When SB Nation's NFL bloggers began making picks for the 2014 SB Nation NFL Writers Mock Draft behind the scenes, I developed a board of nine players for the Buffalo Bills and the No. 9 overall pick. For the sake of full transparency, I'll walk you through the thought process that led to the selection of Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, which was just announced over at SBNation.com.
Here is the board I was working with, along with the first eight picks made in the mock draft. The fact that a whopping four quarterbacks were off the board by the time my pick was due, coupled with there not being any signal callers on my board, could have ultimately led to a more difficult decision than it was at the time. The board is on the left; the mock draft picks are on the right.
|2||Rams||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M|
|3||Mike Evans||WR||Texas A&M||3||Jaguars||Jadeveon Clowney||DE||South Carolina|
|5||Raiders||Blake Bortles||QB||Central Florida|
|6||Jake Matthews||OT||Texas A&M||6||Falcons||Khalil Mack||OLB||Buffalo|
|7||Eric Ebron||TE||North Carolina||7||Buccaneers||Sammy Watkins||WR||Clemson|
|8||Kony Ealy||DE||Missouri||8||Vikings||Derek Carr||QB||Fresno State|
|9||Taylor Lewan||OT||Michigan||9||Bills||Mike Evans||WR||Texas A&M|
It was unintentional, but after building that board, I noticed that it sort of breaks down into three groups of three players: receiving targets (Watkins, Evans and Ebron), tackles (Robinson, Matthews and Lewan), and the best remaining players available (Clowney, Mack and Ealy). Evans was the third-rated player on the board, so needless to say, I was quite thrilled when he fell all the way down to No. 9.
As I mentioned last week, I consulted community members DanRoc and boomsauce on this pick. In essence, I was looking for their feedback on four specific areas:
- How their rankings in those three groups compared to mine (they were exactly the same as mine, which you see above);
- How they prioritized those three groups (Boom put receivers last, but Dan agreed that receivers should be prioritized over tackles at the top of the draft);
- If they considered Lewan worthy of a Top 10 pick (ultimately meaningless because of Matthews' availability);
- and which non-quarterback, non-receiver and non-tackle (i.e. BPA) they would advocate for a spot on the board (Dan went with Aaron Donald, and Boom suggested Calvin Pryor, but I stuck with Ealy).
You may have gleaned by now that, based on the board you see above, I'm a pretty firm believer that a quality receiving target will do much more for the Bills, and the development of EJ Manuel specifically, than a quality right tackle prospect will with a first-round pick. That was explained in the pick write-up over at Mocking the Draft, and it's an opinion I will continue to hold throughout the remainder of the pre-draft process. Evans is an excellent prospect that would give the Bills something they desperately need in their receiving corps. That said, it was tremendously difficult to pass up a prospect of the caliber of Matthews. Boomsauce might not like the logic of this pick as much as DanRoc will, but for the first time since 2011, I felt comfortable in knowing that the vast majority of Bills fans would not rip me to shreds for a mock draft pick I'd made.
The Evans pick was submitted last Wednesday. 48 hours later, the Bills traded for Mike Williams.
After digesting those three very specific feelings conveyed above (and apologies for the salty language from Morgan Freeman, but it too perfectly encapsulated the thoughts running through my brain last week to not use it), I felt a lot better about the pick, and am comfortable with the idea that the Bills won't be any less likely to target Evans with Williams on board (though they might now be a bit more likely to look at a guy like, say, Ebron).
There are two reasons for that opinion. The first, and most obvious, of those is that Williams is in the midst of a long line of off-field issues, and is no guarantee to be with the Bills beyond the 2014 season - and if he does get it together and produce, then that could mean that Stevie Johnson is on the outs next offseason. In short, Williams' presence does not drastically alter the long-term view of the Bills' receiver position. The second reason is more subtle, and is best explained with a chart.
Johnson, Williams and Woods are all similar athletic builds, with only minor differences between their playing styles and, more importantly, what they offer an offense. The same is true of Goodwin (who, by the way, is a freak athlete) and Graham. Even on a crowded depth chart, Evans would stick out like a sore thumb, and would still very clearly provide the brand of physicality and ability to make tough throws on bad balls or in traffic that not even Williams, the most physical of Buffalo's receivers, can come close to providing. In short, Evans is still exactly what the Bills need at receiver.
Head on over to the official pick thread to grade it, and leave your feedback for me either there or right here. I'm happy to answer any questions you have about the thought process behind the pick, as well. If you're not into the Evans pick, who would you have taken instead?