The Buffalo Bills described themselves as bold on Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft, packing two first-round draft picks (No. 9 overall and next year's) and a fourth-round pick (next year's) to Cleveland for the No. 4 pick, used on Clemson star wide receiver Sammy Watkins. It's a steep price to pay for the best receiver in the draft class, to be certain, but the Bills still have as many picks this year as they did before the trade.
|1||4||Bills (f/CLE)||Sammy Watkins||WR||Clemson|
That means that tonight, when the second and third rounds take place starting at 7PM ET, the Bills will still have pick Nos. 41 and 73 overall, and opportunity to both address remaining needs and add another major contributor or two to a 2014 outfit that they're hoping will end the league's NFL-long playoff drought. Here are some names that Bills fans should be keeping in mind heading into this evening.
Buffalo still needs to upgrade their tackle position across the line of scrimmage from Cordy Glenn; ideally, they'll find a plug-and-play starter in a tackle class that's considered fairly deep by most observers.
The big name left on the board is Alabama junior Cyrus Kouandjio, who made a pre-draft visit with the Bills last month. Knee concerns have dropped him a bit, and hamper his long-term prognosis in the NFL, but he is capable of walking into Buffalo's starting lineup right away.
Morgan Moses, a Virginia product, is another huge, long tackle prospect with good program pedigree, and would instantly upgrade the right side of the line. For some reason, Antonio Richardson of Tennessee has dropped off the radar a bit, but he, too, is exactly the type of massive lineman with surprising athleticism that the Bills typically covet up front. Don't forget about Joel Bitonio from Nevada, either; he isn't prototypical tackle size, but he has the feet to play outside at the pro level, and offers some of the same versatility that No. 16 overall pick Zack Martin (Dallas) does.
A report has already circulated that had the Bills not traded up for Watkins, and had stayed at No. 9 overall, their choice likely would have been North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, who went No. 10 overall to Detroit. The fact that the Bills already picked their pass-catcher shouldn't deter them from modernizing the tight end position some if a worthwhile talent presents himself.
The Bills hosted three tight ends on pre-draft visits this spring; Ebron is already gone, but both Troy Niklas of Notre Dame and Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington remain available. Neither is the nimble-footed YAC monster that Ebron projects as, but Seferian-Jenkins offers size, hands and a potent red zone threat, while the younger Niklas has more upside, can stretch the seam vertically, and is a better blocker. Both would likely work to the top of the Bills' tight end depth chart early in their careers.
One other name that didn't make a pre-draft visit sticks out: Jace Amaro of Texas Tech. A more receiver-oriented option than the other two, Amaro can be used in a variety of different ways, is easily the best pass-catching tight end remaining on the board, and would diversify the Bills' skill set at tight end immediately.
There is still concern about the Bills' defensive end depth as they transition back to a 4-3 defense under new coordinator Jim Schwartz. Aside from Mario Williams, the Bills have only situational pass rusher Jerry Hughes (who will play a lot next season), a few bigger-bodied base options that don't fit a traditional 4-3 or the Wide 9 (Alan Branch, Corbin Bryant, Jarius Wynn), and outside linebacker Manny Lawson, an edge-setter who is better in space than with his hand in the dirt.
Scott Crichton of Oregon State was the only end to visit Orchard Park this spring, and the man that Mike Mayock of NFL Network refers to as the "poor man's Chris Long" could get snapped up relatively quickly this evening. But the big name at end is Kony Ealy, a Missouri junior who is not especially explosive athletically, but who offers upside as an outside-in rusher that put up rock solid production in the SEC.
Two more non-visitors to monitor: Demarcus Lawrence of Boise State and Jeremiah Attaochu of Georgia Tech. Both are better pro projections as 3-4 outside linebackers, but both also offer upside as NFL-caliber pass rushers, and could factor into a wave depth situation at end in Buffalo - particularly in the Wide 9 - right away.
Other pre-draft visitors
It's also possible - but perhaps not especially likely - that the Bills ignore their more pressing needs in favor of well-regarded day two prospects at other positions. Four of their pre-draft visitors, it can be argued, fit that description.
Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland will likely be picked in Round 2 tonight, and offers the press-coverage skills that the Bills have been known to covet. USC interior offensive lineman Marcus Martin is also likely to be picked earlier than expected; the Bills brought him on a pre-draft visit, but it's unclear if he'd be able to compete for a starting job in Buffalo with their starting spots seemingly locked up.
Given their emphasis on the position this spring, it's also impossible to ignore the running back position. Carlos Hyde of Ohio State, Jeremy Hill of LSU and Terrance West of Towson are the biggest names on the list by a fairly considerable margin, and all of them offer an every-down back quality that could make them coveted commodities this evening.
Antone Exum, a defensive back from Virginia Tech, is another player with the size and physicality the team covets on the back end, and he could project to either corner or safety for the Bills. He'd also offer special teams utility. Meanwhile, Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State is a favorite of many in the draft community; his skills are a bit redundant with those of Nickell Robey, but the Bills could still use another viable option at safety, and Joyner is a playmaker.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy of BYU would be a sneaky-good selection for the Bills. Their strong-side linebacker job is not officially settled yet, and Van Noy has some coverage ability, is stout at the point of attack, and even offers some upside as an edge rusher. Teams like his versatility.
Two Notre Dame defensive linemen, Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt, offer teams excellent value in the second round. It's unlikely, but if the Bills suddenly decide that they'd rather not risk assuming Marcell Dareus won't be suspended for his drug arrest and have it backfire on them, they could consider a fallback option.
Who would you like to see the Bills take tonight?