If you haven't been following Syracuse.com reporter Matthew Fairburn during this year's 2015 NFL Draft process, you might want to start doing so. Fairburn has been putting out draft content all offseason, including today's roundup of 24 different mock drafts from around the media that included picks for the Buffalo Bills.
You can see all of the picks, including their reasoning (if any), in Fairburn's article, but here are some points we took away from viewing what the consensus had to say:
Local media are predicting offensive, defensive linemen
When it comes to Buffalo-centric media and websites, the focus remains in the trenches. Both Fairburn and WKBW's Joe Buscaglia projected Carl Davis (scouting report) as a versatile defensive lineman to add to the rotation. Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News chose Duke offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (scouting report), while Brian and yours truly opted for Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (scouting report). Dan Hope of BuffaloBillsDraft.com went with Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett, projecting him to take on a similar role to the Jets' Sheldon Richardson in Buffalo's new defense.
The reasoning behind these picks is pretty clear: the Bills as a team don't have many holes on their roster, but there are a couple of clear weaknesses. They could use an upgrade at offensive guard or offensive tackle, and Stefan Charles is projected to be a starter in Buffalo's defensive scheme. This draft has good depth on both lines, and the Bills could probably pick up a starting-quality lineman in the second round this year.
A lot of people are predicting a linebacker at No. 50
While offensive lineman, widely considered Buffalo's greatest need, was the most frequent projection with eight selections, the second-most frequent was actually linebacker with seven. Most of the drafts that selected a linebacker didn't provide an explanation for their pick. WalterFootball.com mocked Benardrick McKinney (scouting report) to Buffalo, mentioning that the Bills needed a replacement for Kiko Alonso at the center of their defense. DraftGeek.com chose Paul Dawson (scouting report), calling him an ideal fit as a weakside linebacker - assuming the defensive scheme remained similar to Jim Schwartz's 2014 setup. The other linebacker sent to Buffalo was Miami's Denzel Perryman (scouting report); NFLMocks.com called him a "tone-setter" on the defense and a "Rex Ryan kind of guy."
While there are some good linebacker prospects who could be available in the second round (I'm a fan of Dawson), the reasoning used to select them doesn't jive with Buffalo's philosophy. For one thing, this Bills team doesn't need another starting linebacker; they operated smoothly without Kiko Alonso last season, and both Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown look to have bright futures as starters. Ryan's scheme will be a secret until we see it on the field, but he has a history of emphasizing safeties and cornerbacks more than inside linebackers in his schemes, so there's not a need for a third strong linebacker. Spending their first pick on a linebacker right after trading Alonso would suggest that the team doesn't have faith in either Bradham or Brown to play many snaps, which would suggest that maybe the team shouldn't have traded Alonso in the first place.
Of course, there's no denying that there's room for the team to add depth to the position behind Bradham and Brown. Ty Powell, Jimmy Gaines, and Randell Johnson aren't exactly the most encouraging group of backups, so the team may want to look for a developmental backup with their third- or fifth-round pick. That could include Jordan Hicks (scouting report), Michigan's Jake Ryan, Penn State's Mike Hull, or LSU's Kwon Alexander, among others. (The team's website has even gone so far as to say "expect a linebacker" in those middle rounds.)
Bryce Petty (who is moving up draft boards) is on everyone's radar
All offseason, we've heard the narrative that this quarterback class is shallow and largely unprepared to start in the NFL. That being said, the Bills don't have a clear starting quarterback on the roster, and some draftniks are starting to pair them with Baylor's Bryce Petty (scouting report), usually with their second-round pick. That list includes ESPN's Mel Kiper and SB Nation's Dan Kadar. There's even a movement now to push Petty up in positional rankings, with some draft reporters now considering him a better prospect than UCLA's Brett Hundley.
The positives for picking a quarterback are clear: it's the most important position on the field, and if the Bills can finally hit on one, we're looking at one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL. Petty, in particular, has flashed some good traits with his arm talent, even if he has to significantly develop his field-reading and pocket presence coming from a very basic Baylor offense. The quarterback pick makes sense if the Bills find the right one, but no matter what the Bills do with EJ Manuel and their draft choices this year, the outcomes will likely be polarizing.