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2016 NFL Draft: Are the Bills targeting an Ohio State prospect?

The Buffalo Bills have already used three pre-draft visits on players from Ohio State; does it mean anything?

If you've been paying attention to our pre-draft visitor tracker, you'll notice that of the nine visitors we know about today, three hail from the school in Columbus, Ohio: Darron Lee, Cardale Jones, and Eli Apple. That's a sizable chunk of the 30 visits that the Bills are allowed to use, so should we be reading into it, preparing for an Ohio State Buckeye to walk on the stage next month?

It's a common occurrence for the Bills to target several players from a single school with their pre-draft visitors, at least in the Buddy Nix and Doug Whaley time period. Here is every instance from the last five years of the Bills bringing in three or more from a single school:

  • In 2011, the Bills had three North Carolina Tar Heels in for visits: Robert Quinn, Bruce Carter, and Quan Sturdivant.
  • In 2012, they brought in five from Alabama: Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Donta' Hightower, and Da'quan Menzie.
  • In 2013, they had four from Tennessee (Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Zach Rogers) and three from LSU (Barkevious Mingo, Russell Shepherd, and Kevin Minter).
  • In 2014 we saw three players from Ohio State: Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby, and Carlos Hyde.
  • We only know of nine pre-draft visitors in 2015, thanks to spotty reporting that year and the Bills refusing to publish their list. This doesn't give us enough information to draw a conclusion about that year.

So what did the Bills do with the schools they targeted so much? Not a whole lot. In fact, out of the five schools that interested the Bills so much, only one saw any players drafted by Buffalo: UNC in 2011, when they picked Da'Norris Searcy and Johnny White, teammates of the players that visited. Does that mean the Ohio State visitors are a smokescreen by Doug Whaley? Not necessarily.

Keep in mind that many of these players were early picks who were drafted when the Bills didn't have a shot at taking them. Richardson, Barron, and Mingo went ahead of Buffalo's first round pick. Kirkpatrick, Hightower, Hunter, Patterson, Shazier, and Roby went between Buffalo's first and its second pick. The Bills also reportedly tried to trade for a pick that would let them draft Carlos Hyde in 2014, but were unsuccessful. True, they could have drafted teammates of these players and chose not to, but that may be because they were only interested in the visitors they brought in.

Ohio State has the most talented group of prospects in this year's draft. There are potentially seven first rounders in the group: Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, Taylor Decker, Apple, Lee, and Adolphus Washington. Safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell are also solid prospects, and they have wildcards like Jones, Braxton Miller, and Jalin Marshall. That's enough players that it's definitely feasible that someone will be on Buffalo's radar at some point during the draft. In other words, keep an eye on Ohio.