills will do on draft day.
Come Thursday, I will make my final predictions about the draft and share my top 150, finalized with the last few scouting reports I was able to finish.
Click the link above to download my Excel spreadsheet with my scouting notes on roughly 260 players in the draft. This is a good reference to have on draft weekend if a prospect is picked you don't know about. The notes and rankings are mine and mine only. I am an entirely unqualified amateur couch scout who simply does this in his spare time. I've learned a lot about the process this year, just like I learned a lot last year when I tried in-depth film scouting for the first time.
The 2014 SB Nation Community Mock Draft
Buffalo's 2014 mock draft picks:
Round 1: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Round 3: Trai Turner, OG, LSU
Round 4: Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Round 5: Ben Gardner, DE, Stanford
Round 6: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
Round 7: Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame
Round 7: Daniel Sorensen, S, BYU
Let's sum up my thought process during the draft!
Pre-draft trade planning
Before the draft, I had 4 trade offers pending. They were:
Trade up to Oakland for my first and second rounder, receiving a first and fourth rounder in return.
Trade up to Atlanta for my first and second for a first and third, or trade up for a first and third, receiving a first.
Trade down to Arizona if Khalil Mack was on the board at 9, receiving a first and second.
Trade up to St. Louis for a first, second, and 2015 3rd round pick.
I decided to ignore the Arizona trade once I found out Khalil Mack was their target. No way he got to 9, and if he did, I'd rather just take him outright. I also ignored the Oakland deal, rationalizing that a difference of one pick wouldn't matter much when I could keep my second rounder to trade to Atlanta's spot. The decision of how to shape my draft ultimately came between staying put (since I had no other trade-down options), trading up to 2, or trading up to 6.
My original target in this draft was Mike Evans. He's my favorite player in the draft, with a huge catch radius and physical play which the Bills really need in a receiver. I was planning to trade up to Atlanta's pick at 6 in order to guarantee getting him - my concern was that Tampa or Minnesota would take him, both needing offensive weapons at some point in their drafts. I had a very generous offer to trade up to 2 (St. Louis was giving me a major discount considering the pick value), but I figured that Evans was my target, so I didn't need to get there.
The day before the draft began, during the open trade thread, the Oakland GM mentioned that there was a very good chance that Mike Evans didn't make it past #5. That raised a red flag with me. My greatest fear in the draft was that I would see every one of the top 6 players in this draft gone before pick #9, and I would be needing to settle with a player I didn't consider to be worth drafting 9th overall (like Zack Martin). Last year I was targeting Ryan Nassib, but I knew that his perceived value was not that high, so I wanted to trade down first - with no takers, I had to use the 8th overall pick on him, for fear that he would be selected before my second pick. This year, I didn't want that situation. I knew I wanted to trade up, so I could get a player I knew was good.
I started negotiating with St. Louis at that point. I decided that I didn't want to trade up to 6th overall if there was a chance that my only option would be Jake Matthews. I love Matthews, but I didn't want to lose picks to get him in this draft. If I moved up to #2 overall, I could have my pick of any player in the draft except Clowney, and there'd even be a chance I could grab him, getting him for a major discount if he didn't go first overall.
We finally agreed to a deal with a modification similar to last year's deal with St. Louis. In addition to the first, second, and 2015 3rd rounder going to St. Louis, we swapped third rounders and they gave me a seventh round pick. I like late round picks because they offer me the flexibility to take talented players who fall in the draft. I was actually worried that the deal was going to be blocked by the commissioner because it was too unbalanced in favor of Buffalo, but he approved it, and so before the draft began I had the #2 pick.
Seriously though, the trade was a steal, even though I gave up my second rounder. By the draft value chart, the Rams gave me 2818.4 points of value, and I returned them 2177.5. The Bills "won" that trade, just by the value of picks received.
Deciding on a first rounder
With the second overall pick now in hand, I had to decide upon a player. Clowney was the obvious #1, but barring a trade up to 1st overall (and those discussions went nowhere), I had to decide on another option. So I was picking between Greg Robinson, Sammy Watkins, and Khalil Mack.
I have to say, right away, Mack was the first player to go. Sorry, Mack fans. He's a great player. But the role he would play in Buffalo (4-3 SLB) is already filled by Keith Rivers and Manny Lawson. He can't make use of his versatility to the same degree in a 4-3 that he could in a 3-4. And trading up, getting rid of my second round pick to draft a linebacker, when LB is far down the list of Buffalo's needs (OT, DE, WR/TE, CB/S, OG, LB) would be irresponsible.
So I was choosing between Robinson and Watkins. In the end, I had to go Robinson. Sammy Watkins is a fantastic receiver, but I don't think he's worth the second overall pick. The second overall pick should be reserved for someone who is in a class of his own, especially for a position as volatile as wide receiver. I'm talking about if Watkins had run a 4.28, or if he were 6'3" instead of 6'1". He's polished, he's athletic, he has a good catch radius, but he isn't a dominant option on the level of Calvin Johnson, and since receivers are a risky prospect already in the top 10, I didn't want to use such a valuable pick on him.
Through the whole decision process, I kept coming back to Greg Robinson. The guy who is tied for my first-rated offensive tackle has, in my opinion, the second highest ceiling of any player in the draft, and the highest ceiling of any offensive player. He's a 6'6" 330 pound freak athlete with immense power and exceptional mobility, allowing him to make truly crushing blocks that few in this generation of players can do. Mechanically he has work to do, as the triple-option offense at Auburn drastically simplified things for him. But the guy can start right away at LG or RT with his level of talent, and at the bare minimum will be able to go to the Pro Bowl at either position. If he reaches his ceiling, he could be a Walter Jones type of player. Buffalo needs talent on the offensive line, and Robinson is the perfect prescription.
Waiting until the third round
The worst part of the draft was the wait. I had 30 picks left in the first round, 32 in the second round, and 12 in the third round to go before I could choose. I had to watch lots of great players I would have happily picked at 9 or 41 go later than that. The Raiders ended up taking Aaron Donald 5th overall, and the Bucs took Johnny Manziel, allowing Mike Evans to slide past the 9th overall pick to 10th overall. Had I known beforehand that Evans would've fallen to 9, I would absolutely have waited there, but I didn't want to take that chance.
In the second round, I saw several tight ends and receivers remaining available well into the later part of the round, and I began inquiring about trading up to get at one of them. The problem was that I didn't have very many picks to work with - it would've taken a 3rd, 4th, and 6th at the bare minimum to get into range of some of those players. I didn't want to end up with only 4 players in the draft, and I was saving my 4th round pick because of a trade down offer I received earlier in the day.
Ultimately, I had to watch as Allen Robinson and Troy Niklas were picked by other teams, which was the worst part of the draft. I would've loved to have gotten either player, but the trade-off for getting a guy as talented as Robinson is missing out on those players. That's a casualty of the process, I guess.
In the third round, I had a few players I wanted, but they kept getting picked away bit by bit. Finally, I had decided that I wanted Marcus Smith, the defensive end from Louisville. He has an outstanding burst off the line, surprisingly good core strength for his size, and great awareness as a former QB. Of course, he went to the Giants one pick before mine. After flipping out for a bit, I reconvened at my board and selected the BPA - Trai Turner, OG from LSU.
Turner is a redshirt sophomore with plenty of strength and mobility who I think will only get better when he gets some seasoning. Buffalo seems to want more athleticism than they're getting with Urbik and Legursky, and Turner can be that player for them at RG or LG. He might not start immediately, but he'll be very good in a hurry.
The fourth through 7th rounds were all about BPA - follow along on my board, see which players that are highly graded are still available, especially if they play a position of need. I traded down in the fourth round, moving down about 15 spots in the fourth and seventh round and adding a sixth round pick.
In the fourth round, I took Antone Exum, a 6'0" 213 pound cornerback with plenty of length and savvy who dropped a bit due to a torn ACL and a sprained ankle during his senior season. He didn't measure up with great speed in the Combine, running a 4.51 40. It's unclear if that was due to getting back into shape after two lower body injuries, or if he might be too slow to be anything but a safety or press corner in the NFL. But he has experience at safety, and Buffalo also needs safety depth too. So between him and Corey Graham, one can play corner and one can play safety.
In the fifth round, I added Ben Gardner, the 6'4" 270 pound DE from Stanford. The three year starter was not invited to the Combine following a season where he missed many games due to a torn pectoral muscle, but he had a stellar pro day and has a history of good play at defensive end. He can immediately join the rotation at DE, which is great value in the fifth round.
My sixth round pick was a flyer on a running back with great potential. Isaiah Crowell was a former top high school recruit who left Georgia after an unregistered gun was found in his car during a traffic stop, along with other concerns. In the two years since, he has kept his nose clean, leaving me hopeful that he'll continue on the (mostly) straight and narrow in the NFL. Crowell is a very talented running back who flashes exceptional vision, sometimes making cuts before the defender is even in the area. His skills didn't diminish once he transferred to Division I-AA, either. He's a guy I foresee becoming a future starter in the NFL, and he fits the profile of back that Doug Marrone wants.
My two seventh round picks were both pure BPA choices. Bennett Jackson is a cornerback from Notre Dame who has good athleticism and has only been playing the position a couple years. He shows good awareness on plays already, suggesting a player who is a film rat - if he improves his technique, combining that attitude with his athleticism could turn him into a starter. Daniel Sorensen is a personal favorite who again shows excellent awareness and anticipation on plays. He doesn't have exceptional range or athleticism, but he has great hands and tackles well, and has excellent special teams ability. You can never have too many players in the secondary, and while one of those two seventh rounders might not make the team, the players that do ultimately get to the team will have proved they are quite good.
Finishing with talented UDFAs
To finalize my draft, I added 5 UDFA players who I thought could have a future impact for Buffalo if they panned out.
Branden Oliver is a small but stout runner with good vision and good strength to go with effective burst. He is much better on film than he has gotten credit for, and he might sneak his way onto the roster if Crowell doesn't pan out.
Blake Annen is a 6'4" 247 pound tight end who only started one season after the talented Travis Kelce got drafted from Cincinnati, and he only had 15 catches for 177 yards and 2 TDs last season. But with a 4.41 40 yard dash on his pro day, he's worth taking a flyer on to see if he can develop the route running skills he didn't get to while he warmed the bench.
Chris Boyd is a Da'Rick Rogers style flyer on a troubled kid who might pan out. In 2013 he was dismissed from Vanderbilt's football team after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempting to cover up a rape, after he carried a girl who had been raped to her bed following the incident. I don't know nearly enough about this case to know how bad the situation was. I do know he pleaded guilty to the charges and testified against the rapists in the court proceedings. I consider his NFL chances remote, really. But what I do know is that he played exceptionally well across from Jordan Matthews for a few seasons, and at 6'4" 205 he has the size that Buffalo is looking for. By all accounts he was a good teammate and a hard worker during practices, but I really need to know what was going through his head when he did what he did that night.
James Morris is a classic 2 down MLB coming from Iowa university. You can consider him an understudy to Brandon Spikes. Don't know if he makes the roster, but he is a solid player who reads the play well and doesn't make many mistakes.
Shaquil Barrett is a personal favorite whom I consider to be a classic 3-4 OLB. He sets the edge very well and is an effective pass rusher with a few good moves, albeit someone who is lacking in speed and athleticism. I didn't draft him because he doesn't fit our scheme well, not being big enough to play fulltime at DE, but not being good in coverage to play OLB. But I wanted to add him because I know he's a great piece to have during the inevitable 3-4 shift.
Rate my draft in the poll below!
- Jadeveon Clowney is selected first overall.
- Johnny Manziel is selected in the top 10.
- Sammy Watkins is a top 3 pick.
- Eric Ebron is not a top 10 pick.
- Aaron Donald is a top 10 pick.
- At least one team trades up in the first round to draft a wide receiver.
- At least one team trades up in (or into) the first round to draft a quarterback.
- CJ Mosley is not a top 15 pick.
- Marcus Martin is drafted in the first 40 picks.
- Dri Archer is drafted in the first 75 picks.
- Justin Gilbert is not the first cornerback drafted.
- Louis Nix is not drafted in the first round.
- Derek Carr is drafted before Teddy Bridgewater.
- David Yankey falls to the 5th round.
- Aaron Murray falls to the 5th round.
- Shayne Skov falls to the 5th round.
- Troy Niklas is the second TE drafted.
- Colt Lyerla goes undrafted.
- Tajh Boyd goes undrafted.
- Logan Thomas is drafted in the first 100 picks.
Carnac has spoken.
In which Dan attempts to make one guess as to Buffalo's intentions in the 2014 draft.
Buffalo TRADES with Oakland: #9 and #73 for #5.
In this event, Buffalo is able to swing a small trade up with Oakland that doesn't cost them too badly. There's a player Doug Whaley really wants, and he's not gonna pass him up.
1. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The common refrain I've heard from Whaley over the offseason is how great Mike Evans is and how much he loves tall receivers with a big catch radius. Evans is a significant upgrade if the team wants to get some size in the passing game, and with the Bills worried about Oakland or Tampa potentially taking him (Watkins was already taken), they traded up to ensure they had him.
2. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
We know the Bills want big tackles on their team, and having added a receiving target in the first round, they focus on getting their RT in round 2. This all hinges on Kounandjio's knee. If he passed his physical during the visit to OBD, there's no reason not to add him here. He's like a more raw version of Cordy Glenn when healthy.
4. Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA
Zumwalt isn't directly connected to Buffalo, but they've demonstrated a need for both MLB and OLB prospects in their pre-draft visits, and Zumwalt could conceivably play at any spot. He's a versatile and hard hitting linebacker who was overshadowed by Anthony Barr and Myles Jack during his college career. He may have caught Buffalo's eye on the tape.
5. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
Buffalo needs a bruising running back (at least, coach Marrone thinks so). Crowell is talented enough to be that player, and he comes at a discount. The Bills went to his pro day, and he played with Cordy Glenn his freshman year. I think he's a definite later round option for the Bills.
7. Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame
By trading up, the Bills lost a third round pick, which might've been the sweet spot to select a cornerback. Instead, they pick up an athletic prospect at the tail end of the draft who could develop into a future starter down the line.