It's here: My first mock draft. I tried holding out a little longer, but it's way too much fun to try and simulate different scenarios for Buffalo. There will be a few more mock drafts posted through draft season, on an "as I feel like it" basis. This will hopefully provide some changing perspective as we learn more about prospects and the Bills sign free agents to shape their needs.
The mock draft was done with Fanspeak's On The Clock draft simulator using Drafttek's big board, and you can find the full results (which includes the picks by the other 31 teams) here.
If you're just interested in the players picked for Buffalo: keep reading.
Round 1: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
I'm not sure that Jack drops to Buffalo in reality, but I do think there's a chance. The extremely athletic two-way player has a few traits that may make teams hesitate. First, he's only 6'1" tall. Of the linebackers drafted in the first round since 2010, only two players were shorter than six foot two: Ryan Shazier (15th overall) and Sean Weatherspoon (19th overall). In the second round are a lot more names, such as Eric Kendricks, Mychal Kendricks, Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David, and Jon Bostic.
Secondly, Jack is coming off of a torn meniscus in his knee. His rehab from the injury, and how well he tests at the NFL Combine, may have teams believing his ceiling is lower.
Don't be deterred, though. Jack is one of the most athletic linebackers in the last five years of the draft. He's versatile enough to play in pretty much any defense, stacks up linemen with powerful hits, and is a strong tackler. He's still developing his understanding of block shedding, of form tackling, of coverage shells. But he has elite linebacker potential, and if that is available for Buffalo, they have to spring for it.
Round 2: Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech
In round two I was hoping to address an offensive need, but the value with Butler was just too good to pass up. At six foot four and 325 pounds, Butler has earned comparisons to Muhammad Wilkerson in some circles. He has tremendous power in his game but can move around like a man who weighs 20 pounds fewer. This is the type of player Rex Ryan loves to coach up, and it wouldn't shock me to see him picked in the first round by Buffalo come April.
Round 3: Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
With arguably Buffalo's two largest defensive needs addressed with the first two BPA picks, I decided to focus my next pick on the offensive side. I was considering Michigan State center Jack Allen, when I noticed that this Sooner was still on the board. Selecting him was an easy decision.
Shepard might be the most polished route runner in this draft. And when I say polished, I mean that his routes have a crispness to their movement, but also that he has speed and suddenness to put cornerbacks on their heels, and that he understands how to incorporate nuances like head fakes and jab steps in order to fool a defender. Shepard is only 5'10", but his ability to separate earns him space to catch the ball.
In Greg Roman's offensive scheme, they've locked down a major role by having Sammy Watkins onboard. To complete the passing offense, there are two strategies they could try: adding a tall, physical receiver who can be a fierce run blocker and make contested catches, or acquiring a fast, shifty receiver who can tear up the underneath zones that open when Watkins is running his deep routes. Doug Whaley would prefer a player who can accomplish both roles, but there's no Calvin Johnson in this draft. So I went with the second option in choosing Shepard.
Round 4: Max Tuerk, OC, USC
Before he tore his ACL in November against the Washington Huskies, Tuerk was in the running to be my top center. He's very mobile for a lineman, keeps his feet under him, and plays with exceptional balance when engaging players at the second level or on pulling plays. He combines well with teammates and knows how to sink his hips to generate a good anchor. Tuerk is a bit tall for a center and also on the skinny side, but I think his technical prowess and mobility could be an asset with Roman's offense.
Round 5: Joe Schobert, OLB, Wisconsin
Remember Anthony Barr? He was one of my draft misses. While I rated the 6'5" 250 pound outside linebacker as a second round pick, that was still much lower than the consensus. After being drafted by Minnesota and converted to a traditional linebacker, he flourished.
I bring up Barr because I see similarities between Schobert and Barr, although Schobert is nowhere near as big or athletic as Barr. Like Barr's college tape, Schobert's shows a player who can be an absolute terror when unblocked. The former walk-on has excellent forward burst, great instincts, and good tackling form. Like Barr, Schobert has struggled to disengage from blocks, often being engulfed by linemen when he can't win off the snap. I've seen him cover on wheel routes, I've seen him correctly execute an end-tackle stunt, and I've seen him force plenty of fumbles. I don't know exactly how athletic he is, but I believe Schobert can be a positive contributor to a team, at least on special teams, and possibly as an outside linebacker who sometimes rushes the passer. It's something I'd be willing to bet on.
Round 6: Vernon Adams Jr., QB, Oregon
The Bills need to add a quarterback to the roster, and at the tail end of the draft I still had a few names on the board that I liked. I went with the ultraproductive Adams as my selection, panning for gold in the stream of quarterback prospects.
Adams brings many Russell Wilson comparisons to mind when evaluated. He's a 5'11" quarterback, a threat as a passer and a runner, was extremely efficient in college, and had a stellar 35-8 record as a starter. Adams played three years with FCS Eastern Washington, and in his 2013 season, he threw for 4994 yards, 55 touchdowns, ran for 605 more yards and 4 touchdowns, and was named the second best player in FCS behind Jimmy Garoppolo (now with the New England Patriots). As a graduating senior in 2015, Adams accepted a scholarship at Oregon and moved up to the Bowl Subdivision. Despite missing time here and there with injuries, Adams adapted well to the Ducks' offense this season. The team never lost a game that he started and finished. Adams attended the East-West Shrine Game this year, and all he did was throw three touchdowns on only nine pass attempts and earn the MVP award.
There's a lot that suggests that Adams can't be an NFL quarterback. But when I watch him on film, I see the same traits that allowed Wilson to succeed in the NFL in spite of all that was stacked against him. If Buffalo took a chance on the 6'1" 215 pound Taylor, why not take a chance on the 5'11" 195 pound Adams?